One of the handful of bylines in political journalism that always presages a worthwhile read belongs to Joel Kotkin, Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, Contributing Editor to City Journal, and an unrivaled analyst of social, economic, and demographic trends.
In his most recent piece at the Daily Beast, Kotkin argues that Republican anxieties about appealing to Hispanic voters are overblown. His reasoning? "Hispanic population growth is likely to slow or even recede, and Republicans are likely to do better with the group (in part because it would be hard to do much worse), as assimilation increases and immigration becomes less volatile an issue."
The real demographic issue, according to Kotkin, is quite different:
More than race, family orientation may prove the real dividing line in American politics. Single, never-married women have emerged as one of the groups most devoted to the Democratic party, trailing only black voters, according to Gallup. Some 70 percent of single women voted Democratic in 2008, including 60 percent of white single women.
While the gender gap has been exaggerated, a chasm is emerging between traditional families, on the one hand, and singles and nontraditional families on the other. Married women, for example, still lean Republican. But Democrats dominate in places like Manhattan, where the majority of households are single, along with Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Seattle.
In recent years Republican gains, according to Gallup, have taken place primarily among white families. Not surprisingly, Republicans generally do best where the traditional nuclear family is most common, such as in the largely suburban (and fairly affordable) expanses around Houston, Dallas, and Salt Lake City.
Ok, a difference to be sure, but not one that necessarily indicates a partisan advantage. After all, Kotkin is describing the world we already live in, one in which national politics are polarized and neither party has evinced anything like a capacity for an enduring majority in recent years. The difference, he explains, may come a little down the road, for a simple reason:
Varying birth rates also suggest that the Democrat-dominated future may be a pipe dream. Since progressives and secularists tend to have fewer children than more religiously oriented voters, who tend to vote Republican, the future America will see a greater share of people raised from fecund groups such as Mormons and Orthodox Jews. Needless to say, there won’t be as many offspring from the hip, urban singles crowd so critical to Democratic calculations.
How ironic. A Democratic Party that has spent the better part of the year defining itself as the party of contraception may eventually find its electoral prospects enervated by birth control.