The parent agenda

I’ve been meaning to blog about this Nate Cohn piece that I basically wish I had written (and Laurel– my Politics of Parenthood co-author– and I really should have written something like this).  Anyway,  basic point is on how the Democrats’ policy agenda is now very much about the needs of modern parents:

The emerging Democratic agenda is meant to appeal to parents. The policies under discussion — paid family leave; universal preschool; an expanded earned-income tax credit and child tax credit; free community college and perhaps free four-year college in time — are intended both to alleviate the burdens on middle-class families and to expand educational opportunity for children. The result is a thematic platform addressing some of the biggest sources of anxiety about the future of the middle class…

It’s far too early to know how these themes will resonate with voters, or even the extent to which Mrs. Clinton will emphasize this agenda, but it does have the potential to give the Democrats a more coherent message for the middle class than the party had in 2014 or even 2012.

It could give them a better chance of reclaiming their support among traditionally Democratic white working-class voters who supported Mr. Obama in 2012 but now disapprove of his performance. Yet it would still appeal to many affluent families who feel burdened by the costs of college, child care and the challenge of raising children with two parents working outside the home…

The parental agenda has the potential to resonate among the large group of voters with children under 18 at home, 36 percent of the electorate in 2012. It might also resonate among the already Democratic-leaning young voters of the Obama era, 18 to 29 years old in 2008, who are now entering prime childbearing years. The birthrate among millennials has dropped to near-record or record lows, depending on the age cohort, probably in part because of economic insecurity. Weekly earnings for full-time workers aged 25 to 34 are down 3.8 percent since 2000.

Early polling data suggests there could be strong public support for many elements of Mr. Obama’s agenda — including free community college, child care spending and paid leave — although it remains to be seen whether support will endure after Republicans respond.

Cohn makes a pretty convincing case that this policy agenda is a winner.  I admit to being double-biased in that 1) I really like these policies and 2) it fits so nicely with my research agenda, but I think he’s basically right.  It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the 2016 campaign in which the Republican response will surely be a variation of “lower taxes for rich people and less government regulation is the real way to help your family.”

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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