This afternoon, our fearless leader, Erick Erickson, appeared at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s National Conference. Erick was a part of a panel discussion hosted by Russell Moore, the president of the ERLC (and author of what appears to be an excellent new book titled “Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel”). Moore asked Erick: “Would you agree that the culture wars are over?” Erick’s response was fantastic:
I don’t think the culture war is over, primarily because the people who appear to be the victors right now are the least likely to procreate. So we will eventually breed them out of existence demographically. So the culture war continues, and will continue.
Apparently this didn’t set well with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s blogger Jim Galloway, who published a brief blog entry highlighting Erick’s comments. Now admittedly Galloway didn’t actually comment on Erick’s response, but the headline (“Erick Erickson’s culture war strategy: ‘We’ll breed them out of existence’”) was clearly constructed to mock the statement. I’m not sure if Galloway is a leftist or not – I’m not a regular reader of the AJC. But this one seems to have clearly been a slam on what is a pretty well-documented demographic topic that has been under discussion for well over ten years.
A simple Google search by Mr. Galloway would have revealed this. I was tempted to send him an LMGTFY link, but I’m sure the humor would have been lost in translation. I searched for “conservative demographics reproducing” and “conservative liberal fertility” and in less than a minute, I had found no less than 20 articles describing how conservatives are out-reproducing liberals. Even as early as 2004, articles appeared citing research on this behavior.
One of the most often-cited pieces was from way back in 2004. The American Conservative published a piece by Steve Sailer titled “Baby Gap”, in which Sailer cited how partisan splits between states could be explained by the reproductive habits of conservative vs. liberal states. One statistic he discusses is with Kansas:
In a year of predictably partisan books, one lively surprise has been What’s the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank, a left-wing journalist from Kansas who, after a sojourn in Chicago, now lives with his wife and single child in the Democratic stronghold of Washington, D.C. Frank is puzzled by why conservative Republicans in his home state are obsessed with cultural issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and teaching evolution in the schools instead of the leftist economic populism that Frank admires in Kansas’s past.
While the Christian Right in Kansas doesn’t much hold with Darwin, they are doing well at the basic Darwinian task of reproducing themselves: pro-life Kansas has the fourth-highest white fertility in the country at 2.06 babies per woman, and the birthrate of the conservative Republicans that Frank finds so baffling is likely to be even higher. On the crucial question of whether a group can be bothered not to die out, “What’s the Matter with Massachusetts?” would be a more pertinent question. Massachusetts’s whites are failing to replace themselves, averaging only 1.6 babies per woman, and the state’s liberal Democrats are probably reproducing even less than that.
In 2006, Arthur Brooks hit this topic in a commentary published in the Wall Street Journal. Now I’m sure that folks like Galloway would prefer to ignore the facts (SCIENCE!!) documented by Brooks:
But the data on young Americans tell a different story. Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They’re not having enough of them, they haven’t for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated, politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That’s a “fertility gap” of 41%. Given the fact that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20% — explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.
Alarmingly for the Democrats, the gap is widening at a bit more than half a percentage point per year, meaning that today’s problem is nothing compared to what the future will most likely hold. Consider future presidential elections in a swing state (like Ohio), and assume that the current patterns in fertility continue. A state that was split 50-50 between left and right in 2004 will tilt right by 2012, 54% to 46%. By 2020, it will be certifiably right-wing, 59% to 41%. A state that is currently 55-45 in favor of liberals (like California) will be 54-46 in favor of conservatives by 2020 — and all for no other reason than babies.
The fertility gap doesn’t budge when we correct for factors like age, income, education, gender, race — or even religion. Indeed, if a conservative and a liberal are identical in all these ways, the liberal will still be 19 percentage points more likely to be childless than the conservative. Some believe the gap reflects an authentic cultural difference between left and right in America today. As one liberal columnist in a major paper graphically put it, “Maybe the scales are tipping to the neoconservative, homogenous right in our culture simply because they tend not to give much of a damn for the ramifications of wanton breeding and environmental destruction and pious sanctimony, whereas those on the left actually seem to give a whit for the health of the planet and the dire effects of overpopulation.” It would appear liberals have been quite successful controlling overpopulation — in the Democratic Party.
It’s almost ironic that the Democrats are supportive of organizations such as Planned Parenthood that are ensuring that this demographic trend continues, given the inevitability that more leftists are getting abortions than conservatives. They are literally killing off their own kind.
But Galloway didn’t even have to go all the way back to 2006 to find out about this idea of conservatives out-reproducing the Left. He could have just rolled back his Google clock to 2014. The Week’s Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry published an essay titled “How late-marrying, contraception-using progressives are helping the religious right” and made some observations about the Left’s obsession with contraception:
When Sarah Palin made her thunderous appearance on the national stage in 2008, the instinctive progressive revulsion toward her — a revulsion that was apparent, remember, way before she made any of the long series of humiliating gaffes that have now deservedly turned her into a punch line — seemed to revolve around her fertility. It was not hard to read between the lines of some progressive critiques of her character. It seemed as if many thought it self-evident that only a deranged person would let children such as Trig (Down syndrome) and Tripp (conceived out of wedlock) live. Mollie Hemingway has rightly talked about the secular media’s fear of fertility. And it usually doesn’t take long for a discussion with a progressive about global economic trends to lapse into dire Malthusian warnings about “overpopulation.”
My fellow conservatives usually lament this. And, of course, morally speaking, they are correct — I don’t understand any moral framework that doesn’t view human life as something sacred and worth glorifying and multiplying.
But I say, dear progressives, keep at it! Keep using contraception! Keep delaying the having of families!
You know why?
Because us troglodytic religious conservatives will keep breeding and eventually inherit America.
If you want a picture of the future, you might want to look at Israel. Israel, famously, was founded by secular Jews as a secular, socialist state, and its politics were dominated by the left from independence to the election of Menachem Begin as prime minister in 1978. In the wake of Israel’s latest intervention in Gaza, many have commented on the distinct rightward tilt to Israeli politics. A lot of it is due to the failure of the peace process and the fanaticism of Israel’s enemies, but no one could fail to recognize that demographics have played a role — specifically, the fact that orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews have been outbreeding secular Jews for decades.
Demography isn’t exactly destiny. And to exploit the numbers, conservatives need to get better at making sure their kids keep the faith as they grow up. And of course, there’s immigration, which has long helped progressives keep up their numbers.
Still, progressives seem intent on marrying later and later, having fewer kids, and enshrining a contracepted life as the right way to live. Conservatives, true to their nature, are not making those same lifestyle changes.The issue isn’t so much that conservatives are outbreeding progressives, but rather that progressives seem intent on the collective suicide of their movement.
Sorry, progressives — we will bury you.
Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Even the left-leaning SFGate.com sees the issue. And they make a point that few others do: children have a pretty significant tendency to vote like their parents, so the fact that conservatives reproduce at a higher rate than leftists is a big problem for the Left:
But wait, you may say: the attitudes of the parents don’t determine what ideology or political party their offspring will adopt as their own. Yet they usually do.
Political scientists have long found that 4 out of 5 people with a party preference grow up to vote the way their parents voted. In fact, while many people experience a temporary rejection of their parents’ politics in very early adulthood, virtually nothing is more predictive of your political ideology than that of your parents — it’s more of a determining factor than income, education or any other societal yardstick.
There are exceptions: While only 20 percent eschew their parents’ ideology, they do, after all, add up to a lot of people. And despite ample instances of Republicans in Southern states being raised by parents who once identified as Democrats, those parents were actually conservative Democrats who became Reagan Democrats and ultimately migrated to the GOP. The party labels changed, but the political ideology remains consistent from generation to generation.
“Right now this theory really applies to political parties as well as ideology, because the parties have become incredibly well sorted by ideology,” says Marc Hetherington, associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt University who studies political identification. In other words, in 2006 a conservative is going to find a cozy home in the Republican Party, and a liberal can expect the same in the Democratic Party.
Thus Democrats will breed Democrats, and Republicans will breed Republicans — the blue states reddening every day.
As usual, Erick is right. They are indeed on the way to being bred out of existence. Christians and conservatives are simply following (God’s) orders: Be fruitful and multiply. Of course the Left believes that when we say these things, we are implicitly criticizing the gays. After all, we constantly talk about how traditional marriage and reproduction is clearly designed (note: “designed”) around one man and one woman. But that’s not even the issue here. The issue is that conservative family values lead us to reproduce. Leftist cultural philosophy is (still) that we have a POPULATION CRISIS! And they would rather drive their Volts and eat their arugula and spend money donating to NPR than use their incomes to support a family.
In the mean time, Mr. Galloway should consider going to the local community college and taking one of those 1-hour adult education classes on how to use The Internet. It’s a wonderful source of information. He should try it some time.