May 20, 2010
Conservatives Need A Fresh Issue
By Mike McManus
Democrats had more reason than
Republicans to be happy with primary results this week. In the only contest
between the two parties, Democrat Mark Critz defeated Republican Tim Burns
by a 53-46 vote for the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha.
The defeat of five-term Arlen Specter by the dynamic Joe Sestak,
will increase the odds the Pennsylvania Senate seat will be retained by
Democrats this fall.
While Conservatives were elated by the wide 24 point margin won by
Rand Paul for the Republican nomination to the Senate in Kentucky, the seat
is already held by Republicans.
What is increasingly clear is that Republicans do not have a fresh
positive message for the electorate. Their opposition to President Obama
and his Health Care Reform will motivate their base in primary contests, but
they need to broaden their appeal to win Independents.
What conservatives need is a fresh cause, one that will appeal to
both social conservatives committed to strengthening families – and economic
conservatives who want to cut federal spending.
Marriage could be that issue.
Republicans control 49 of the 50 Congressional seats with the
highest rates of married people, and Democrats, all 50 seats with the
highest percentage of the never-married.
Therefore, I suggest a three-part strategy to strengthen marriage:
reduce divorce by reforming No Fault Divorce, reward the responsible spouse,
and increase the marriage rate.
which is a far greater threat to marriage than gay
marriage. Same-sex marriage
dominated public policy debate. Yet only 4% of gays have married in
Massachusetts after five years. Few want to marry. However, since 9/11,
there have been 9 million divorces. Which is the greater issue? Yet most
However, bills to reform No Fault Divorce were introduced this year by state
legislators in three states: Missouri by Rep. Cynthia Davis; Michigan by
Sen. Michelle McManus ( no relation) and Oklahoma’s Rep. Sally Kern.
“Marriage produces the best outcomes for citizens, establishing rights and
stimulating voluntary fulfillment of responsibilities to family and
society,” states Davis’ HB 1234. “The consequences of marriage-absence to
individuals and the state of Missouri are serious and costly. It is the
policy of Missouri to stimulate marriage, to encourage spouses to work
through the normal processes of marriage and aging, and to divorce only when
parties mutually consent or where serious marital irresponsibility overrides
the interests of the state.”
Rep. Davis says, “We are trying to cut the divorce rate in half.” The
Heritage Foundation estimates that single parent families cost taxpayers
$300 billion, half of which is due to divorce, $150 billion. If the divorce
rate were cut in half, taxpayers would save $75 billion. Good news in an era
of monster deficits.
Reward the Responsible Marriage
Partner. At present, the Irresponsible
for divorce, usually the wife, is rewarded with a high percentage of her
spouse’s income and child custody. This is unjust and puts the state on the
side of marriage destruction. Whoever files for divorce should be considered
the irresponsible mate, and get a smaller share of family assets and less
child custody than the Responsible Parent who wants to maintain the
In 22 states one spouse cannot even sue for divorce on grounds of
adultery, or physical abuse, such as AZ, CA, CO, FL, KS, KY, MI, MO, NC, and
WI. By contrast Davis’ bill would reinstate traditional fault grounds and
add new ones.
HB 1234 defines “marital irresponsibility” to include “chronic or continuing
substance abuse, a recent history of extramarital sexual affairs,
intentional unemployment” and “gratuitously squandering marital assets or
hiding them.” However, there must be “physical evidence or convincing
testimony…proving one or more acts of marital irresponsibility.”
If divorce is granted on fault grounds, “Three-quarters of any valuation
increase of marital assets accrued during the marriage shall be assigned to
the responsible spouse.”
Wow, that would really give a spouse a reason to be responsible!
Increase the marriage rate.
“The current system gives the man an
incentive not to
because he knows that if things are not going well, she can file for divorce
and get the kids and generous child support,” says Ron Grignol, of Defending
Our Father’s House, a Catholic group.
“The person who files for divorce, without an allegation of fault, would be
considered “irresponsible,” and would have to accept less property and less
child custody than the more responsible parent. That would give men an
incentive to marry, and preserve more marriages.”
None of these bills has become law, but they demonstrate how to make
marriage a fresh issue.