To listen to the breathless media spin, the outcome of the Nov. 7 election-just a couple of weeks away now-depends almost entirely on the latest headlines about Congressman Mark Foley, the nuclear intentions of North Korea, the newest book from Bob Woodward, the latest body count from Baghdad, or whether gas has dropped below $2 a gallon.
Another factor, though, quite different from all of those just mentioned, has potential for reshaping the political scene for years to come. And the Nov. 7 elections may put that factor very visibly to the test.
This unique influence is the simple matter of demographics. Any culture's attitude toward the traditional issues of marriage and children will, sooner or later, affect that culture in a host of predictable ways. All the campaigning in the world can't change things.
We've noted this here before, and other observers have since then gone into even more detail. USA Today, for example, a couple of weeks ago compared family size in the so-called "red" states (those that in 2004 voted for George W. Bush) with those in the "blue" states (those who voted for John Kerry). Reporter Dennis Cauchon pointed out that "House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Catholic mother of five from San Francisco, has fewer children in her district than any other member of Congress: 87,727. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, a Mormon father of eight, represents the most children: 278,398."
Children, of course, don't vote. But if that 3-1 ratio of future voters hasn't already become a serious concern for Ms. Pelosi's liberal colleagues, it will before too long. Children have a way of growing up. And new research confirms that children have a remarkable habit of voting the same way their parents did.
Nor can Democrats take comfort in the possibility that the Pelosi-Cannon split is exceptional-even if it does represent the two extreme districts. Overall, USA Today reported, "GOP Congress members represent 39.2 million children younger than 18, about 7 million more than Democrats. Republicans average 7,000 more children per district."
Some have labeled this the "fertility gap," while others have called it the "Roe factor," referring, of course, to the profound impact of the 1973 abortion decision that has over the last generation cumulatively cost the United States as many as 40 million to 50 million new citizens. It isn't that no Republicans have ever aborted their babies; way too many have. But it's easy to demonstrate, right on the face of things, that it's the Democrats who have "chosen" to "terminate" the lineup of their own people outside the voting booth. And there's no cause now, or punchy TV commercial, capable of resurrecting those millions of young voters.
Indeed, conservatives in general and Republicans in particular deserve little credit for gaining such a potential advantage. It wasn't so much that they did a lot of things right as it was that on a single issue they were generally spared from endorsing a practice that is so obviously wrong. Indeed, coming down the stretch of this election season, Republicans have demonstrated how fully capable they are of garbling their assignment; they can botch things as badly as anybody.
The reason for mentioning this again now is this: If Republicans can blow an assignment as badly as they have this time around, having as little to show by way of achievement and as many embarrassments as are on their record, and then still keep control of either chamber of Congress-well, then, analysts will have to wonder what possible circumstances will allow liberal Democrats to regain control. Even if Republicans produce a draw on Nov. 7, it cannot bode well for future electoral successes by their liberal opponents.
And the reason will have little to do with any specific issues raised this fall or this year. It will, instead, have everything to do with how the two parties have lined up on the most pivotal moral issue of our generation. And in the providence of the One of whom it is said, "He sits in the heavens and laughs," there is nothing any candidate or campaign manager can do to go back and refashion the effects of those profound commitments.