Right about Dan Quayle being right


Dan Quayle was on hand last January for the swearing-in ceremony of his son, newly elected Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.).

The senior Quayle, who once represented Indiana in the House and then in the Senate, said it was a "magical" moment, even better than when he was sworn in as President George H.W. Bush's vice president. That is surely pardonable fatherly pride.

As Congress struggles to cope with the results of 40 years of misplaced priorities, it may be worthwhile to re-visit an important article by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. This careful social scientist bravely took to the pages of The Atlantic in April 1993, with a title sure to provoke the right-thinking (or, more accurately, the left-thinking) readers of that venerable journal: "Dan Quayle Was Right."

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Whitehead was referring, of course, to Dan Quayle's speech on family values in which he criticized Hollywood TV character Murphy Brown. Taking on a popular sitcom figure was highly controversial, especially when the fictional Brown (played by Candice Bergen) decided to choose life, not abortion, for her child. But the show's premise was not that this was an "unplanned" pregnancy. No, Murphy Brown most deliberately decided to have a child without the burden of marriage.

Vice President Quayle was a pro-life politician, but he recognized that children born out of wedlock are disadvantaged in many ways. We today bless young women when they choose life. And we thank God when they choose adoption instead of abortion for their newborns. But we cannot pretend that there is no harm when children suffer the burden of not having a father in the home.

Whitehead met the feminist arguments made in the 1960s and '70s head-on, arguments that continue to do harm to America to this day:

"According to a highly regarded 1977 study by the Carnegie Council on Children, 'The greater availability of jobs for women means that more middle-class children today survive their parents' divorce without a catastrophic plunge into poverty.'

"Feminists, who had long argued that the path to greater equality for women lay in the world of work outside the home, endorsed this assumption. In fact, for many, economic independence was a stepping-stone toward freedom from both men and marriage. As women began to earn their own money, they were less dependent on men or marriage, and marriage diminished in importance. In Gloria Steinem's memorable words, 'A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.'"

Fish? Bicycles? This is neither logical nor beneficial. It doesn't pretend to be a serious argument, much less the basis for a nation's social policy. Yet, as Whitehead's article showed, many prestigious foundations-tax-exempt foundations-peddled such damaging wares to an unsuspecting American public.

Stephen Mosher, the highly respected president of the Population Research Institute makes a telling point about the difference between civil engineers and social engineers. Mosher, who first broke the story of forced abortions in China in the 1980s, points out that if a civil engineer's designs for bridges or tunnels prove disastrous, causing thousands to lose their lives, that engineer's professional license is revoked. But if a social engineer's notions of how to de-construct society prove harmful to millions, that social engineer usually gets tenure at a major university-and probably some hefty foundation grants to go with it.

We know that poverty-especially poverty endured by children-is causally related to family structure. We know that fragile families have a harder time providing for the needs of children. We know that if any couple will simply graduate from high school and avoid bearing children out of wedlock, the chances they or their children will live in poverty is a mere 4 percent. Divorced and never-formed families deprive children of the security and stability they need-and so desperately want.

It is strange that so many on the left continue to claim the moral high ground, decades after they hollowed out the ground beneath America's poor families. If liberals won't apologize to Dan Quayle, can they at least apologize to the millions of children their policies have impoverished?

Ken Blackwell
Ken Blackwell

Ken, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. Follow Ken on Twitter @kenblackwell.


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