Brennan on the Politics of Fatherlessness

May 2, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s the final article in Terry Brennan’s excellent series on fatherlessness (Daily Caller, 4/30/18).  This one’s about the politics of fatherlessness.  Fatherlessness is, to a great extent a matter of public policy and, public policy being mostly a function of the political system, fatherlessness is a political phenomenon.

Brennan has some pretty pithy quotations to offer.

On fatherhood, Democrats pursue a laissez-faire policy that there are different types of families and citizens should marry who they want or not marry at all. When campaigning, both Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton called single mothers “heroines”. Secretary Clinton said:

“Those single moms need even more family support. They need even more of the help that grandparents and aunts and uncles and good friends can provide because, it’s tough, it’s lonely.”

Fathers weren’t mentioned.

Meanwhile, Republicans, those partisans of “family values,” are little better.

While Republicans feel “the issue should be front and center”, on the National level, they don’t oblige.

Someone should ask those Republicans why, if “the issue [of fatherlessness] should be front and center,” the largest political party in the country doesn’t put it there.  After the 2016 elections, the GOP rightly ballyhooed its continued success at both the state and national levels.  Then it held majorities in both houses of Congress, almost two-thirds of state legislatures and almost two-thirds of governors were Republicans.  With such one-sided majorities at the national and state levels, you’d think they’d be comfortable taking on any issue that “should be front and center.”

But as Brennan points out, they didn’t and don’t.  He cites Leslie Loftis of Leading Women for Shared Parenting for the likely reason excuse.

“For the Republican side, I have a theory: the “War on Women” smear hovers ominously over all Republicans, especially men. Republican politicians have been threatened to within an inch of their funding if they mention anything that could be turned into a sexist trope.”

Very true.  But here’s what’s also true: when you’re the country’s largest and most successful political party, you can decide on a narrative that takes the matter of fatherlessness out of that “sexist trope.”  That is, you can do that if you really think the issue’s important as Republicans pretend to.  Indeed, you can frame the issue as one that harms mothers as well as kids and fathers, because it does.

But more importantly, over the past several years, we’ve had a good number of states whose legislatures have considered shared parenting bills.  Just six days ago, the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, signed into law the first-ever presumption of equal parenting time for divorcing parents.  It passed the state House and Senate with a whopping two “nay” votes.

So where were the gender warriors?  What was their massive impact on legislators?  On the governor?  Which representatives or senators are hiding under their beds, terrified of the “War on Women” trope? 

Nowhere to be found.  The same was true when a combination shared parenting and alimony reform bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Florida Legislature three years ago.  Yes, Florida NOW opposed the bill, but there’s no evidence that their opposition had any impact on the legislature or indeed on the process at all.

As Brennan points out, the issue of fatherlessness has never been more in the public eye and, as always, shared parenting continues to enjoy approval ratings by the public of landslide proportions.  So the notion that Republicans can’t use their massive political capital to promote family court reform as an effort to address fatherlessness rings hollow.

Weirdly, conservatives have spent much time and silver promoting marriage.

For conservatives, while life begins at conception, fatherhood seems to both begin and end at the altar. As such, most conservative policies are formulated by “marriage experts”, focusing on marriage instead of parenthood.

One such policy is “promoting marriage” where $600 million in spending hasn’t helped:

Stated another way, Democrats and Republicans alike create an array of laws that make marriage and children a terrible bet, particularly for men, and then spend large sums of money exhorting men to marry.  Make sense?

The simple fact is that, until law and public policy stop taking fathers’ children from them and plunging them into penury to continue supporting the women who don’t like them well enough to hang around, marriage rates will continue to decline.  Why wouldn’t they?  Reform of laws on parenting time, child support, paternity fraud, adoption, domestic violence and the like won’t alone solve the problem of declining marriage rates.  But until we enact those reforms, marriage will continue to be a bad idea for men.

Brennan’s closing is apt.

Only two questions remain. If not now, when? And if not with current leaders, then with whom?

Tax law prohibits the National Parents Organization from taking sides in political races.  We never have and never will.  But Brennan’s right; if there’s a political component to our crisis of fatherlessness – and there is – then there’s a political way to deal with that component.  Targeting for electoral defeat those politicians who vote the wrong way on issues related to fatherlessness by organizations that can enter the political fray is one good way to let them and others know that the movement for family court reform isn’t not going away and we mean business.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.


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