Los Angeles, CA–I’m often asked what I think the Obama presidency will mean for fathers. I think there are some reasons to be optimistic and some reasons to be pessimistic. Below I list a bunch of them, not in any particular order.
Positive: Obama clearly understands the importance of fathers, and has often emphasized it.
Negative: Obama believes, or at least publicly believes, that fatherlessness is caused almost entirely by irresponsible fathers.
Positive: Obama seems to understand that there are systemic problems with the child support system, and that these problems are part of what causes men to fail to pay their child support.
Negative: Obama has said that he wants to beef up child support enforcement against those who he believes, perhaps incorrectly, are capable of paying.
Positive: For the next four or possibly eight years, a good, loving, hands-on father will often be in the media interacting to varying degrees with his children.
Negative: Many of Obama’s allies in the Democratic Party, including the National Organization for Women, are hostile to fathers.
Positive: For eight years George Bush and the Republican Party have said and done little on fatherhood and fathers. Sometimes we will not like what Obama says about fathers, but the issue of fatherhood has a much better chance of a least being on the radar screen.
Negative: Vice President Joe Biden has unwittingly aggravated the problem of fatherlessness through his staunch support of the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA has made it easier for unscrupulous women to drive fathers out of their children’s lives by employing false accusations of domestic abuse.
Positive: Obama’s Responsible Fathers Act will allow low income fathers’ child support to go directly to the mothers and their children, instead of the state. Research shows this helps bring fathers closer to their children because they feel they’re being allowed to provide for them directly. The Act will also expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and provide fathers with job training services
Negative: Obama’s Responsible Fathers Act has too much stick and not nearly enough carrot.
Neutral: Obama, like John McCain, spent a fair amount of time during the presidential campaign pandering to women by falsely claiming that women get paid significantly less than men for the same job. This doesn’t directly impact fathers, but it does help feed the mistaken societal notion that men are privileged and it’s really moms who do the work in families. I can’t count it as a positive or a negative regarding Obama, however, since McCain also pushed the wage gap myth.
I know readers have their own views as to how fathers will fare under Obama — feel free to list other positives and negatives in your comments.