On Monday one tree here, another there, burst into blossom in Washington, and when the weather the next day hit eighty-five fahrenheit, more and more trees burst out white, pink, and a very light violet. Including, I am told, at least one cherry tree near the Capitol. The innocence of newborn spring gives the lie to the weariness of Washington politics. What we knew as the blossoms appeared is that the first midwest candidate for the presidency in 2008 chose to announce informally by calling for a censure motion against President Bush for listening in on phone calls from al-Quaeda to the United States–a motion that brought delight to elected Republicans and panic to elected Democrats. The former called for a vote, the latter delayed, evaded, and soft-shoed away. As I say, a weary season, given the lie by oncoming spring.
Which put me in mind of a passage from the splendid article on demography to which Father Neuhaus linked yesterday. Did you know that religious women are having many times more babies in America than secular women? Not to put too partisan a ring on it, but the same article–and the discussion it has prompted–points out that women in the red states are having 12 percent more babies than women in the blue states.
The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children.
The great difference in fertility rates between secular individualists and religious or cultural conservatives augurs a vast, demographically driven change in modern societies. Consider the demographics of France, for example. Among French women born in the early 1960s, less than a third have three or more children. But this distinct minority of French women (most of them presumably practicing Catholics and Muslims) produced more than 50 percent of all children born to their generation, in large measure because so many of their contemporaries had one child or none at all.
In the U.S., even without counting the loss of millions of black votes through abortion (at a rate of something like three to one with respect to white babies aborted) sheer demographics are killing the Democratic future. Feminism, gays, and abortion have not been demographic plusses. But how on earth did I get back into weary politics?
Well, spring got me thinking about new birth, and babies, and that got me thinking about demography ... and that wound me back into...
But it is out of winter and decaying autumn that spring comes, isn’t it?
Published in First Things March 16, 2006