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The key to winning November’s election? The American family

Opinion editor Boyd Matheson argues that an election victory for either candidate will require catering to the ‘heart of America’ — the American family.

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, speaks to Stacie Ritter, right, and her son, Jan, during a meeting with families who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Lancaster, Pa.
Associated Press

As the presidential election approaches, both candidates would do well to hone in on one group: the American family.

Deseret News opinion editor Boyd Matheson argues in a recent Newsweek op-ed that America’s families — the “heart of America” — are not nearly as polarized by party affiliation or political views as some might think. Winning this years election, Matheson notes, may come down to understanding and catering to families.

“Family dynamics are shifting in America, but Americans across the political spectrum are not nearly as divided as politicians and the media report,” he wrote “In fact, the lives and routines of Democratic and Republican families are nearly identical. Yet politicians and political campaigns speak to each as if they lived in alternate universes.”

The newly released American Family Survey, conducted annually by the Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, shows that many American families have become disengaged by the current divisive political climate.

“The survey’s findings have a lot to say to the presidential candidates,” Matheson wrote. “Many families have disconnected from political dialogue and activity due to the hyper-partisan and deeply divisive rhetoric served up by the leaders of both political parties. There are many potential 2020 voters who span the center-left to center-right of the nation. They are not necessarily independents — many are registered to parties — but they have disengaged because no one is speaking to them in a relatable way on the issues they care about.”

Fewer and fewer American parents want their children to pursue a career in politics, and the perceived disconnect between politicians and the American public may be a big reason why. American families want politicians to hone in on issues like “community, compassion, self-reliance and opportunity,” not just economic policy or health care.

Crucial to November’s election, then, may not just be pandering to the left or to the right, but capturing the growing number of American families who are disenchanted with politics.

“When you ask most politicians, pundits and consultants what they think about the American family, most would have to reply — if they’re being honest — that they don’t think about it very much at all,” said Matheson. “Few would understand that the American family has done amazingly well despite economic challenges, racial unrest and a pandemic.

“The answers to a host of societal ills, troubling trends and policy problems won’t be reached in the halls of Congress or the west wing of the White House — but at the kitchen table.”

Read Boyd Matheson’s full op-ed in Newsweek here. See the American Family Survey findings here.