Maggie Gallagher
Matt Daniels knows a thing or two about fatherless families. He was just the sort of kid certain sorts of liberals think they are defending when they instruct us to rename family breakdown "family diversity," as if a fancy new name could fill the void left in a boy's heart when Dad disappears. A white kid who grew up in Spanish Harlem, Matt was the only son of a chronically ill, welfare-dependent divorced mom.

Now Matt Daniels runs the new nonprofit, nonpartisan Alliance for Marriage (www.allianceformarriage.org) with a distinguished and decidedly diverse board of advisers, including Dr. Walter Fauntroy of the National Black Leadership Round Table, Dr. Sayyid Sayeed of the Islamic Society of North America, Rabbi Nathan Diament of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and Rev. Won Sang Lee of the Korean Central Presbyterian Church. Racially and religiously diverse, they are firmly united on one thing: the importance of rebuilding America's marriage culture.

And in this they are not alone. The Alliance for Marriage just released the results of a Wirthlin poll that shows Americans of all political ideologies share their commitment. "Concern for stronger families cuts across political and ideological lines; it trumps jobs, it trumps the environment, among all groups of voters," Matt told me. Majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans reject the "family change, not decline" hypothesis, with 55 percent of Dems, 65 percent of independents and 62 percent of GOP voters calling the family either "not very strong" or "weak and losing ground."

Independents -- not Republicans -- expressed the deepest concern about the state of the family, which explains a lot about the way Gore and Bush are pitching their campaign messages. By about 2-to-1, voters in both parties find strengthening families more important than job opportunities or a cleaner environment. More than three-quarters of Americans say they support requiring counseling before granting married families a divorce, as well as decreasing taxes for married couples with children. Once again, Democrats are as likely as Republicans to support such measures.

How did Matt go from child of welfare to creator of a national marriage alliance? "For many years," he tells me, "I was just trying to survive." To make it, to get out of the inner city, through college. But one day he entered Martha Fineman's law school class. Martha Fineman is a renowned feminist legal theorist, one of the driving forces shaping family law today.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.