The Democratic Party on Fatherhood

Did you know that the Democratic Party platform, for the first time ever, has a plank that addresses fatherhood? Here it is, in its entirety:
 

Too many fathers are missing–missing from too many lives and too many homes. Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and are more likely to commit crime, drop out of school, abuse drugs and end up in prison. We need more fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to understand that what makes a man is not the ability to have a child–it’s the courage to raise one. We will support fathers by providing transitional training to get jobs, removing tax penalties on married families, and expanding maternity and paternity leave. We will reward those who are responsibly supporting their children by giving them a tax credit, crack down on men who avoid child support payments, and we will ensure that payments go directly to families instead of bureaucracies.

On a policy level, I have no problem with any of this–quite a few of these items are critical, especially for poor families. There are some items missing, such as legal protections for caregiving parents of both genders, but I don’t hear the “pro-family” Republican Party pushing expanded paternity leave. (For exegesis on the policy details, see The American Prospect and Ta-Nehisi Coates at his Atlantic Monthly blog.)

But note where the plank begins, with deadbeat dads. Fatherhood is framed, first and foremost, as a problem to be solved. Note as well that throughout the paragraph, fatherhood is defined as breadwinning; nearly all these policies are focused on funneling money from the father to the mother and children.

I would actually argue that, with fatherhood, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure: If we want fathers to stay involved, emotionally and financially, we must make sure that they are involved from the beginning, by providing, for example, paternity leave. If we do that, I think we’ll ultimately need to spend less time collecting child support.

What if the plank had instead read this way, with a hopeful, inspiring vision of fatherhood, explicitly connected to a public policy that could support that vision:
 

Fathers play essential roles in their families as both breadwinners and caregivers. But too often, government has failed to support fathers in fulfilling those twin roles. We will support fathers by expanding maternity and paternity leave, requiring that employers pro-rate benefits for part-time employees, removing tax penalties on married families, and providing anti-discrimination protection for parents who are primarily responsible for child or elder care. As we enact these public policy reforms, however, we need more fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. Too many fathers are missing–missing from too many lives and too many homes. Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and are more likely to commit crime, drop out of school, abuse drugs and end up in prison. We need them to understand that what makes a man is not the ability to have a child–it’s the courage to raise one. We will reward those who are responsibly supporting their children by giving them a tax credit, crack down on men who avoid child support payments, and we will ensure that payments go directly to families instead of bureaucracies. Above all, however, we recognize that fathers must be more than just cash machines; they must also be involved in their families. We call upon fathers to fulfill that roll, and we call upon employers to support them.

What do you think?