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The Charleston Gazette: American culture transforming daily

Like it or not, America’s society, demographics and morality are evolving relentlessly — partly in ways that boost liberal politics. Conservative whites keep shrinking, replaced by a diverse rainbow of people with different values.

A new book, “The Next America,” by Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center, outlines many trends reshaping the United States. Some examples:

n In 1960, an overwhelming 85 percent of Americans were European whites — but by 2050, whites will be a minority of just 47 percent, outnumbered by 28 percent Hispanics, 13 percent blacks and 8 percent Asians, plus a few other immigrants.

n Family structure remains strong for college-educated Americans, but it’s disintegrating for those with just high school diplomas. In 1960, only 5 percent of babies were born to unmarried females — but now it’s 41 percent, especially high among blacks and Hispanics. Children from single-parent homes have dimmer prospects in life.

n “Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65,” the book says. Their Social Security and Medicare costs throw an enormous burden on younger workers — many of whom still flounder after the Great Recession. An amazing 40 percent of U.S. men under age 32 still live with their parents.

Meanwhile, former white Puritan values — a bulwark of the Republican Party — are being wiped out by a decline of churchgoing and a rise of tolerance. Author Taylor, a former Washington Post reporter, told Religion News Service:

“On something like gay marriage, where we’ve seen such dramatic change in just the last 10 or 15 years, one reason is that opponents of gay marriage are literally dying off. The very oldest in their 70s and 80s grew up in an America where cultural norms were different.”

Polls show fast-rising public acceptance of same-sex wedlock, legalization of pot, cohabitation by young couples, interracial marriage, unwed births and child-rearing by gays and lesbians. Already, 22 states have legalized medical marijuana, and gay marriage is lawful in nearly as many.

Regardless of whether you approve or disapprove, those trends are real, and they cut the ground from beneath the GOP and its fundamentalist tea party wing. It’s a genuine evolution that is transforming America.

Of course, rural, conservative, “red states” like West Virginia will be last to feel the shifting cultural tide. But it’s nonetheless a genuine evolution that is transforming most of urban America.


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