Jean Hardisty Launches PRA Salon Series

Political Research Associates founder Jean Hardisty launched PRA's Salon Series in August with a preview of her upcoming reports on the Bush Administration's promotion of heterosexual marriage as a solution to society's ills.

Our salons bring together PRA colleagues, supporters, and friends from the Boston area and around the country for stimulating conversation about emerging trends and initiatives of the Right. Lively discussions follow each presentation, held in PRA's library, with those listening by phone from Atlanta to Anchorage contributing questions and comments by e-mail. Along with Jean, we've been joined by Public Eye editorial board member Frederick Clarkson on Right Wing attacks on mainline churches (in October); and PRA Senior Analyst Chip Berlet on the popularity of conspiracy theories on both the Right and Left (in September).

PRA Salon The Immigration Debacle: How We Got Here and What’s Next

December 4, 2007

Maria Elena Letona, Executive Director of Centro Presente, tracks how we came to the point where even "compromise" federal immigration reform cannot pass and considers the challenges ahead with the Right emboldened, the immigrant rights movement on its heels, and progressives in disarray.

Centro Presente is a 26-year-old Massachusetts nonprofit dedicated to immigrant rights, and the self-determination and self-sufficiency of the state's Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts.

For information, contact Renee at

Salon participants were one of the first public audiences to hear from Jean about her soon-to-be published research on marriage promotion programs. She traces the leap of the belief that marriage heals the ills of society, including poverty, into government programs during the Bush Administration. Bush's Assistant Secretary of Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services from 2001 until the summer of 2007 was Wade Horn, founder the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) who famously said, "The husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church."

Horn sought to reshape federal welfare policies with this view at the core. One of his great victories was securing $50 million annually to fund fatherhood programs for low-income couples and another $100 million for marriage promotion programs for low-income women (especially those on welfare) in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act. These funds have been and continue to be distributed through grants to the states and to faith-based and community organizations for such activities as couples' counseling/classes that encourage marriage and discourage divorce; marriage promotion campaigns including billboards and other pr devices, marriage education in high schools (read: abstinence education), and fatherhood and marriage day events.

Jean argues that Bush and Horn use these programs to eliminate the idea that the government should act against poverty and provide a social safety net, and to justify cutting women from the welfare rolls.

Bush and his conservative cohorts believe overcoming poverty requires individual solutions found in being Christian, married, and living a worthy life that is supported by the free market. Traditional marriage, with fathers as providers, anchors, and the sources of wisdom who pass down "democratic" values - as only men/fathers are in contact with and understand the values of the outside world - will ensure children are healthy and productive. All this circulates in the halls of government despite research proving that education is the most powerful poverty-fighter for women - as they gain the skills necessary to generate decent incomes to care for their families and themselves - along with accessible child care and health care, and women/infant/children (WIC), food stamp, and similar programs.

Jean Hardisty Exposes “Marriage Promotion” in New Reports

We're excited to announce that in January 2008 Political Research Associates, in collaboration with the Women of Color Resource Center, will release two reports on marriage promotion by Jean V. Hardisty, the political scientist who founded PRA in 1981. The reports (titles are in development)
  • expose distortions of social scientific research by those who promote marriage as a supposed cure for poverty; and
  • examine the "marketing" of marriage promotion - both inside and outside the federal government.
A brief summary of Jean's research appears in the Salons article in this issue of PRAccess. PRA and WCRC are grateful to The Ford Foundation for funding Jean's research. Both reports can be ordered in mid January 2008.

Fatherhood and marriage promotion programs are becoming increasingly bipartisan, Jean suggests, and Reagan's notorious image of the cheating "welfare queen" still circulates and shapes policy.

Where are the programs countering these policies, the audience asked, and how do we come up with counter-images to dispel enduring stereotypes? Who is investing to match the Christian Right's wealth of resources - like Focus on the Family's $142 million annual budget for campaigns and exporting their views all over the world? The answer was simple: committed donors, strong programs and counter-messaging are not yet happening. The urgency is greater than ever for the progressive movement to mobilize large and diverse constituencies that use a consistent message to put strong pressure on every decision maker. As Jean said, we must "disturb their sleep in every way possible."

You can listen to Jean's and other Salons, and read the speaker's handouts, online here. To access that site or to learn how you can participate in Salons either in our library or from wherever you live or work, please contact Renee Sweeney or call PRA at 617.666.5300.

Fall/Winter 2007
Volume 6, No. 2

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