Newt Gingrich has surged to the top of many polls in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, despite being married three times. Herman Cain’s campaign ultimately collapsed after allegations of sexual misconduct and then allegations of infidelity.
How much should a candidate’s private life affects his public service?
Our ideas about marriage in the USA are fundamentally changing at lightening speed. Even with those changes I believe there are still some hard fast guidelines for candidates seeking the presidency.
Number one, I think all candidates must be married. We are a long way away from handing over the government to a single man or woman.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but marriage matters much more here than it does in other country. Look at this example in supposedly conservative Great Britain.
Ed Miliband married the mother of his two children in May, less than a year after becoming the leader of the Labor Party. Miliband, who is likely to run for prime minister in the next election, previously responded to criticism about cohabiting by saying he was “too busy” to get married. Good one Ed.
Here in America marriage rates have fallen dramatically however people’s attitudes about what counts as a family and what they expect from their political leaders are still basically conservative.
It doesn’t even have to be a candidate’s first marriage. A divorce, perhaps even two, is not a problem.
America’s divorce rate has sky rocketed to a level where nearly half of all marriages ended in divorce, and Americans’ attitudes began to change. In 1980, Ronald Reagan became the first person to be elected president who had divorced and remarried. If Gingrich were to win the Republican nomination, he would be the fifth major-party nominee to have been divorced and remarried, following Reagan, Bob Dole, John Kerry and John McCain.
Asked about his family life and how it reflected on him as a candidate, Gingrich said: “I’ve made mistakes at times; I’ve had to go to God for forgiveness; I’ve had to seek reconciliation.”
Obviously the most important guideline is, don’t have an affair.
Extramarital affairs, especially those uncovered in the course of a campaign, are still a problem with American voters. Cain, who was polling well in the GOP race this fall, saw his campaign crash and burn because of sexual harassment allegations.
After you are in office you may survive a “sex” scandal…after all look at Bill Clinton for example.He could run for office today and win.
In the General Social Survey, a national poll of adults conducted biennially by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, the percentage of Americans who responded that it is “always wrong” for a married person to have sex with someone other than his or her spouse rose from 73 percent in 1991 to 81 percent in 2008.
America seems to moving away from the old standard of lifelong monogamy to a new one of serial monogamy. Being married remains important, but we are allowed, even expected, to move from one marriage to another. However, we are supposed to remain sexually faithful to whomever we are married to at the time.
What we accept from our politicians in their personal lives is inconsistent with how our own personal lives work. I want our President to be….well Presidential. The contradictions reflect our difficulty in coming to terms with the great changes in sex and marriage since our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. We value marriage, but it looks like today we value the right to pursue personal happiness a bit more.
What do you think?