Sunday, January 13, 2008

Unmarried Candidates Need Not Apply?

During election season, it's nearly ubiquitous for candidates to stress their commitment to the vague notion of "family values", and they usually trot out their spouse and children as proof of their commitment.

This got me to thinking and researching and I discovered that in the entire history of the United States, we've only had one president who was single: James Buchanan, who was president just preceding Abraham Lincoln. Grover Cleveland was single when elected to his first term, but was married while in office.

In recent years, I can't think of a single Democrat or Republican candidate who was single while running for president. And Ralph Nader is the only third-party candidate with name recognition that I can come up with who was a bachelor.

To some people, being single is a negative factor when considering a candidate to vote for; to them being single is synonymous with being immature and irresponsible. In February 2004, Ralph Nader appeared on the political TV program Hardball, where the host, Chris Matthews implied that Nader was both of these things because he was single.

Matthews had asked Nader whether George Bush was intellectually up to being the president, to which Nader answered in the negative, adding Bush's own quote that he was "young and irresponsible until he was forty".

Matthews fired back, "Why do you say he's irresponsible? He's raised two daughter and he's had a happy marriage. Isn't he more mature in his lifestyle than you are?" Matthews continued, "You're an ascetic guy. You go to movie night and maybe have dinner with some pals. I like you personally. But you haven't exactly grown up and had family and raised them and seen them off to college...He's had a happy marriage. Isn't that a sign maturity that you haven't demonstrated?" (emphasis mine).

Apparently, single people are incapable of responsibility and maturity in Matthews' book and being married automatically confers these properties upon people along with their marriage licenses.

In a similar vein, when asked about the possibility of Condoleezza Rice someday running for president, first lady Laura Bush told People magazine that Rice will not run for president "probably because she is single, her parents are no longer living, she's an only child. You need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job."

I don't know about you, but this seems a very patronizing comment for someone who is supposed to be a friend to make. And perhaps Bush harbors just a bit of envy in regards to the multi-talented and accomplished Rice in her comments that attempt to make Rice look pathetic.

So, we have pathetic, added to immature and irresponsible.

I don't get the bias. Single people may not have families of their own creation, but every single person has been in a family of origin; surely this qualifies them to support whatever one means by "family values". And that's not to mention that we're all part of the "human family".

In reference to Bush's comment, it's not as if presidents employ their families to help them run the government; they hire and appoint qualified people for that and work with other elected officials. Surely, being single wouldn't change this fact in any way.

How about you? Would you cast your vote for a presidential candidate who is single?

1 comment:

D.K. said...

The fact of the matter is that it does take a certain level of responsibility to maintain a marriage and/or have kids that single people are never required to excercise.

That doesn't mean that a single person is irresponsible, however, because there are pleny of other ways in the world to demonstrate responsibility.

I think that it's very short-sighted to pit any candidate against such a litmus test.