Like would-be yentas trying to set you up on dates with their divorced friends, the political class is constantly trying to foist divorced candidates on the Republican Party, authoritatively assuring us that Americans don’t have a problem with divorce anymore. Let’s examine the truth of that claim.
Inasmuch as no serious Republican candidate for president is currently divorced, the facts can be considered without violating the 11th Commandment to never speak ill of a fellow Republican.
(That’s unless you consider Newt Gingrich a serious candidate, which I don’t – although as far as being fodder for late-night comedians, he’s the man to beat.)
We’re always being chirpily informed, as an article in the New York Times put it, that when it comes to the presidency, “(d)ivorce, of course, is old hat.”
But strangely, all the prominent divorced politicians listed to prove that point are the losers: John McCain, John Kerry, Bob Dole, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Chris Dodd – all the way back to Adlai Stevenson.
In fact, there’s only one exception to the rule that Americans don’t want a divorced president: Ronald Reagan.
Although Reagan is always cited as if he broke the divorce barrier in presidential elections the same way Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, this would be true only if Jackie Robinson: 1) were also the last black person ever to play professional baseball; and 2) no one knew he was black, something like Bryant Gumbel.
Many voters didn’t even realize Reagan was divorced. And if they knew, then they also knew that Reagan’s wife left him against his wishes – according to their children, their friends and newspaper headlines at the time that blared: “JANE WYMAN TO ASK DIVORCE.”
That’s a far cry from Bob Dole coming home and announcing to his stunned wife of 23 years, “I want out.”
It’s also a far cry from John McCain catting around on, and then divorcing, the wife who waited for him for five and a half years while he was in a POW camp. While he was gone, she got in a car accident, which resulted in her losing inches off her model-height as well as her svelte figure.
It’s a long way from Newt giving his first wife divorce papers as she was in the hospital recovering from surgery on a potentially cancerous tumor and then turning around and cheating on his second wife.
Those divorces are deeply depressing. None of us wants to be reminded of the sadness of divorce, the wounded children and the lonely ex-spouse every time we have to listen to our president give a speech.
Contradicting the endless New York Times articles celebrating “the new American family,” “blended families” and “quasi marriages,” a recent census report says that only 12 percent of Americans will be married as many as two times in their entire lives. Only 3 percent will be married three or more times.
(The “one of every two marriages will end in divorce” canard comes from comparing the number of marriages in a given year to the number of divorces that same year – but the divorces could be from any of the millions of marriages consummated in the prior several decades. Serial divorcers also bring the “average” divorce rate way up.)
So why does James Traub, writing for the New York Times, describe the “Rob and Laura Petrie” model of the Bush family as “a return to an increasingly abnormal ‘normalcy'”? To the contrary, after peaking in the late ’70s, divorce is, again, increasingly abnormal.
One gets the impression that a lot of reporters are fantasizing about divorcing their wives, so eager are they to make divorce sound as American as apple pie. Deviants always try to exaggerate their numbers so as not to feel quite so deviant. Ask any Ron Paul supporter.
What newspaper writers tell us about the “more contemporary tableau of family life” – as Traub put it – doesn’t jibe with either the facts about how often Americans divorce or how likely people are to vote for a divorced man for president.
Amazingly, a recent article in the New York Times by Sheryl Gay Stolberg cheerfully proclaimed that “Americans long ago moved past divorce as a political non-starter” – in the very same paragraph in which she cited a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finding that half of all voters would have a problem with a candidate who had multiple marriages.
Half! And that’s what the public is willing to tell pollsters.
So why do so many Republicans who think they should be president come from the small category of repeat marriers? Only 12 percent of the entire population has been married as much as twice, but about 50 percent of Republican candidates for president have been married at least twice.
Can’t we nip this trend in the bud before losing another election with a candidate who’s a prima facie loser?
Luckily, Chris Christie, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain are all happily married to one, and only one, spouse. But please keep these statistics in mind during the next Republican primary so we don’t have to keep pretending to take seriously candidates like Newt Gingrich, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.