Compared to many of my blog posts this post will have few links. This whole blog is filled with references to my personal life and I often draw connections in my writing between my personal life and whatever political issue I am discussing. You can use search engines on the site to connect this blog post to the rest of my blog. If you do you will not need links and guides to see that my personal life shapes my political views.
I think that to some degree all American voters and all the constituents of the United States of America do much the same thing in terms of making connections and are also influenced. People vote in favor of access to legal abortion in an unrestricted way so they or someone they know can possibly procure and abortion more often than not. People vote against broad legal access to abortion because they don’t want a clinic nearby, they fear their daughters will be sexually mistreated more often in a world where dealing with pregnancy that way is easy or they have lost an unborn child that was their girlfriend or wife’s choice and they felt abused. Some are young women who do not want to encourage irresponsible men to be more irresponsible are to send a message to the broader society that young women do not care about their unborn babies. Not all the pro-life movement is made up of people influenced that way but there are many of them. The personal connections are complicated and not the core of the speeches, blogs and banners that fuel rallies and movements related to abortion, guns, war, welfare, the minimum wage and many other things. Those personal stories can be heard but they are not on center stage publicly. This post is partly about how we voter are influenced by our view of our personal lives and how politicians personal lives are involved in their pursuit of office. Even for those of us not seeking public office many of our personal experiences are shaped by events or trends that make the news and get into political speeches. Journalists and politicians would not be doing their jobs if that were not true. Where we live and what we do for a living determine which sorts of things are most likely to influence us. That is part of what is meant in the old saying that “all politics are local”.
There was a time when thoughts about personal lives of Presidents and candidates for the White House were different than now. That time most recently was from perhaps when Jimmy Carter was embarrassed by his brother’s antics though the time when Gary Hart was found with a woman not his wife in a compromising position and until the Clinton dalliance with intern Monica Lewinski. People were eager to say in those cases and other that the personal lives and especially the family and sexual lives of political figures were perhaps outside of our concern to some degree and cloaked in some kind of privacy expectations. But Clinton had done a lot of things that got people upset in various part of the political world and among various segments of the electorate and the affair with Monica Lewinski was the thing that almost got him impeached. Since then Elliot Spitzer and the escorts, Anthony Wiener and the sexting, the kissing freshman Congressman from Louisiana named McAllister (more or less) and the news of Congressmen making homosexual advances in men’s rooms, racial segregationist Strom Thurmond having a mistress of color, the sexual escapades of President John F. Kennedy, Barney Frank consorting with a male escort and other such sexual conduct have been widely agreed to be relevant. In addition the jokes one tells, the clubs one belongs to, one’s mental and physical health over the last half century and whom one may have met at a party are all agreed by almost everyone to be the public’s business if one chooses to run for office. What a woman tolerated from a mate is also seen as very much a political quality of some kind. So far in this race their seems to be a problem with Hillary Clinton and choices she made in determining what is or is not a personal email. There seems to be an issue with very few voters as to whether the intention of the fourteenth amendment was to so universalize all rights that it trumped the native clause for Presidents. This must be what Ted Cruz believes even as he challenges the same fourteenth amendment in providing birthright citizenship for many. There seems to be a problem with Joe Biden being too sad about his son Beau’s death to be sure that he can run for President of the United States. But while many personal qualities and experiences have been discussed the personal lives of the candidates have really not yet been at the center of things.
We are most of us never going to run for office but if we do run we will find that in a very real sense we have always been running and everything we have done was part of our political campaign. Every meeting was a political gathering. But I am not writing this post primarily to protest against that trend. or to defend privacy and personal space and limits to public curiosity. This is a post of another kind.
I am putting together a sort of series of blog posts on presidential politics during this presidential primaries season. In this series I am examining a series of questions and issues related to the election of the President of the United States. In each of these posts I have explored some aspect of the context and significance of the presidential race and related it to some positions and traits of at least some of the candidates. In this post I am planning to discuss both the personal lives of Presidents and Presidential candidates on the one hand and the personal lives of American citizens and voters. This is the great personal part of politics which most of us at one time or another have wished was not part of the political process at all but which is nonetheless part of the process anyway.
The odd thing about each of our personal lives is that they are so very individual and specific to us. The recent appearance of Donald Trump on the political scene has reminded people that those running for office can take personal offense at many things. Trump has also reminded the world that given the resources and the inclination a political contender can bring the battle of personal insults and disparaging remarks to bear on those who normally deal in inflicting such pain.
Many people seem to relate to this kind of personal belligerence on the part of Donald Trump rather well. In fact throughout the world and across the ages there has always been a tendency to follow leaders who could dish out pain in return for the grievances inflicted upon them. Of course there are many other factors that make up the kind of person most likely to be a leader.
Three years ago today I had an interview on the phone to try to get disability benefits. I had just had a very traumatic experience on August 7, 2012. Perhaps it was a cousin to a heart attack or perhaps it was a mild heart attack but the truth is that I reached a point where my health was so bad and the pain after getting treatment was so great that I could not function. Now things are different. Not good and maybe not better but different. I am coming to this election a more completely disenfranchised man in terms of life in general but still on the downward trajectory of many years. But my beliefs are formed not by my narrowing experiences of decay and decline but by other experiences. Each day is part of a whole life and I write and blog about the politics that life has conditioned me to see. I think we all ought to ask which presidential candidate has the experiences and not just the job experience that will make a good and great president. The truth is that I think millions of Americans are already examining these candidates just that way.