According to the most recent polls in South Carolina, Newt has weathered the storm of his second wife’s bombshell that he asked her for an open marriage. And once again the importance of marriage in American political life has been brought into focus by the hypocrisy of those telling us about the importance of marriage in political life.
Let us start at the beginning. First, all national politicians at this point in American history project the ideal family and the ideal marriage in order to win office. This is because many Americans believe that marriage is a sign of a highly disciplined and hard-working individual who can control their bodily impulses. This is why Bill Clinton was impeached—he was chubby and unfaithful. This is why George W. Bush seemed like such a good idea—he controlled his eating and kept his sexual impulses confined to the conjugal bed. It is paradoxical that Americans believe this since the majority of Americans are now unmarried, but that is in part because married couples tend to be whiter and wealthier than average. This belief is bolstered by the ideology of romance, which teaches all of us from the moment we are born to search for our soulmate so we can ride off into the sunset and live happily everafter in married bliss.
Newt came into the political scene at about the same time that marriage rates began to drop even as the ideology of romance became more powerful. Although he himself was on his second marriage and having an affair on that wife, he led the charge against Clinton. Newt insists this was not hypocrisy because
the impeachment case was “not about personal behavior… Now, look, I think you have to look at whether or not people have to be perfect in order to be leaders. I don’t think I’m perfect. I admitted I had problems. I admitted that I sought forgiveness.
Now Newt’s second wife, Marianne, the one on whom he was cheating when he led the charge against Clinton, has come out publicly to ask
How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?
Marianne also claims that Newt said he wanted an open marriage and that his mistress (and now wife) Callista Bisek was going to help him become president in a few years.
Newt’s contradictions might confuse some, but I think he is fairly easy to explain away. In my unprofessional opinion, Newt may suffer from psychopathic personality disorder. Not because of his cheating ways, but because of the callous way in which he left wife No. 1 when she got sick with cancer and wife No. 2 when she learned she had MS. According to a CCN article, the psycho-path to success may be littered with the sort of person who really doesn’t care about anything or anyone but climbing to the top. According to a recent study, people with psychopathic personalities are four times more likely to be in senior management. That’s because they aren’t fettered by emotions like the rest of us. A psychopath is just as emotionless at home as at work. Newt couldn’t have an old wife or a sick wife and be president. So he got rid of them. Also, psychpaths brag a lot about themselves. Enough said.
But how exactly do we explain American voters who are both increasingly unmarried and simultaneously true believers that married people are better than the rest of us? This belief is not to the unmarried majority’s benefit, so it cannot possibly be the result of a national psychopathic personality disorder. Instead, Americans suffer from something else: sentimentality. We want to believe, truly we do, in that happily everafter. As our economic horizons narrowed, as social mobility became more difficult, we invested our hopes in romance and true love and the idea that marriage will make it better.
But no matter how much propaganda about marriage is out there—produced by Hollywood, the Christian Conservatives, and even our own government in the form of the Healthy Marriage Initiative—we cannot find a better future or a better political system with the simple words “I do.” Until we divorce our political and personal futures from marriage, until we consider that good presidents might be single and personal happiness might not depend on marriage either, we are doomed to living with Newt Gingrich and his many wives.