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November 15, 2017

No personal lives for presidential candidates

When allegations first surfaced that one-time Republican front-runner Herman Cain had had a 13-year affair with Ginger White, Cain’s lawyer was quick to make a statement reminding voters that private matters such as what happens in a candidate’s bedroom have nothing to do with said candidate’s ability to lead our great country. For what it’s worth, a few hours later, Cain flatly denied the allegations in an interview with Wolf Blitzer. It turns out that Ginger was not a lover but rather just a good friend. You know, the kind of friend you support financially and keep secret from your wife and kids.

Courtesy Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Unfortunately, the American public wasn’t buying it. Herman Cain just suspended all Cain Trains that serviced routes to the White House.

So in light of the timely rise and fall of Cain, and with the Republican primaries just around the corner, a fair question to ask is: is it reasonable for voters to consider a candidate’s personal life at the ballot box? There are those, like Cain’s lawyer (and one would imagine, Herman Cain himself) who would argue that the media should focus, not on trivial matters like unproven allegations of sexual misconduct or 13-year affairs, but rather on matters of policy. Think about it from Cain’s perspective, every minute that Wolf Blitzer harped on those affair allegations was a minute that could have gone to Herman Cain explaining his “9-9-9 Can And Will Solve All Our Economic Problems” idea for financial reform. Voters shouldn’t focus on inconsequential issues like Herman Cain’s sex-life, or Newt Gingrich’s multiple marriages, but rather on issues of policy.

But with all due respect to Cain and his lawyer, I have to disagree. A candidate’s personal life should be taken into consideration when casting a vote. Electing a candidate for president is a personal vote. We bestow on our presidents the ability to send our children into war. That responsibility should not be handed over to persons who display poor character.

Granted, I do not think a vote should be based solely on a candidate’s personal life. Neither do I mean to suggest that a candidate’s success in his or her personal life is an accurate barometer with which to gauge how they might perform as commander-in-chief. I merely mean to suggest that when assessing a candidate it is valid to consider lapses of moral judgment (such as a 13-year affair), as a reflection of poor character.

Consideration of a candidate’s personal life and moral aptitude should be of increased importance when said candidate is running on a platform that highlights the need to preserve the sanctity of marriage. A candidate like Cain or Newt Gingrich, who believes that government should play a role in preserving the sanctity of marriage, should begin by preserving the sanctity of his or her own marriage. A good place to start could be telling your wife about the secret friend you’ve been supporting financially for the past 13 years.

Isaac Himmelman is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at ihimmelm@student.umass.edu.

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