The current governor of Oregon is stepping down because of scandals that have ensnared him and his fiancée. The new governor-to-be is current Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown. The interesting thing about her is that she will be America’s first publicly bisexual governor.
Historically, American politicians have felt a great need to present a public face to voters that they are a paragon of traditional family values. That means one spouse, happy kids, Jesus, and preferably a house with a white picket fence.
This has changed dramatically and quickly in the last 10 years. Ronald Reagan may have reduced the stigma of divorce when he was elected president and 1980, but within just the last half decade, we’ve seen politicians elected to Congress who were gay publicly, who were atheists, and who seemingly did not feel the need to present conservative traditional values to voters.
Here in the state of New York our governor Andrew Cuomo is divorced and has a long time girlfriend. And he is seemingly under no pressure from anybody to get married. Voters seem incredibly uninterested in politicians’ private lives these days, provided there is no huge scandal involving public money, public trust, or abuse, or illegality.
At many levels, this strikes me as sensible, as if the voting public has grown up. I believe voters now realize that what’s most important is actual public policy that affects the citizens, not whether a particular politician is the ideal deacon candidate at your neighborhood church.
The healthy aspect of this development is that the pool of potential political leaders in America has now grown. People who traditionally shunned politics, for fear they would be ridiculed for not having the traditional politician background, now feel like they too can contribute in meaningful ways. Of course, you can still vote against any politician because you don’t like their choice of spouse or religion or lack thereof, but you’re going to have fewer allies in the media and in the voting booth.
The good news for politicians, is that they won’t have spend lots of time creating phony marriages and phony personal lives. They can be themselves as long as they produce something tangibly beneficial to voters.