Changing Attitudes About Divorce Could Affect Politics:
Cultural norms pertaining to marriage and divorce have certainly shifted in the United States over the last several decades. But would the United States elect a President who has been divorced? The public has historically expected the leader of the free world to be beyond reproach, although that is seldom if ever the case.
The American people have elected only one president who had been divorced prior to taking office, and that was Ronald Reagan. President Reagan however, was married, and divorced early in life, and had two children with his first wife, Jane Wyman. He remarried Nancy Reagan in 1952, almost thirty years before taking the oath of the Oval Office, and they remained married until his death in 2004 (source: whitehouse.gov).
So would the American people elect a divorced president today? One of the least controversial things about Donald Trump is that he has been divorced twice, is on his third marriage, and has children with three different women. He would certainly be the first American president with that sort of marital history. Even third party Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is divorced. Governor Johnson divorced his wife in 2005 prior to her death in 2006 (source: Albuquerque Journal). He now has a life partner and fiancé, with whom he has been in a committed relationship with since however they have never been married. (source: Huffington Post). And Hillary Clinton, while not divorced, has certainly endured her share of marital difficulties, in the public spotlight no less.
So has the American’s public perception of divorce completely shifted? According to Gallup, acceptance of divorce has increased by 12% from 2001 to 2015, from 59% to 71%. Not only has the American public become increasingly more open to divorce, but attitudes towards remarriage after divorce have shifted as well. For example, in 2013, four in ten new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before. Even the Pope has encouraged the Catholic clergy to be more welcoming to people who have been divorced and remarried, as well as same sex couples and romantic couples who unmarried and reside together.
Whether any of these recent trends have any impact on the 2016 presidential race has yet to be seen. But one thing is certain – attitudes towards divorce, remarriage, and nontraditional couples are changing. And we can surely expect more people with such backgrounds running for president in the near future.