Do voting for president and choosing a mate have anything in common? In both instances, Americans are making an important decision: Whom do they want for a years-long relationship? Immature people and voters tend to look for the perfect mate or the perfect candidate. The more mature recognize there are no such things. None of us have to marry, but as citizens we have a duty to vote.
The end of a marriage or of a presidential term is often unpleasant, but the beginning of each is a honeymoon. The partners cannot get enough of each other, and both sides revel in a glow. During the 2012 election cycle, actress Lena Dunham of the HBO production “Girls” made an ad urging young women to vote for Barack Obama. In it she said: “Your first time shouldn't be with just anybody, you wanna do it with a great guy.” Although Obama was running for reelection, Dunham was pitching to young women or “girls” in her demographic who had just reached voting age and would be voting for the first time. As Dunham described it: “My first time voting was amazing. It was this line in the sand. Before I was a girl, now I was a woman.”
Some ostensible conservatives were infatuated with Obama during the 2008 cycle. One, New York Times columnist David Brooks, wrote about meeting then-Senator Obama for the first time: “I remember distinctly an image of — we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant, and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” Brooks got over his Obama crush, but others have not. Leftist MSNBC host Chris Matthews was infatuated with Obama too, describing “a thrill going up my leg” when listening to an Obama speech, and evidently he’s still in love.
In response to the Lena Dunham “First Time” ad, the conservative “Independent Women’s Forum” put one out called “Boyfriend” in which a young woman is talking to an older woman on a couch, above which hangs a “Hope” poster of President Obama. She opens saying: “I was so excited at first. He seemed so perfect.” The older woman responded, “They always do.” The younger one asked: “Why do I always fall for guys like this?” and the mature woman concluded, “You know you deserve better,”
Some terms are cut short earlier like those of President Carter and the first President Bush, both of whom were considered too wimpy to lead after only four years, but the average lately is eight. According to the McKinley/Irvin family law firm: “The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years.”
Approximately 126 million people voted in 2012 and there were almost 59 million married couples that year, or about 118 million people. Campaigns seem to get longer each four-year cycle and maybe candidates’ flaws will be evident sooner. Maybe voters have wised up a bit and will make think longer before “tying the knot.”
Or, maybe not.