Families of Politicians: The Presence of Bristol Palin
Should the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter have any bearing on the way Americans vote? Barack Obama doesn't think so. When recently asked about it, we heard him say, "I have said before and I will repeat again: I think people's families are off limits, and people's children are especially off limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to governor Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories."
As far as Obama's statement is concerned, the man is right. The personal lives of candidates, that is, their lives outside of a public, political forum are not relevant. Going even further, the personal life of a candidate's son or daughter who is not involved in any way in the candidate's day-to-day campaign is even less relevant.
But let us consider where and when we live. In a scandal-hungry 21st century America, the traditional rules are no longer applicable. Americans have been conditioned to expect information to be readily accessible at any time. We want to know who did what, where and how it turned out, especially if it did so badly. America wants juicy, meaty stories that make us feel better about our everyday lives and distract us from the bitter reality that we are not all beautiful celebrities.
Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy is a juicy story. It's a story that modern-day America needs to hear because we're nosy. The media knows what we want so they're going to give it to us. Jamie Lynn Spears is yesterday's news. This is something we want to know more about and can easily relate to. It turns her into something more than a cardboard cutout spewing slogans.
Just because she comes from Alaska doesn't mean she is clueless as to how the American political and media machines operate. She knows what to expect and if she wasn't prepared to face the media scrutiny she never would have accepted John McCain's invitation.
And while it should be clear to voters that the decisions candidate Palin makes concerning her daughter's well-being are not associated with or will in any way affect the decisions she could potentially make as the second most powerful person in the country, it can lend insight into her character, which, many would agree, is a very important factor when choosing a president. The way she handles herself in this stressful situation could, for many Americans, illustrate how she may be apt to handle herself in the rigorous and stressful political environment in Washington.
Americans like to relate to their celebrities, and are usually welcoming and forgiving of mistakes or character flaws. Americans don't appreciate being talked down to. Rather, they like to know that famous or not, we all are in the same boat. Real people have problems, and the more problems one has, the more real he or she appears to be.
Obama may have Sarah Palin's family's best interests at heart, but does he honestly believe that the media will stop just because he asked nicely? There's no way - he's not that delusional. He just wanted to be on record stating that the media's practices are irrelevant and immoral. He wanted to take the high ground.
Did the media cross the line as Obama contends? The jury is still out on that. Another question is whether or not a line exists anymore. Probably depends on one's political alignment. Is the media attention unnecessary? Yes. Is it irrelevant? Of course. But is it inappropriate? Not anymore. And it probably never will be again.