Saturday, August 25, 2012

Slate: Why do so many politicians have daddy issues?

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/08/absent_fathers_political_leaders_like_bill_clinton_ronald_reagan_gerald_ford_and_paul_ryan_often_develop_coping_mechanisms_in_childhood_that_may_make_them_effective_leaders_.html

American politics is overflowing with stories of absent fathers, alcoholic fathers, neglectful fathers, and untimely deceased ones

And here ...

This isn't just cherry-picking either. It's a representative window into the emotional makeup of our political class. While there are few academic studies on the subject of political daddy issues, the ones that do exist suggest an outsized percentage of prominent politicians have absent or dysfunctional fathers. The most methodologically credible of these is actually a British study called The Fiery Chariot: A Study of British Prime Ministers and the Search for Love, which found that, in the words of a peer reviewer, "the rate of bereavement amongst prime ministers was exceptionally high," somewhere around half of all British prime ministers. That was much higher than the estimated rate for the population as a whole, and the bereavement rates for Cabinet members also ran consistently higher than the general public. What could be going on here? Is this simply politics imitating Shakespeare, or is there some causal reason that so many people with father issues make it to the upper reaches of public office?

It's Slate, and a Slate author ruminating on a Republican candidate.  As I have noted here a time or two I've begun to be less than awestruck by Slate but this polemical proposal is interesting because it crosses party affiliation.  If the question amongst evangelicals is "where's dad?" with a rhetorically assumed answer that young men will go on to greatness if dads were more involved the example set by history in American politics may provide a startling counternarrative.

In fact it's not entirely certain that even among mover-and-shaker preacher-men that dad being present always leads to the big producers.  An emotionally absent father might be a greater catalyst for a preacher to accomplish big things in American-style Christianity than a truly involved father.

But perhaps things depend on what accomplishments are sought.  If what is sought is a modest legacy of faithful service, productivity and anonymity a present, able, and helpful dad could be a great thing.  But if the legacy you may want for the kid is for something fantastic, something great then it may paradoxically turn out that the faster path for that is for a dad to be ... absentee?  Or maybe even neglectful or abusive?  Or for parent and child to have a problematic relationship? Huh ... . does that seem counter-intuitive to some?  Inevitable to others?

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