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JLeslie's avatar

Should politicians put their family first?

Asked by JLeslie (59778points) October 21st, 2015 from iPhone

I remember when Al Gore was running for President and Bush was running in the family values schtick, and a reporter asked Gore what comes first his family or the country. At the time I thought that was a bullshit question. Gore didn’t have a prepared answer from what I could tell, but ended up saying family.

At the time, and now, I say no. No, you are the President, or in congress, and your priority should be the country. Sure, family is important, raising children is important, but in my opinion when you choose to serve the country that is the priority when push comes to shove. Usually, hopefully, there is a life work balance, but an emergency in the country takes priority in my opinion.

What made me think of this again was Paul Ryan’s speech about his priority being his family. Is that what our soldiers say as they kiss their spouse and children goodbye to fight our wars? Doesn’t the greater good matter more than the few? Doesn’t earning an income often require people to put work first?

Most breadwinners in families at least some if the time have to choose work over their family.

What do you think? Should a politicians first priority be the country and the people who elected him or her?

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23 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

It’s free to go either way. Is ok as long as they make it clear when they are being elected.

canidmajor's avatar

If your family is dysfunctional for any reason, illness, emotional circumstances, whatever, they will be a huge distraction, thus preventing the politician from doing their job properly.
While I respect and appreciate your “greater good” analogy, I think that the point of so many of these jobs is to ultimately protect one’s family.
The “Most breadwinners…at least some of the time have to choose work over their family” analogy is inappropriate here, as they are not usually choosing in a serious circumstance.

Good Q, @JLeslie.

longgone's avatar

I want politicians to be as human and healthy as possible. Anyone who can put the needs of their family on hold for a job does not meet those requirements.

stanleybmanly's avatar

No. If a buck private can be compelled to witness his family on food stamps, no Washington politician has any room to bitch.

_Seek_'s avatar

Yes and no.

I do want the President to think of his 18-year-old son’s draft card before he starts a war, but I don’t want his baby mamma issues to distract him from doing actual work.

jca's avatar

I go to political events all the time, in addition to having friends who are married to politicians, and I can assure you that politicians are not home for many evenings per week. Between board meetings, community events, dinners, fundraisers, that’s the nature of the job. In order to campaign effectively, the politician has to be out, shaking hands, meeting people, networking, showing her or his face, acting gracious, answering questions, volunteering at events, in general, being away from home is the nature of the job.

They show up at a fundraiser or other political event and they walk around, shake hands, and then don’t even stay because they’re on to the next place. Again, that’s the nature of the job.

Of course, if there’s a family emergency, the politician has some tough choices to make. However, they know going into politics that it means long hours away from home.

One of my best friends who is married to a local politician said it was like being a single mother, because her husband was out of the house 3 or 4 nights a week.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca I think that supports my point that politicians generally put politics first. Of course people have responsibilities to their family, and also deserve time with their families for their own joy, but the job often comes first in terms of time. That doesn’t make the politician a bad family man/woman. Providing for your family financially and serving the country are important.

This recent thing with Paul Ryan’s statement and “everyone” swooning over how it makes him such a great guy that he will insist on having time to put his family first; I guess I’m just sick of the family values bullshit among the Republicans. I just find the whole thing a marketing piece of garbage trying to imply democrats are not family oriented, which is ridiculous. I think it’s secret code for they have men who are responsible and care, unlike so many baby daddy’s among democrats. I think it is mildly racist too.

jca's avatar

There’s probably some other reason behind Paul Ryan’s decision making, but the family thing is a good excuse, and not the first time a politican has made similar statements. They resign from things all the time and say “I need to spend time with my family.” They resign from things in lieu of getting fired, and make the “need to spend time with the family” comment. To me, the majority of things that come out of a politician’s mouth are not necessarily true.

JLeslie's avatar

Just to clarify, I don’t think Ryan is racist at all, I’m just saying that part of the party does associate fathers who don’t care with minority democrats.

cazzie's avatar

I want a leader with a balanced life. He they feel they have to give up their families to serve, that’s going to leave a big hole in a person’s life and could mess their heads up something awful. I want a human being to lead, not a robot who can turn off his emotional needs and those of his family. That sounds… barbaric, almost. I think that is why we look for candidates that appear to have pretty stable, balanced personal lives. I don’t think anyone should expect them to be cut off from their families, and I can totally understand Joe Biden’s decision for not running after the loss of his son.

It’s sort of like…. I don’t think I want Shatner’s Captain Kirk as president, but I think Captain JL Picard would be more preferable to Data.

filmfann's avatar

I think it depends on the individual. I would want them to be honest about which is more important, but I would not fault anyone who places their family first.

jca's avatar

Honestly, they’re not going to be faulted for putting their family first on some occasions, but if they do it all the time, they’re not going to be out there getting things done, attending board meetings and getting seen by their constituents, and then they’ll lose the race, and they will no longer be in office.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s not just one or the other that people should have to clarify what comes first is it? Balance is what most people strive for.

However, if a country has missiles ready to launch at us, and their kid is sick, the missiles get the time don’t they? I completely respect Biden if he chooses not to run, because dealing with his loss is overwhelming for him, or has him distracted. When his wife and daughter were killed many years ago, and he decided to serve the country with the encouragement of his peers. He had young children you had just lost their mother and sibling. He took long train rides to be sure he was home with them at night, but he did choose that time to continue to work.

Jeruba's avatar

Isn’t it true that royalty in the line of succession are brought up understanding their duty to their country and their people and knowing that they may have to sacrifice something to fulfill it? I don’t think any elected official can ever be as well prepared for office as someone who from birth has been destined for the throne. Instead they often speak to our commonality by putting personal concerns first, and we are all too quick to condemn them if they don’t.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Just passing by to Gold Ingot this thing and gain my 5, bygones

wsxwh111's avatar

With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear, because this shouldn’t be a problem.
Caring about his/her people is important for a politician because it’s their job and career to do so, but OBVIOUSLY caring about his/her own family is more important because it’s his/her family.
At the end of the day, this question is about career and family, and I think family is a little more important than career, because intimate relationship reflects who a person is.
Asking a politician to be good at politics without taking good care of his family is like asking someone to lose weight by means of starving to death.
Of course, the more often situation is, they can’t do both, because no person is perfect, so it’s really hard to set some particular standard about what is a good politician, but comparing these two factors regardless of other factors, I think family is clearly more important.

Jeruba's avatar

If a single point of view were obviously superior and correct, there wouldn’t be differences of opinion, would there?

JLeslie's avatar

@wsxwh111 If family is OBVIOUSLY more important then how do you explain people risking their lives and going away from their families for many months to fight a war in some remote country? Sometimes their children are born without them there. Their wives, parents, and children go through illness and tragedy without them present. Then there is the example @Jeruba gave regarding royalty.

Every day parents have to choose work over time with their family. Sometimes the job is significant to the safety and well being of others. Sometimes, it’s just flipping burgers, but the person needs the money to provide for their family.

What qualifies as family first anyway? In our society money counts. Money is how we keep our families safe and fed. Choosing to work is not always putting work first anyway.

wsxwh111's avatar

Money is how we keep our families safe and fed. Choosing to work is not always putting work first anyway.
Look, you explained your questions yourself.
@JLeslie
Families are more important doesn’t mean money/job/career isn’t important. It’s a way to help us do better on family.
And I don’t think going to the war is not about family. It’s like basic information for everyone isn’t it? Going to a war helps one find who himself/herself is; that’s the main task for every one as long as you are alive; the more you know who you are, the better you would do in intimate relationship; the better you know who you are and you have stable social communications, the better you would probably do in work. Isn’t that right?

wsxwh111's avatar

@Jeruba Yeah
I guess it came out wrong. Didn’t mean to sound like that, I’m sorry.
I guess what I was trying to express is that every one can have different choices when it comes to job/family choices, and on a higher level, everyone also has different thoughts on which one is basically more important. I, personally, would treasure family more, while career is also critical to me, and I respect every choice. The former comment may not seem to be expressing something like this one so my bad.

wsxwh111's avatar

I’m sorry, the one response I posted right now to @JLeslie, I said it wrong. In fact they are pretty much just my own thought and I had no intention nor place to say it like that. I wanted to edit it but flutter got crushed and now I can’t edit because it’s a little long.

JLeslie's avatar

@wsxwh111 Well, Ryan was talking about time with his family, not money. Most people who complain about their spouse not being home enough, because of their job, are talking about time not money.

When it comes to the emergency situation I mentioned, missiles pointed at America or a sick child, someone else is going to have to take care of the kid, even if he is crying for his parent. The job is too important.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

In actuality a politician IS a public servant, and he/she should have the public or their constituents ahead of even themselves. C’mon, we are in dispensation where logic doesn’t rule atop emotion, if a politician said he/she would put the country (strangers) ahead of their family they will be made to be monsters, heartless people who care nothing for their blood relatives in favor of these “strangers”, many who are criminals or worse. That is a question you lose your head no matter how you answer it.

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