Dads offer politicians a chance for success, hope and change

Politicians and their dads often have very complicated relationships. Here's the different ways current politicians get inspiration from their dads.
Jan 29, 2016

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  • The last Republican primary debate before the Iowa Caucuses saw politicians talk about the issues — a welcomed surprise with the absence of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who was hosting his own rally at the same time and has been known for stirring controversy.

  • One of these talking points focused on candidates and their fathers, specifically how their fathers influenced their respective political clouts and careers.

  • No stranger to talking about his family, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told Fox News moderators and viewers that he was best qualified to become president because he has learned some valuable political insight from his family since birth, Time magazine reported.

  • "Look, I'm an establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive, was president of the United States, and my brother, who I adore as well, is a fantastic brother, was president — fine, I'll take it," Bush said in the debate. "And I guess I'm part of the establishment because Barbara Bush is my mom. I'll take that too. But this election is not about our pedigree. It's about people who are really hurting, and we need a leader who will fix things and have a proven record to do it."

  • Bush wasn't the lone candidate to defend himself despite his family's GOP connections. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was asked whether or not he felt he made a mistake by not embracing his father's ideas, since not doing so turned off his father's voters from voting for him, Time reported. Paul responded with support for his father.

  • "There's probably no person I respect more in the country or in recent history than my father," Paul said. "I think he was probably the most honest man in politics that we've ever seen in a generation, and so in no way have I ever said that I don't embrace my father or love my father or appreciate everything that he's done for the country."

  • Paul still expects to receives his father's endorsement ahead of the Iowa Caucus voting, Time reported.

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  • Politicians and their fathers often have complicated relationships, starting from birth. In most cases, if it wasn't for their dads, politicians might not have become politicians at all. An analysis by The New York Times' Seth Stephens-Davidowitz found that men are 8,500 times more likely to become a senator than the average American if their dad was a senator before them.

  • "There is some evidence that the parental advantage in politics is actually getting bigger," Stephens-Davidowitz wrote. "George W. Bush ended a 171-year drought for presidential sons. From 2003 to 2006, the Senate had the highest percentage of senators' children — six — in its history."

  • This is likely because politicians pass on certain genes — competitiveness or the ability to lead — and other family advantages to their children, Stephens-Davidowitz wrote.

  • Some of these politicians share stories about their fathers in a positive way on the campaign trail. As Nick Corasaniti of The New York Times reported, candidates of the current election cycle have used stories about their fathers to show what lessons they have learned that could help them lead their country, state or city.

  • "This is the point in the presidential election cycle when broad platitudes and personal stories dominate the candidates' stump speeches as they seek to introduce themselves to the country. A key part of every candidate's story is their upbringing," Corasaniti wrote.

  • In fact, back in June 2015, many presidential candidates shared memories they had of their fathers on Father's Day, accompanied by hopeful messages about what makes them qualified to be president of the country, MSNBC reported.

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  • This isn't the case for all politicians, though. Research from 2012 found that some politicians have uneasy relationships with their fathers. For example, President Ronald Reagan's father was an alcoholic, President Barack Obama had an absent father and Paul Ryan never really knew his father, Slate's Barron YoungSmith reported.

  • But these politicians have found ways to succeed despite these struggles and overcome the odds.

  • Some will tell stories about how their troubled or absent father helped shape their personality, increasing sympathy from voters. These stories will sometimes resonate with voters, who also sometimes struggle with absentee fathers.

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  • They will also talk about certain skills they gained from having to deal with troubled fathers. Ryan, for example, said the trauma he felt over his father's death turned him into a busy worker, which has made him a more effective leader.

  • In fact, YoungSmith explained that research shows that politicians whose dads were alcoholics "walk into a room, and without even consciously realizing it, figure out just what the level of tension is, who is fighting with whom, and whether it is safe or dangerous." That is to say, it gives politicians the ability to handle tense situations.

  • And dysfunctional fathers inspire children to run for office so that they can promote change and lead in a more effective way for future families, YoungSmith wrote. Working in politics can be a difficult process, and can only be done by leaders who want to see real change for families happen, he said. These politicians with dysfunctional fathers know how troubling life can be for those growing up without dads and will use that knowledge to inspire changes in the country.

  • "Many of the people willing to keep going must be, in some sense, broken inside," YoungSmith wrote, "and driven to salve their emotional pain by courting the adulation of voters."

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Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

Website: https://twitter.com/HerbScribner

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