An op-ed in The Chicago Tribune by Marvin Zonis bears a resemblance to Dowd's back in 2008. Zonis writes, "Imagine if President-elect Francois Hollande and Valerie Trierweiler were Americans. Let's look at the facts. They are unmarried. They apparently started their relationship in 2006 while Hollande was living with his previous partner, Segolene Royal. Hollande and Royal broke up because of Hollande's infidelity... Trierweiler, divorced twice, has three children, all with her second husband. She insists she won't give up her career as a TV presenter and political journalist. She insists she will earn her own income so she will not be dependent on the state for her support and that of her children. It will be awkward, to put it gently, for her to do so."
Zonis goes on to say that Trierweiler is "plenty tough" and shares an anecdote in which she slapped a colleague at Paris Match for saying something she considered sexist. (The woman has the nickname "Rottweiler," for goodness sake!) Like Trierweiler, Hollande seems unimpressed by the idea of adhering to traditions for the sake of traditions: Somewhat beautifully, when asked whether Hollande would marry Trierweiler for the sake of appearances now that he's president, he responded that protocol was not a good enough reason, and that it was their decision to make. But in America, where things are different, Zonis writes that "protocol" is "probably the best reason" for a political marriage. Could a Hollande-and-Trierweiler situation ever work here, with an American president?
Probably not. Not right now, anyway. Especially set against the backdrop of another state banning gay marriage, the obsession with "traditional" marriage (even as things slowly, hopefully surely, change) shows how deeply hypocritical we have become. Better a married politician having an affair with another woman (or man) than an unmarried politician and his committed companion in the White House, seems to be the message. But in the non-political realm of America, fewer people are marrying, and more and more people are getting divorces (even as states persist in denying the right to wed to some of those who want it the most). Maybe the French are doing it right, by not really caring— not enough, anyway, to vote against a politician for his lifestyle choice. Certainly, Hollande seems a better bet than Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a "married man" who may well have been the next president of France if not for, well, you know.
Supporting the new unmarried form of political couplings, in New York City, we have Mayor Bloomberg and Diana Taylor and Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee; powerful men in long-term relationships, but not wed to, powerful women. Both of those men have also been criticized as "unmarried fornicators" by State Senator Ruben Diaz Jr. Maybe the key way in which France is different from America is that it has fewer of these types mouthing off about "unmarried fornication"? Or maybe, as Dowd writes in her recent column on the new French president, "As Steven Erlanger, The Times’s Paris bureau chief, noted on the TV channel France 24, sometimes it seems as if 'a complicated amorous life is a requirement to be a French president.'” Yet it's not that the amorous lives of American politicians aren't complicated (look at John Edwards). It's just that American politicians try to hide them.