Father’s Day has arrived in the middle of a national presidential race, which has us wondering about the connection between fatherhood and politics.
We’re not surprised that the two leading candidates for president, incumbent Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, are both fathers. Fatherhood has typically gone hand in hand with the job of commander in chief, although maternal chief executives might enter the mix when America gets its first female president.
Male politicians on the campaign trail often love to tout their roles as fathers. The convenient implication here is that being a dad automatically makes one a better person, a better leader.
We don’t believe this, of course. The world has quite a few inept and mean-spirited politicians who also happen to be fathers. We also know of formidable leaders who are childless, either by choice or circumstance.
Fatherhood does not uniformly improve one’s soul or widen one’s mind. But being a parent can, if one is open to the experience, offer opportunities to learn quite a lot about human nature.
One thing a parent can learn is that human persuasion has its limits. We can’t always convince our children to do what we think is best, even with the best set of carrots and sticks. To grasp this lesson at one’s own dinner table is a humbling thing, and a nice window into the nature of political influence, too.
Parenthood gives you daily reminders that you’re not as powerful as you think you are. That’s a useful thing for any president or future president to keep in mind.