MAISTROS: In Post Katie Hill-Era, How Many Democratic Presidential Candidates Support Polyamory?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bob Maistros Chief Writer, Reagan-Bush '84 campaign
Font Size:

The contretemps over former California Rep. Katie Hill showed Democrats and progressives will come down hard on anything #MeToo. But how do they — especially their presidential candidates — feel about #WeThree (not the musical group)? Or more?

Party leaders knew Hill had to go amid allegations of an affair with a male legislative director. She also admitted to a prior liaison with a 22-year-old female campaign staffer.

Yet, nary a peep in protest of the revelation that Hill and her now-estranged hubby were flaunting their marriage vows in a “throuple” relationship. The term occasioned titillation — but not a hint of condemnation from Democrats of a brand of romance that alone would have doomed a political career very few years ago.

Rather, defenses proliferated rapidly from the left. “Revenge porn.” “Slut-shaming.” A “double standard” affecting women politicians. “Smear campaigns.” “GOP enemies” and “operatives” who “wanted to beat Katie Hill” and “use(d) her naked pictures to destroy her.”

Does that mean that Democrats and progressives are hunky-dory with polyamory? Would the grouping been copasetic if, say, the woman in question had not been a campaign employee, or had she, the congressional staffer — or both — been able to legally “marry in” to the arrangement?

If so, that view would put the party crosswise with a large cross-section of the public. How large? It depends how you frame the issue.

According to Gallup, nine in 10 Americans believe adultery — defined as “married men and women having an affair” — is “morally wrong.” That number has held fairly steady for decades.

But are folks cool with “polygamy” — “when a married person has more than one spouse at the same time?” Surprisingly, one in five now says yes. (A distinction variously attributed to the “Big Love/Sister Wives” effect and advancing social libertarianism.)

Still, at least 80 percent of the public disapproves of two-plus in any marital relationship. Legally, three is still considered a matrimonial crowd in all 50 states. Which begs the question as another debate night nears: dare the 2020 presidential candidates be as laissez faire as other progressives appear about polyamory?

It’s a question especially pertinent for one candidate: Pete Buttigieg, who has waxed that his own same-sex marriage “brought me closer to God,” and whose husband, Chasten, has become a social media “superstar” and headlines fundraisers.

Yet multiplying partners is by many accounts a feature, not a bug, of same-sex relationships. Surveys show nearly half of gay male couples are in open relationships, a finding some in the community maintain is on the low side.

Moreover, the allegedly different take on marital sexual exclusivity by gay Americans has been held out as a model for modern matrimony. The New York Times reported same-sex unions themselves are still being debated: “Some experts say that boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.”

That institution is indeed in survival mode, with fewer than half of marriage-aged adults currently hitched, and incredibly, barely a quarter of adults 35 and under.

It’s historically unprecedented — and not without economic and fiscal consequences. Declining marriage means fertility has also hit an all-time low — threatening long-term growth and solvency of both Medicare and Social Security.

Given the unconventional presentations of marriage in this campaign season, and what’s at stake, canvassing the candidates’ views on further opening bedrooms and marriages would be interesting to say the least — and far from out of bounds.

Do they see polyamory in any and all of its myriad possible forms as not just acceptable from a moral perspective — but an actual model for the future of marriage?

Will layering new partners into social structures already complicated by cohabitation, single parenthood and divorce really lead to more stable and sustainable relationships and family structures — and a needed revival of family formation and fertility? How might it affect children already disadvantaged by family breakdown?

Where might their administration come down on inevitable polyamory legal challenges in the wake of Obergefell?

It’s timely — and important — to ask: “What in the Katie Hill” might the Democratic candidates do about #WeThree?

Bob Maistros is president of RPM Executive Communications, Inc., which provides high-level message development, communications strategy and crisis support to firms ranging from the Fortune 500 to tech startups, and he is of counsel at the Alexandria, Va.-based Strategic Action Public Affairs. He was chief writer for the 1984 Reagan re-election campaign and also wrote for Sens. Charles Grassley and Orrin Hatch

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.