Is Being Single A Plus?

Phil Pannell, Executive Director of the nonprofit Anacostia Coordinating Council. Photo: Akiima Price

I recently read an Axios article about Senator Tim Scott, the African American Republican senator from South Carolina and presidential candidate. Supposedly some deep pocketed rightwing donors are concerned about his status as a single man. Only one lifelong bachelor has ever been elected president: James Buchanan. It is oddly interesting that both of the conservative Republican senators from South Carolina are lifelong bachelors.  And it is curiously interesting that the other senator, Lindsay Graham, was not scrutinized about his single status when he ran for president in 2016.

Times have changed dramatically. At one time to be unmarried — or even divorced — was considered a political detriment. Serial monogamist Donald Trump has proven that American voters are viewing their candidates through a different moral lens. And why shouldn’t they? According the 2020 Census, nearly half of the U.S. adults are unmarried and more than a quarter of all households have one person.

Having children is also being viewed through a vastly different moral prism. According to Center for Disease Control data, nearly 40% of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock and for African Americans it is 73%.

While I make no moral judgements about these statistics, in my mind and heart I feel that we would experience fewer children gone wild episodes if there were significantly more households with married parents.

Senator Scott says he has a woman friend but will not name her.  He also has asserted that being single may be a plus: “I probably have more time, more energy, and more latitude to do the job.”

I wonder how a similar campaign pitch would play for DC candidates—particularly those east of the river. Our community is in crisis and would a candidate who is single and possibly childless be a more attractive option for those looking for the hardest working elected officials?

When a person has a child, for nearly the next two decades he or she has automatic explanations and excuses for missing important events, being late or absent and generally being derelict in duties and responsibilities. It would take a cold and hard heart not to be sympathetic to a parent who tells you his child is sick. That similarly applies to married persons. Only a grinch or a grouch would not be sensitive to a person who tells you that he or she cannot attend an event because it is on his or her wedding anniversary.

Is Senator Scott on to something?

Is being single and childless a plus for a candidate?

Community leaders constantly complain about elected officials showing up late, leaving early or not showing up at all. Many community activists have grown weary and tired of elected officials constantly sending representatives and rarely showing up themselves because of reasons real, legitimate or phony.

When people run for office, they do so because they have made a personal decision to serve. That means sacrifice which may involve immediate family members. Lucky, indeed, is the elected official who has an understanding and patient spouse. I feel that some community leaders and activists may at times expect and demand too much of their elected officials, I also feel that too many times these same officials use their families as crutches and excuses to be lazy, irresponsible, unproductive, delinquent, shiftless and trifling. After all, no one twisted their arms to put their names on the ballot. But if someone did twist a body part, please tell me and I will call 911. Hopefully not all those phone workers will be on family vacations in Disney World.

Long-time Ward 8 community activist Philip Pannell can be contacted at Pannell is the Executive Director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council. Help Make Wards 7 & 8 Great! Become a Member of the Anacostia Coordinating Council: Visit