Prevailing Attitudes Toward Divorce
Divorce as Handicap in Presidential Politics
Despite the relatively high frequency of divorce among all classes of Americans, popular reaction to divorce of a prominent person indicates that legal dissolution of a marriage still meets a certain amount of disapproval. Shock and dismay are inevitably registered when a highly placed public figure like Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas is divorced. The frequent divorces of motion picture stars have long been deplored as indicative of moral weakness.
Divorce is a recognized handicap in politics. The fact that Adlai Stevenson had been divorced made his nomination for President on the Democratic ticket initially doubtful in 1952. Even though damage to Stevenson's political standing was lessened by the fact that he had not remarried, polls indicated that his divorced status would cost him votes. Divorce and remarriage to a divorcee toppled Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York from the position of front-runner for the 1964 Republican presidential nomination.
The United States has never had a divorced President and Stevenson was the first divorced man to win a presidential nomination. Rockefeller had publicly recognized his new handicap; he noted on Oct. 27 that his divorce and remarriage, among other consequences, had given the radical right “a good excuse to come out aggressively in the open” against him.