|During the first presidential debate, Al Gore
mentioned the word "family" 13 times and said "parents" four times.
George W. Bush referred to "families" twice and "parents" once.
said "single" or "unmarried," so it's no small wonder that Yvonne
Farrell is feeling left out this election season. The 38-year-old programs assistant at
St. Alban's Parish in Washington is unmarried and she feels like none of the presidential
or vice presidential candidates is paying her any attention.
"I go through the campaign literature ... and all I see is family, family,
family," said Farrell, who is divorced with no children. "They shouldn't act
like we're poison."
Unmarried voters without children are casualties of the battle between Democrats and
Republicans as to which party can wave the family-values flag higher, said Thomas Coleman,
executive director of the Los Angeles-based advocacy group American Association for Single
Having been cast as opposing family values in past presidential races and tainted by
the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Democrats feel they have to "look more family-oriented
and say 'families' more than the Republicans," Coleman said.
"They want to win the family_values debate," he said. "We
have nothing against that, but how about a little more balance?"
Even Ralph Nader, a bachelor who is the Green Party's presidential candidate, has
ignored issues important to singles. When a 34-year-old single woman attending the third
presidential debate in St. Louis asked George W. Bush and Al Gore what they would do for
her, both passed up an opportunity to make a pitch to single voters.
Almost 80 million people, or about 40 percent of people over age 18, are widowed,
divorced or have never married, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"You're treated like a social leper," said Charlie Hoeck, 48, an Orlando
library worker who is divorced. "That's why I like Nader so much. He's a social leper
too, so it's easy for me to relate to him."
To rectify the situation, the American Association for Single People has launched a
$114,000 advertising campaign drawing attention to unmarried voters without children. Ads
have run in USA Today and the Los Angeles Times and will run later in Student Leader, The
Village Voice and L.A. Weekly.
"Are you one of the 80 million single or unmarried adults ignored by the George W.
Bush and Al Gore campaigns?" the ad said. "How many ways are we discriminated
against? Let us count them for you.
Single people receive fewer job benefits, such as health insurance for
spouses and children, according to the ad. They are often lumped into a "high
risk" class by insurance companies and charged a higher rate than their married
|They are denied "family" discounts
for roommates or partners. Married couples are not taxed by the federal government for
workplace benefits or inheritance when a spouse dies, while unmarried people are taxed
under similar circumstances.
There is no federal protection against marital bias in
employment, housing or business transactions, the ad said. Susan Sulsky, 46, who works in
advertising sales for the Los Angeles Times, would just like to have the same family-leave
time parents get in case she wants to take care of an ailing neighbor or a close friend.
"If you're single without children, you create you're own family," said
Sulsky, who is unmarried in Los Angeles.
Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney disagrees that the Bush campaign is
ignoring singles. "I don't feel that we've discriminated against anybody on the basis
of whether they are married or single," Cheney said this week during a stop in Ocala,
Gore campaign spokesman Liz Lubow said that while the campaign doesn't have any
specific proposals targeting singles, unmarried people would benefit from Gore policies
affecting everyone, such as a patient bill of rights and a tax credit for employers who
train workers. "Certainly Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are fighting for everyone,"
Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said his campaign doesn't have any
specific proposals for unmarried people. "All my proposals are pretty much directed
to all Americans," he said during a campaign stop in Orlando. "I'm not a big
believer in group rights."
The major candidates are ignoring a large segment of the electorate, said Natural Law
Party presidential candidate John Hagelin, a member of the American Association for Single
People, who is on the ballot in 41 states.
"There is a continuous pandering to working middle_class families," said
Hagelin, who is divorced with no children. "I don't understand the pandering to that
important interest group when there are as many single people and they don't seem to be
Singles may never become a potent political force because the group is always changing.
"There are always people entering it and there are people leaving it," Coleman
said. "When you're a women or if you're black, you're that for life."
Orlando attorney Kurt Brewer, who is single, doesn't have a problem with the emphasis
on families. "The presidential race is only a simple reflection of the way society
treats singles," said Brewer, a 31_year_old Republican who is voting for Bush.
"Honestly, I don't care. I understand the social policy behind supporting