Are Candidate Spouses Off Limits?

In the last week we’ve seen Bernie Sanders win 5 of 6 states, Trump with his worst single state performance of the campaign, and some long lines to vote in Arizona. Those victories helped Sanders shave 38 delegates off of Hillary Clinton’s lead and the Vermont Senator currently trails Clinton by 268 pledged delegates. Trump expanded his lead over Ted Cruz to a margin of 274 delegates. But more than just elections went down this week, we saw an intense brand of attack on candidate spouses that feels a bit to me like “Sippenhaft”.

Sippenhaft is a German word referring to the principle that a family shares the responsibility of a crime committed by one of its members. The American legal system does not use sippenhaft, it will never punish my brother for any crimes I commit, and he ought to be very thankful for that. But the American court of public opinion isn’t quite so humane, and the spouses of candidates seem to be fair game for attack in the 2016 presidential race.

This isn’t exactly new, and this year’s mudslinging isn’t particularly vulgar. Back when Andrew Jackson squared off against John Quincy Adams, the Adams camp lobbed many very personal attacks at Jackson’s wife Rachel. Jackson had first started courting her before her divorce was finalized, which led to accusations essentially claiming Rachel was a slut. For good measure Adams surrogates also accused Jackson’s mother of being a whore.

Fast forward to modern times and we are seeing ample personal attacks in the GOP primary directed at Melania Trump and Heidi Cruz. This current spat started in the lead up to the Utah GOP Primary where an anti-Trump Super PAC used pictures from Melania’s modeling career to highlight how the the billionaire real estate magnate is out of touch with the values of Utah’s (mostly Mormon) voters. In response Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Ted’s wife Heidi.

This left all of us wondering what the beans were. At first it seemed like Team Trump was going to rehash or shed light on a story from 2005 where Heidi Cruz was pulled over by a cop who considered her a danger to herself. Then Trump retweeted this image, an unflattering picture of Heidi next to a model shot of Melania with the caption “No Need To ‘Spill The Beans’ The Images Are Worth A Thousand Words.” Upon seeing that I assumed Trump was going to back off and no longer spill the beans.

While all of this is going down the National Enquirer releases a report saying that Cruz had 5 mistresses. And then on CNN a Trump surrogate accused a Cruz surrogate of being one of the Texas Senator’s mistresses. This all is a side note to the spousal questions. While I think our politicians don’t need to be role models any more than Charles Barkley, America decided in the late 1980s that we weren’t going to elect a candidate to president that got caught cheating.

So back to the beans on Heidi Cruz. They have been spilled. But they are far from salacious. In fact these beans seem awfully similar to the ones Sanders has been spilling about Bill Clinton. All about Heidi’s professional career, none about her personal life. To quote Trump Spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, “Spilling the beans is quite simple when it comes to Heidi Cruz. She is a Bush operative; she worked for the architect of NAFTA, which has killed millions of jobs in this country… Her entire career has been spent working against everything Ted Cruz says that he stands for." While an attack on Heidi’s mental health would certainly be aggressive and out of line, this attack doesn’t offend my delicate sense of decency.

At the moment, the Clinton campaign hasn’t gone after Jane Sanders in any ways, but if they do, I suggest targeting Deadheads on Facebook and mentioning that while Jane claims to be a Deadhead herself, when pressed she could not name a single Grateful Dead song. And that might be more of a crime than charging $2 for a bottle of water in the lot after a show.