When Boston elected Marty Walsh as its next mayor last evening, it looked like nothing particularly demographically new: Irish-Catholic pol beats other Irish-Catholic pol elected in a town with a tradition of electing Irish-Catholic pols. But Walsh, in fact, is part of a newer coalition of politicians, as the writer Ruth Graham noted on Twitter. Like Michael Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo, Walsh has a longtime girlfriend he's deeply committed to but sees no apparent need to marry. Walsh has been dating his girlfriend, Lorrie Higgins, for eight years. Higgins is the mother of a 21-year-old, whom Walsh treats as his own daughter. Unlike Bloomberg (long linked to Diana Taylor) and Andrew Cuomo (who lives with domestic guru Sandra Lee), he's not divorced.
Marriage rates have long been on the decline in the United States, but not among the wealthy. Regardless of demographic trends, politicians are a bit of a special class. Whether or not their constituents are getting married, men in politics have long seen it neccessary to be the perfect picture of domestic bliss, which means signing the marriage certificate—even if, say, they're fooling around with an intern, staffer, prostitute, man, Craigslist stranger, South American beauty, or their cell phone. That doesn't always work out so well. No one seems to have blinked much of an eye at Walsh, Bloomberg, and Cuomo's lack of formal committment. Maybe that's because Massachusetts and New York are liberal states, or maybe it's because all three men seem quite committed to their partners, more so than lots of politicians who've taken the walk down the aisle. Is a new era of political girlfriends—ones who exist in place of, not alongside, wives—upon us?