But when did family become characteristic of dependable, efficient political power? What is the correlation between the home and the polis? Both need managing, of course, but a candidate's affability at the dining table with his wife is hardly an indicator of excellence in government. Maybe it humanizes the candidate—a bit—but gone are the days of leaders as great men who “bestride the narrow world like a Colossus” and whose edges of power need smoothing by association with domesticity.
Charisma, intelligence, bravery, and wisdom—all in variable doses—have preceded the great leaders of history. They had little time for grandstanding in banquet halls and family reunions. Even after the rise of still-photography, posters provided emblems of stability or revolution, of change or constancy. There was very little of the private politician to be had.
Perhaps how a candidate acts in the smallest, most intimate group is indicator of his or her true ethics. If this is the case, the smiling political avatars of family bliss in our newspapers signal happy times for the voting public. But I'm more inclined to see in these images what the poet Juvenal saw in panem et circenses--deflection from a candidate's true political self to a meme of little importance.