Here's something I didn't know about the Socialist Party candidate in Sunday's French election, who is favored now that Marine Le Pen has refused to endorse Sarkozy:
After ceding the nomination in 2007 to Ségolène Royal, his partner at the time, who lost badly to Mr. Sarkozy, Mr. [François] Hollande prepared to run against Mr. Strauss-Kahn, once considered a shoo-in, and then against Mr. Sarkozy. Mr. Hollande split with Ms. Royal, the mother of their four children, and says he has found happiness with a journalist, Valérie Trierweiler, now 47, a mother of three, who divorced her husband, an editor, after an affair that Mr. Hollande’s biographer, Serge Raffy, said began in 2005.
Does it seem like national leadership around the world is becoming even more of an inner circle game played by a tiny number of spouses and heirs? One thing you've got to say for Obama is that he wasn't married to Bill Clinton or the son of George H.W. Bush.
In particular, I suspect that opening up democratic politics to women has re-enforced the tendency toward brand names that characterized ancien regimes, in which women played a larger role than in the subsequent careers-open-to-talent era, in which military leadership and bellowing oratory loomed large, giving men more dominance of politics than in the monarchical centuries. This was view of Marie Antoinette's portrait painter, the lovely Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun (1755-1842), who went everywhere and knew everybody: the French Revolution made Europe more male-dominated, both in politics and in culture.
Perhaps it's just the natural human condition for politics to tend toward soap opera.