Tim Scott is single.

If that seems outside the norm for presidential candidates, that’s because it is. Were the senator from South Carolina to win the GOP nomination and then the White House, he could, conceivably, be just the second president of the United States to hold his own White House wedding. (Grover Cleveland was the first.) It’s one of the rarely utilized perks that comes with the job.

But if he were not able to find time away from the pressures of running the world’s most powerful nation to find love, he would be only the second president to retire from the nation’s most powerful position a bachelor. (James Buchanan is the only one so far.)

Scott has, at least according to his official biography, had little time to seek out a life partner. He spent most of his early life working his way out of poverty and into public service, and his priority, he once told Politico, was to take care of his mother, who scrimped and sacrificed to give Scott an early advantage in life.

Until he had that accomplished, he said, marriage just wasn’t for him. If Ms. Right came along, he’d be willing and ready — but he trusted her to appear in the “right time,” not necessarily right this moment.

“As a poor kid growing up, the most important thing for me to do was take care of my mom. And until I had that accomplished, starting a new family was just not an option for me,” he told Politico. “But I think in the right time, I will meet Mrs. Right, and she’ll want to have a couple kids. Or she ain’t Mrs. Right. Right?”

That was in 2018, and Mrs. Right is still seemingly taking a backseat to more urgent priorities, notably bipartisan criminal justice reform, and recently, a presidential campaign, in which he is polling last among all announced candidates. Could his marital status have something to do with his polling?

When Scott announced his candidacy last week, some conservatives on social media were skeptical.

As Will Chamberlain wrote on Twitter, “Before you have children, the concerns of parents are abstract to you. Once you have them, they become concrete.”

With so many social conservatives focused on issues that involve children — such as what they’re being taught in public schools — can a lifelong bachelor truly represent them?

After all, the family is the foremost relationship in society, and marriage prepares you not just to advocate for your children, but also gives you a heightened sense of what’s important to support the next generation of leaders, and how to compromise, even if it’s just over who gets dish duty.

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The truth is, of course, that you don’t need to be married to understand duty to family and country. And even being a bachelor (so far) has not stopped Scott from embracing an agenda that mirrors, if not exceeds, the kind of support for conservative causes championed by his married peers. 

It may help to have your own children in public schools to appreciate the unique challenges parents and their kids are facing, but Scott is still a sponsor of both the CHOICE Act, which promotes releasing families from an obligation to send kids to public schools, and the PROTECT Act, which addresses secretive policies that prevent parents from knowing whether their child is “socially transitioning” at school, changing their pronouns, or being forced to welcome opposite-sex students into sensitive areas, like bathrooms and locker rooms.

He’s certainly conservative enough for socially liberal publications to devote hundreds of words to decrying his pro-family agenda. He also demanded religious freedom protections in the Respect for Marriage act. In other words, Scott’s marital status doesn’t seem to affect his political positions, and with so much evidence on the table, it’s hard to see how he could be more pro-family even if he were a married father of six.

Maybe he doesn’t know the going price of diapers or infant formula, but neither do many fathers whose children are now teens. And if COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that one needn’t be, say, a doctor or public health specialist to know how best to help families.

Sometimes simply experiencing something doesn’t substitute for having good policy ideas about it. There are plenty of married socialists, after all.

Emily Zanotti is a writer, commentator and communications consultant living in Nashville, Tennessee. You can find her writing on motherhood in her Substack and her notes and recipes on Twitter.