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"I don't think I'm a defective person": Lindsey Graham's moving defense of being single

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Lindsey Graham, the long-shot contender for the Republican 2016 nomination, would be the first single president in more than a century and only the third in history. And a little over a week into his campaign, it was already an issue.

Who would perform the functions of first lady? Graham's response, which maybe sounded silly, was there'd be a rotation. That set off a flurry of interest and also a nasty jab from fellow Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who apologized later for referring to Graham as "a bro with no ho."

Graham spoke at greater length in a thoughtful interview with Politico, offering some very human thoughts on what it means for him to be a single person.

I very much have family — my aunt and uncle, I try to take care of because they took care of me. There are millions of people who are single. I don’t think they need to answer, "Why are you single?"

And he felt the need to defend why he never married:

It’s something I really don’t know the answer to, other than I think it’s OK. At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong about not being married. Having a marriage and a good family and children is a blessing. But I don’t think I’m a defective person by any means.

Of course, he's right. Graham's, who's 59, is somewhat unusual — just 13 percent of men his age had never married by 2012 — but hardly defective. And it's hard to see what any of this has to do with being president.

The ranks of unmarried Americans are growing, and people are more likely than ever to agree with Graham that it's fine: 50 percent said in a Pew survey last year that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.

But he's still getting asked about it.

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