Remember when a divorce in your past would bar you from presidential aspirations? Well, Ronald Reagan, once married to Jane Wyman before tying the knot with actress Nancy Davis, took divorce off the list of presidential prohibitions. Donald Trump came along and became the first president to have been divorced twice and married thrice.

How about the idea that you had to be a Protestant in a country founded on Protestant ideals if you really wanted to be seriously considered for occupancy of the White House? The Founding Fathers professed to be “right-believing Christians.” That included Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans (brought to Colonial America from England with George Washington among its congregants) and Quakers.

Deism flourished too, but Deists were a bit more liberal and less God-fearing. Its adherents like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine openly questioned the Christian concept of God. However, nobody known to be a Deist was ever elected President. The same could be said of Roman Catholics. No way Protestant America would ever elect a Catholic as President— until John F. Kennedy prevailed in 1960, despite dire warnings that the Pope would be calling the shots from the Vatican. There hasn’t been another Catholic President since, but it no longer seems a taboo denomination. Six Catholics ran in the Republican Presidential Primary in 2016, and the two House Speakers before Nancy Pelosi— John Boehner and Paul Ryan—were Catholics. We suspect there have been a few non-believers pretending to be Christians, including the previous occupant of the White House whose closest connection to Christianity is selling Bibles to fund his campaign.

Of course, it was commonly believed that an African American had virtually no chance of becoming President of the United States. And along came Barack Obama, who was not only elected but re-elected.

A woman in the White House? Seems inevitable and there was some consolation for female hopefuls when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by almost 2.9 million votes. Six women —all Democrats— announced candidacies for President in 2020. One of them, Kamala Harris, became the first sitting vice president. American history buffs know that the first female candidate for president preceded Clinton by 145 years. That was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, and women weren’t even allowed to vote by the all-men-are-created-equal Constitution until 1920. It should be no surprise that didn’t come close to winning her party’s nomination.

It doesn’t even seem to be a big deal anymore if you confess to past recreational drug use. Among those who confessed to taking a toke or two of grass or hash were Bill Clinton, who didn’t inhale, and Obama, who did. Now what was once regarded as criminal behavior is now dismissed as a rite of passage.

Infidelity? Not a problem anymore, it seems. Bill Clinton was already in the White House when he got busy with young intern, Monica Lewinsky, and was impeached though not removed from office. The grounds for impeachment were not for sex, but for lying to a grand jury (about sexual behavior) and obstruction of justice. It seems he was quickly forgiven this embarrassment because it was consensual. This apparently cleared the way for Donald Trump who has had encounters with prostitutes, very expensive encounters —one of which has him facing trial for allegedly paying off one to keep their carnal capers quiet before the 2016 election. As a candidate, he bragged to a national audience (though he didn’t know it at the time) about multiple extramarital exploits and intimate female parts he likes to grab sans permission while casually using words we’ve never heard presidential candidates say before.

Nevertheless, Evangelicals and conservative Republicans voted for him in impressive numbers in 2020 and still love him. So it seems that adultery, cheating on your spouse and being sexually inappropriate will not ruin one’s chances of sleeping in the President’s Bedroom with someone not your spouse. (the Lincoln Bedroom is for guests, by the way).

If Trump clears the way for his type of behavior as Clinton did for his, only Presidents and senile patients in nursing homes will be forgiven their sexual transgressions. Stay tuned on November 2024 to see if the majority approves of Trump’s amorality.

Now we all know about the Presidents who got away with adultery like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, but the voting public only knew about those things after they were no longer among us to answer for their misdeeds or too old for anyone to care. They are generally forgiven as powerful men making historic decisions who had our interests at heart. Who could be more revered than Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson— the former a jolly womanizer with a common-law wife and the latter that history tells us had dalliances with a slave girl starting at the age of 14 (her age not his).

I suspect that if Trump came out as gay, he would likely lose most of his base, even the Evangelicals, but it now seems that a gay president is possible, maybe even likely. National politicians, male and female, are willingly coming out of the closet and getting elected and re-elected. Why not the Presidency?

Race, gender, sexual preference and religion should not be barriers in themselves for someone running for and being elected U.S. President. But how far are we willing to go on so-called character issues in choosing our leaders?

Is there any behavior left under the umbrella of political morality, as contradictory as those two words may seem, that will exclude someone from the nation’s highest office? Judging from recent developments, you might want to delete or shred any photos of yourself in black face.

Humans change and learn from their transgressions, prejudicial opinions and inappropriate behavior. We the people change, too, in what we deem as character flaws in presidential hopefuls, as we did with divorce, youthful and not-so-youthful indiscretions, rude behavior and even infidelity.

If Donald Trump sets any more precedents on what we’ll tolerate in the behavior of our Presidents and candidates for that office, we may no longer regard character or morality as important in future elections.

By the way, there will most likely be a first in this year’s presidential race if either of the two major party candidates win in November. Whoever wins — Biden or Trump—will be the oldest to win the election. Obviously, Biden already has the record and would continue to be the oldest elected president if he is the winner in November. He was 77 when he was elected on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, whereas Trump will be 78 on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2024. If you want to do the math, Biden’s date of birth is Nov. 20, 1942, and Trump’s is June 14, 1946.

Here are other presidential firsts: oldest combined age of the two major party candidates for president (159) as well as the oldest average age of the two contenders (79.5). That brings us to the biggest issue of the 2024 presidential campaign: Depending on your political leanings or concerns about aging, one or both may be too old in body and mind to effectively serve as President of the United States for the next four years.

Biden, a childhood stutterer who often speaks haltingly with uncomfortable pauses, walks as if negotiating eggshells in his stocking feet with a posture that seems inflexibly straight and, like a flagbearer in a color guard, absent of rhythmic upper body movement. He has tripped or otherwise lost his balance on several occasions.

We’re talking about cognitive health and concern about impending senility.

Meanwhile, Trump meets several criteria . He forgets where he was going midway through a sentence and sputters to a conclusion with gibberish. As he continues down the MAGA campaign trail, the former president has found himself stumbling through a growing list of gaffes and regularly contradicting himself on his policies and accomplishments.

Perhaps more important than unproven concerns about cognitive health is that decency, character and respect for humanity are crucial for an effective democratic government.