I was born a Democrat. Party affiliation was served along with the canned vegetables I was forced to eat for dinner. My first crush was on John Kennedy. I went to Washington to work for George McGovern against Nixon, and in the middle of chemotherapy I put on my wig and took my daughter to meet Bill Clinton and Al Gore. In my blogs on the Huffington Post, my politics are an open book. But I am harboring a secret. And with the election almost upon us, I can’t wait much longer to confess.
I’ve been lucky in my second marriage, despite the fact that I was diagnosed with breast cancer on our first anniversary. My husband handled everything with grace—cancer, my kids, even befriending my ex-husband. But along with all the great things about him came this one little detail: like me, my husband is a product of his background, the flip side of mine. Which means that I married a conservative Republican.
I never signed up for this, of course. I might have been more likely to marry an axe murderer. Although I’m sure some axe murderers have very nice qualities — as I discovered Republicans did. At least this Republican.
The nice qualities are what allowed me to overlook the Republican issue when V and I got married. I had come out of a marriage to a Democrat, who began voting Republican towards the end of the marriage. I’m not saying it caused our divorce, but it didn’t help. So since I’d technically been married to a covert Republican, it didn’t seem like a huge leap to marry another one. At least, not at the time.
And in the early years with V, politics wasn’t a huge issue. When you’re dealing with blended families and a life-threatening illness, party politics doesn’t loom large over the marital bed.
Once it was clear I was going to survive cancer, we settled into a Mary Matalin/James Carville kind of life, only less public. V’s family and friends were mostly Republicans and knew about my blue blood, but in their presence, I tried to keep my outrage to a low simmer. V’s party affiliation was never a problem with my family and friends. They are far more opinionated and vocal, and V can barely get a word in edgewise no matter what we are talking about. If he wore his Republican heart on his sleeve, he would have his sleeve torn off.
So I was blue; he was red; we never became purple. We canceled out each other’s votes. And we pretty much avoided intense political discussions. My main strategy consisted of diversionary tactics–inventing errands for V on Election Day, or distracting him so he would forget to go to the polls.
And politics was only one of our differences. He’s a WASP; I’m Jewish. He’s a morning person; I’m a night owl. I blurt out whatever I’m thinking. V never blurts. He thinks. He is a “still waters run deep” kind of guy. And often I never know what’s below those still waters.
Another difference is that he’s really low key and I’m more of a drama queen. I might announce as I walk in the door, “Guess what! Something amazing happened! I won 5 dollars in the lottery!” Whereas V is the kind of person who would look up in the middle of dinner and say calmly, “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I won the Nobel prize two days ago.”
So it was entirely in keeping with our characters that a few years ago, I opened the mail one day and noticed one of those Democratic party appeals for money. The thing was, the name at the top wasn’t my name. It was V’s name. Which is how I learned that my Republican husband was now a registered Democrat.
It took me ten years of marriage to lay the groundwork; Bush and Cheney managed to push him over the top, and V cast his first Democratic vote for John Kerry in 2004. We didn’t open a bottle of champagne to mark the occasion. But we have plenty to celebrate. Especially this year. V supported Obama from the beginning. And I get to watch this unbelievable election season unfold while sharing it with a kindred spirit.
We never really had any political screaming matches during the ten years we were on opposite sides, but I think V made his conversion just in time. I’m not sure our marriage could have survived Sarah Palin.