California has three statewide elections this year, which is one more than a healthy marriage should be asked to endure. As for unhealthy marriages, I suggest abstinence from campaigns and adherence to Mother’s rule about never discussing religion or politics. And there’s always counseling.
I enjoy a healthy marriage, three years and counting. But these are treacherous times for even blissful partnerships. Our marriage is mixed, politically speaking. Without getting too personal, let’s just say my father, reaching adulthood in the darkness of the Great Depression, wondered whether the Communist Party was onto something. My wife’s father, proudly embarking on a military career one generation later, did not. We remain our fathers’ children.
It’s surprising how many mixed marriages there are&emdash;and how many couples survive. Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness grew up in a home where Mom and Dad defended opposite political islands. They made it work for more than 50 years. My radio colleague Kitty O’Neal is extremely private about her politics, but admits her husband, renowned chef Kurt Spataro, is out to lunch on Election Day. Veteran Sacramento City Councilman Robbie Waters never met a Republican he didn’t like, at least a little. His wife, Judie, is disgusted by politics and says a pox on all political houses. These marriages have withstood the tests of time and ballot box.
Politics weren’t part of my wife’s and my courtship. We met at work and were pulled together by passions for the career. We have branched apart professionally since our wedding day, but the marriage has solid roots. Politics never entered our relationship. Until this year.
I had no idea how politically zealous Mrs. Graswich could be until I began talking about a certain presidential candidate. I was thinking out loud, wondering how this particular person might perform in the White House. The response from across the table was swift. I would be disowned and quite possibly divorced if I supported Candidate X.
I tried to laugh it away, but it wasn’t funny. She was serious. There was no way I was going to be welcomed in the home of my wife if I did anything to promote this particular candidate. Never mind the sanctity of secret elections. Mrs. Graswich expected to watch me blacken the bubbles before I mailed off my permanent absentee ballot. This was nonnegotiable.
What happened next will be understood by every husband who has in-laws. My wife telephoned her parents&emdash;they live in a neighboring state&emdash;and repeated the indictment against me.
I’m so disappointed in my husband, Mrs. Graswich said. Can you believe he would even think about voting for [Candidate X]?
I tried to protest and insist I hadn’t made up my mind. But it was too late.
I’m not surprised, said her father. Her mother was silent.
Weeks passed before we talked politics again. I broke the silence with tentative remarks
in favor of term limits. She said I was wrong. Somehow, we survived the February primary and celebrated our anniversary like old times, with laugher and love and not a word about Decision 2008.
We still have two elections to go this year. I’m on eggshells, trying not to say something stupid. What a dilemma. I enjoy talking politics, but enjoy marriage even more.
Maybe I’ll find another topic. Something not politically charged. Like, Hey, honey, how about we build a fence along our border to keep out Simon Cowell?
R.E. Graswich co-hosts “The Afternoon News on KFBK” weekdays with Kitty O’Neal and reports nightly for CBS 13.