Jeanne Safer (Mrs. Richard Brookhiser) discusses her own marriage of political opposites.
This November fifth, like every Election Day for the last three decades, Iâ€™ll show up faithfully at my polling place rain or shine, even if thereâ€™s another Hurricane Sandy in New York City. Once again, Iâ€™ll be pulling the levers for some people I actually agree with, for some Iâ€™m not crazy about, and for others Iâ€™ve barely heard of. As long as theyâ€™re Democrats, they can count on my support.
Itâ€™s a matter of moral obligation, not just civic duty: Iâ€™ve got to cancel out my husbandâ€™s vote.
For thirty-three years Iâ€™ve been happily married to a man with whom I violently disagree on every conceivable political issue, including abortion, gun control, and assisted suicide. I thought the recent government shutdown was absurd, infantile, and destructive; he was a fan. And not only is he a conservative Republican, heâ€™s a professional conservative Republican, a Senior Editor of National Review, the leading journal of conservative opinion in the country.
So why donâ€™t we both just agree to stay home on Election Day? Because, even though I trust him with my life, I donâ€™t trust him, and would never ask him, not to vote his conscience. It took our first decade together for me to accept that not even my considerable powers of persuasion as a psychotherapistâ€”not to mention the self-evident correctness of my positionsâ€”would never make him change his mind, but, alas, it is so; he never even tried to change mine.
Other than my father, I never even knew any Republicans growing up, and certainly never had one for a boyfriend. But in my late twenties I joined a Renaissance singing group, and there he wasâ€”tall, clever, with intense blue eyes and a lyrical baritone. I couldnâ€™t resist. Iâ€™d known and been treated abominably by too many men who shared all my opinions to let his convictions get in the way, and Iâ€™ve never regretted it. Our wedding was a bipartisan affair. My mentor, one of the early victims of the McCarthyite purges, gave me away, and my husbandâ€™s publisher, one of McCarthyâ€™s most avid enforcers, gave a reading. Somehow everyone behaved, setting a trend that we have emulated with only a few brief exceptions ever since.
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It was my wife Karen, who introduced the future happy couple, at her singing group many long years ago. Jeanne really doesn’t like me. I argue with her.