During the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, I remember walking home from kindergarten with my friends, chanting: “Nixon’s in the White House, waiting to be elected, Kennedy’s in the garbage can, waiting to be collected.”

When I got home and proudly recited this verse for my mom, she broke the news. “Your friends may be from families who vote Republican,” she told me. “But your dad and I won’t be voting for Nixon in November. We’ll be voting for Kennedy.”  

Wait a minute—we were Democrats?

“What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?” I asked my dad that night as he tucked me in.

“Democrats care about people,” he said. “Republicans care about money.”

I became a Democrat that day. Five decades later, I’m still a Democrat. As are all my friends and family. From the time my son was a baby, I always brought him into the voting booth with me. Tom grew up watching me vote the straight Democratic ticket.  

Four years ago, my son brought the girl he loved home to meet his family. My sister and her family joined us for dinner that night. We were all sitting around the table, and, it being the run-up to the 2008 Presidential election, we were cheerfully trashing the Republican candidates, Republican politics, and the GOP in general. 

I noticed that Amy has suddenly become rather quiet.  

“Amy?” I asked. “Are you by any chance a Republican?”

She nodded. 

I apologized. It hadn’t occurred to any of us that Amy could possibly be a Republican. She was dear and smart and crazy about my son. Of course she was a Democrat—weren’t all good people?

Tom’s father and I believed that we’d raised our son right. We encouraged Tom to be independent, to meet life’s challenges head on, and to think for himself.  “We trust your judgment” we told him often. We knew that we’d raised him not only with love, but with good values.  

We never once said, “Don’t fall in love with a Republican.” 

We didn’t think we had to. 

Loving a Republican was the one thing our son could have done to profoundly shock both his parents.    

As it turns out, Amy’s dad is a real right-winger. The kind of guy who dotes on Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Amy adores her charismatic father. She was raised to be a Republican in the same way I was raised to be a Democrat. Like me, she not only accepted but embraced her father’s political outlook. It’s part of who she is. And Tom loves her that way.

A year ago, Tom and Amy were married. My friends assure me that after the two have been together for a while, Amy will, of course, see the light and become a Democrat.

“Isn’t it just as likely,” I respond, “that my son will start voting Republican?”   

If I could wave a magic wand and turn my daughter-in-law into a Democrat, would I? It’s a tempting thought. But then she wouldn’t be Amy. It’s something I’ve struggled to wrap my head around: Could Amy be a great match for my son, not in spite of being a Republican, but because of it? 

Welcoming Amy into the family, I’ve had to rethink a number of things I’d taken for granted.  The political landscape is rather more complicated than the world Dad described when I was 5. There are good Republicans. (Amy!) And there are bad Democrats. (John Edwards!) When the Republican-bashing starts, I can no longer join in the way I used to. Now I love a Republican too.

This November, my daughter-in-law will vote for Mitt Romney. I think I can cope. But what if my son doesn’t vote for Obama?  I’ll have to forgive him. After all, I care about Tom and Amy even more than I care about my identity as a Democrat. But that won’t stop me from cutting a generous check to the Obama campaign today. I care too much about the world that Tom and Amy’s kids will inherit not to.       

Image by Truthout.org via Flickr

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Roz Warren May 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Teresa that’s exactly that point I was trying to make! Thanks.

  • Teresa Taylor May 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I’m sorry to see so much political vitriol on WVFC. I thought it was a site dedicated to all mature women not just Democrats. According to some of these comments all Republicans are greedy, don’t care about people, are liars ,uneducated and intellectually limited to topics such as “hunting” and “meat”. I am a Republican and believe there is plenty of blame to be assigned to both parties for our country’s many problems and also decent politicians on both sides. Being closeminded to any ideas from the other side is not going to solve anything. I think that’s the point Roz was trying to make.

  • Hoon September 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    “From the time my son was a baby, I always brought him into the voting booth with me. Tom grew up watching me vote the straight Democratic ticket.”
    “Tom’s father and I believed that we’d raised our son right. We encouraged Tom to be independent, to meet life’s challenges head on, and to think for himself.”
    Independent? That’s not my definition of independent.

  • Roz Warren September 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I am glad that this essay has inspired (provoked??) so much comment. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your responses.

  • wendy September 8, 2012 at 3:54 am

    bizarre and intellectually limited interpretation …. guess it is about those with “half a brain”

  • irene September 7, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    ai yai yai. Family first, and “democrats” and “republicans.” but if one has even half a brain (sorry) when it comes to voting, is it really hard to decide?! (sorry, i know it’s all tolerant in the convo but really, like roz’s dad said, is it about money or is it about people?)

  • wendy September 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    karen, children are not mere carbon copies of their parents … … they are unique individuals …. your polarized viewpoints are unfortunate and not particularly beneficial for your niece

  • Karen September 7, 2012 at 7:23 am

    I truly believe that most children grow up to be what their parents and/or grandparents are/were.

    It’s been my experience all of my life and the impression was hammered home when my little niece who is the sweetest, sensitive most compassionate person I know and who loved Obama when he first got in bluntly told me a few weeks ago: Obama ruined this country. An 11 year old doesn’t figure that out for herself (her father is a rabid republican).

    I have ZERO doubt that has she watched both conventions without knowing which was which and I asked her afterwards which sounded more like you she would have chosen the Dems.

    In closing I have to say that I’m sorry all the “good republicans” are now “independents”.

    When I was growing up I never hated Republicans – there were many I liked and respected (Bob Dole, Lincoln Chaffee, Chuck Hagel, etc.) now I cannot think of one that I can stomach.

  • hillsmom September 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    So has this essay received the most comments this year? You go Roz!

  • Tom and Amy September 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks for posting the correction, Roz!

  • Roz Warren September 3, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks for all the great, insightful comments. I just spoke with my son, who wants me to clarify that:

    (1) in fact he and Amy are both independents,

    (2) that although I thought Amy was still a Republican when the two were married, at that time she was actually an independent and

    (3) in fact I don’t know who either of them will vote for this November.

    I’m very sorry to have represented Amy’s political affiliation, but it wasn’t done in bad faith.

  • Ruth Nathan September 3, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Tough little complex piece. Thanks so much! I find it’s worth discussing the issues rather than the candidates with people. What does the republican platform stand for? What types of legislation will republicans support? What about Supreme Court nominees? Same with Obama.

  • wendy morgan September 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    she’s for the United States ….and i’ll leave it up to you to decide which one the dogs do their #s on

  • joan Helfman September 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    So Amy’s a Red Stater. What about the dogs? How do they wag?

  • Carol Ward September 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

    This piece about one’s son marrying a Republican and the
    complexity of the political scene today (and probably always)
    is very germaine! I had a similar experience when at a music
    summer camp and making a critical remark about G. Bush. My
    newly made friend spoke up quietly and said, “Before you go any
    farther, you should know that if I were American, I would probably have voted for Bush.”
    Thanks for writing this essay.

    Carol Ward

  • wendy morgan September 3, 2012 at 9:35 am

    agree w/ andy …. and i try not to be judgmental about others

  • wendy morgan September 3, 2012 at 9:18 am

    I agree w/ andy …. i try not to be judgmental towards others , and strive towards tolerance vs. intolerance or ridicule of opinions and/or viewpoints which might not coincide w/mine

  • Marjorie Goldman September 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I have read that political party affiliation is more likely to be passed down through the generations than religion. I don’t know what the data say about a mixed marriage like Tom and Amy’s.

  • Roz Warren September 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for the positive feedback!

  • Tobi Schwartz-Cassell September 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Nice, balanced, heartfelt essay, Roz. I really enjoyed it.

  • jody September 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Great essay, Roz.

  • hillsmom September 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    @ L. Sorensen-Jolink: Perhaps you might add intelligent along with “compassionate”. IMHO there’s definitely a war on women which can not be called a “distraction” as it seems the repugs try to do.

    Ok, breathing deeply and trying to stay calm before retiring for the night (back in the master bedroom).

  • Richard Bready September 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    What a humane and civilized essay. May they be happy through many elections.

  • L Sorensen-Jolink September 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Dear Roz,

    This is a tough one. In light of the recently-formulated Republican Party platform, I find it difficult to believe that a compassionate person who has read that platform could vote Republican. This is not “simply a matter of politics;” it is a question of one’s basic world view. As a matter of conscience, I will ask each of my Republican relatives to read that platform before casting his or her vote in November. It will, of course, be up to them whether they do, and I will love them in any case. Whether I will be able to respect their judgment if they continue to call themselves Republicans is another matter. Thank you for your anecdote, as always!

  • Barb September 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Roz! You are so broadminded!

  • Just One Boomer September 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Just so you don’t think I’m hopelessly partisan, when I met my future daughter-in-law’s father, I stayed far away from anything political or religious. I let him guide the coversation. His choice of topic was hunting and meat. He was very generous and offered to give us some “Bambi” burgers. (That’s what he calls them.). When we left he gave me a big hug and told me that his wife was right and I was a very nice person. I suspect he was expecting me to be a Fundamentalist Islamic Nazi Communist.

  • irene September 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Well done — in essay and as in life! My sister and husband are, i believe, long time republicans, not to mention being in the oil business. Regarding voting, this is one area where applying Don’t Ask Don’t Tell works well.

  • Roz Warren September 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Hillsmom — I trust that fences have been mended and that you aren’t still camped out in the guest room?

  • Roz Warren September 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Andy, thanks for getting the message of this essay!

  • Andy Johnson September 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

    In this very divisive political time, it is good to remember that interpersonal relationships should take precedence over politics. Thanks, Roz

  • hillsmom September 1, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Oh dear, it is with some trepidation that I dare post this to our Roz. Ever since I married and moved to the Main Line, I was pretty much a (I’m so ashamed to type it) an umm republican. But I never voted a straight ticket in my life! Then I changed party (if you live in PA you will understand) to be a “Hillary Democrat”. My DH was less than pleased as I have stayed that way. There he was exhorting me to listen to that lyin’ Paul Ryan’s speech while I was watching the tennis in another room. After the tennis I happened to hear an especially outrageous lie from Ryan at which time words were exchanged with my DH. He shouted that I had certainly changed since we’ve been married…my response was that unfortunately, he hadn’t.

    I slept in the guest room that night.

  • kate September 1, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Excellent article about a thorny issue! And what a kind, thoughtful way to view your new in-law.

  • Roz Warren September 1, 2012 at 9:43 am

    There are plenty of intelligent, college-educated people who voted for McCain and who will vote for Romney.

  • Just One Boomer (Suzanne) September 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

    The good Republicans I know voted for Obama in the last election. Please tell me that Amy did not vote to put Sarah Palin a heart beat away from the presidency.

    Our son is engaged to a woman who is the first person in her family to go to college. Her father only watches Fox News. She’s voting for Obama which lends some credence to a “joke” I heard. With Obama’s worst demographic being non-college educated white people, instead of running campaign ads, he should use that money to send white people to college.

  • Mark Lowe September 1, 2012 at 9:07 am

    This is wonderful!