A day after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, a friend was distraught over her husband’s behavior. “He says that he feels like he’s a kid on Christmas morning.”
Unfortunately, their household was split, the father and son euphoric over Trump’s upset win and the mother and daughter crestfallen over the glass ceiling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to shatter.
Arguments ensued throughout a rancorous month, and, less than a year later, the couple filed for divorce. The country isn’t all that’s divided. A number of families have splintered over political views.
It’s not unusual for men and women to split over politics. According to a 2016 research study by fivethirtyeight.com, about one-third of marriages are between people of mixed political beliefs. Among those couples, it was twice as likely for the man to be a Republican and the woman to be a Democrat as the opposite.
The divide could be increasing. According to a number of polls in 2020, Biden is up by an average of 25 points among women voters.
A private Facebook support group, “Wives of the Deplorables,” a play on the now-infamous comment Clinton made about some of Trump’s supporters during her 2016 presidential run, is comprised of women who live with husbands who support the president.
Hats off to the women who are trying to understand and coexist with their spouses. However, not everyone has such a support group, and they live with someone who fails to realize that family trumps politics. Some unions are splintering. Why is there such an extreme reaction by a political view?
Dr. Brian Campbell, who is a practicing Spokane psychologist who teaches abnormal psychology at Gonzaga, believes it’s due to brain functioning.
“There is a primitive network in our brain called the default mode network that is hardwired for survival,” Campbell said. “Thoughts can be very rigid. If someone has a very different view, then the immediate reaction can be negative.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s rational. They’re not being very open-minded. But we’re dealing with primitive circuitry of the brain, which can make an impact if a person feels threatened.”
And that’s how it looks for both sides of the political coin with this presidential election. Both parties have emphasized that this is the most important election in history.
Who knows what will happen Tuesday night or when Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be declared the winner of the electoral college? Will there be riots on the street and, perhaps even more alarming, tumult in what should be the safety of someone’s home?
“We need to be clear about what we value,” Campbell said. “If we don’t do that, we’re likely to lose track of what’s important. If we don’t get that clarified, we can be like a pinball in a pinball machine. We need to be proactive rather than reactive.
“Again, that default mode network is all about being reactive, and that can connect with a political point-of-view. What do I want to be for my family?”
Campbell suggests in order to move forward, we should look back to one of the fathers of our country, Ben Franklin.
“When Franklin was in his 20s, he was depressed, and then he decided to write down his virtues,” Campbell said. “He clarified what his life was about. He got out of his default mode network and was able to be funny and creative and lead a meaningful life.”
What can have more meaning than your family? The point about being reactionary is a good one since the political domino effect ruining households and damaging children is akin to physics. Isaac Newton’s third law is for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
There are couples who have no problem residing in the same home but playing on the opposite sides of the political fence. Democratic strategist James Carville and longtime Republican political consultant Mary Matalin have been happily married for more than a quarter century.
Gretchen Wisehart and Tom Ellis have made their marriage work even though they’re on opposing sides of the aisle. The couple have run for office in Pennsylvania, she as a Democrat, he as a Republican. Ellis was a delegate for Trump in 2016.
If those couples can be happy together despite differing political views, others should be able to follow. There have been so many accounts of couples splitting and children being shuttled between homes due to beliefs.
Sure, there are many issues of importance, but so are your children. No matter the results of the presidential election, remember how important your family unit is to your spouse and children. Protect your brood like our Founding Fathers safeguarded our freedom and our right to vote.
Speaking of the latter, don’t forget to cast your ballot, and please watch the results in a peaceful manner.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.