Couples grapple with differing views during heated presidential election year
In early May, when Dr. Thomas Stossel told his wife, Dr. Kerry Maguire, of his plan to vote for Donald Trump in the general election, she hit him with an ultimatum.
"If you vote for Trump, I will divorce you and move to Canada," she recalled telling him. He tried to laugh it off.
"I'm serious," Maguire told him.
Before this spat, through nearly 20 years of marriage, politics had never caused much friction between Maguire, a dentist who is the director of the children's outreach program at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and Stossel, a hematologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Then came the 2016 presidential campaign. A political season that has made for hot debates in the public arena has also seeped into private lives, complicating friendships, marriages, romances and relationships among family members.
Maguire, 59, and her husband, 74, have disagreed over politics before, but never like this. During the 2012 presidential campaign, they had two signs planted side by side on their front lawn in Belmont, Mass.: one for her choice, Barack Obama, and the other for his, Mitt Romney.
"Politics were very low on the list of priorities when we met," said Stossel, whose political ideology made a rightward turn in the 1980s, bringing him more in line with his brother, John Stossel, who hosts "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. "Therapists say you have the best relationships when you are clearly separate people. And I like to think that we are emotionally centered, so that we can have a major disagreement about something, and it's not a big problem."
The couple avoided discussing the campaign into the summer, and Maguire, who said she will vote for Hillary Clinton, fell under the impression that her husband would no longer be supporting Trump. But in an interview July 28, Stossel restated his support for the Republican nominee.
"I'm reasonably convinced that Hillary is handcuffed to the economic progressive populism that has totally taken over the Democratic Party, aka, socialism," said Stossel, a visiting scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "I think that if she gets power and the party gets power, there is a good likelihood that the agendas of that movement will be enacted. To me, that counters what I consider to be what brings us prosperity, which is entrepreneurship."
When asked about Trump's talk of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and banning Muslim immigrants, Stossel said: "I think it is very unlikely that he can pull any of that stuff off. It seems improbable to me, because he still has to work in the constraints of what I hope will be a checks-and-balances system. Frankly, I don't think he is going to have to make good on a lot of these crazy promises."
In a separate interview later that afternoon, Maguire seemed unaware of her husband's stance. She sounded confident that Stossel had been dissuaded from his support by friends, as well as her quasi-threat to leave him. When told by this reporter of her husband's intent to go through with voting for Trump, she seemed shocked, if not angry.
"That is news to me," Maguire said. "And I'll be calling my attorney."
After a pause, she went on: "I don't think he will vote for him. But if he does, I hope he never tells me about it. For someone who is so reasonable in every other part of his life, and who expects people to have expertise, it doesn't really link with the Tom Stossel that I know.
"I would just be disgusted on every level," she continued. "And also a little fearful. Disgusted on the marriage level, but fearful for our society."
Anna Sproul-Latimer, an agent with the Ross Yoon Literary Agency in Washington, thought she knew the man she would marry. But that was before politics got in the way.
When she met Matt Latimer in 2008, he was a disaffected former speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. Back then she considered herself something of a Libertarian, although she had supported Obama's first presidential run.
As the years went by and their relationship deepened, she found that she believed in things such as the Affordable Care Act and began to doubt the ideology of the Libertarian movement. With the Tea Party's insurgency in 2010, she learned that her husband held many Tea Party ideals in high esteem, especially when it came to limited government.
"I loved him and still love him," said Sproul-Latimer, 31, "but at the same time I had to resist my first instinct, which was to say, 'Gross.'"
Despite their growing political differences, they went through with the wedding in 2012. Donald Rumsfeld, the former secretary of defense for whom Latimer had worked, attended. Today the couple share views on many social issues, especially when it comes to school choice and rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but the Clinton-Trump contest has reopened old wounds.
They were especially at odds in the early part of the campaign, when Trump was a fresh character on the political scene.
"I loved him when he first ran," said Latimer, 45, a founding partner of Javelin, a literary agency and communications firm. "I thought he was hilarious. I loved the idea that he would drive everyone insane. I loved that he was pure chaos and total stream of consciousness."
As Trump's momentum grew, the household showed signs of strain. Latimer cheered the unraveling of the party's establishment. And while not ready to jump on the "Trump Train," he said, he was willing to give Trump a chance.
"One time he kept talking about how Trump was winning," Sproul-Latimer said, recalling a discussion they had one night just before bed. "And I just flew off the handle, saying, 'You're just trying to provoke me.' And he said, 'It's just a discussion. It's reality.'"
These days, they try to stay away from discussing the campaign.
"We are treading a lot more lightly on our politics at home," Sproul-Latimer said.
In her view, a Trump presidency would be an "utter disaster for the country." In his view, Sproul-Latimer has become "an unofficial surrogate for Hillary."
Last month, as they watched the broadcast of the Democratic National Convention, things got tense.
"When Bill Clinton spoke, I would make some jokes about it and she would laugh," Latimer said. "She would make some jokes and I would laugh. And then it got to a point where maybe I was making too many jokes and suddenly she has to defend the Clintons. And then it's not funny anymore."
Latimer's decision is still up in the air. But he knows one thing: He will not be voting for Clinton.
"But if she thinks by not supporting Trump I'll be moving in her direction, she's incorrect. We've supported different candidates before and will continue to do so. That said, if for any reason I would join the 'Trump Train,' it would disturb her. My joining it now is not impossible. But it is extremely unlikely."
Married couples aren't the only ones who find themselves unable to discuss politics in this charged environment. The campaign has also had an effect on people looking for love, according to Maria Avgitidis, who runs the Manhattan matchmaking service Agape Match. She said politics has never been a big issue in her line of work, until now.
When she asks her clients to give her a list of their "deal-breakers," she said, the first is smoking. The second, for the moment, is supporting Trump.
"He's creating obstacles that I haven't seen in the last 10 years," Avgitidis said. "I'm having men saying, 'I'm having a really great time with her, but she's a Trump supporter and I'm not interested.' Or, 'She's Republican, and I feel like she's going to vote for Trump, and I'm not interested in being with someone like that.'
"I'm hoping this will all kind of dissolve after November, but what if it doesn't?"
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