Mary Matalin and James Carville--Not Schwarzenegger and Shriver
August 11, 2016 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Mr. EG and I just got engaged after many years, yay! However, we will apparently be entering into one of those rarest of unions--that between a liberal and a conservative. Help us have civil data-driven conversations please, and give me hope for the future.

According to this WaPo wonkblog redux of a recent Stanford study, we're in the minority 6% for whom the female is Democratic and the male is Republican.

I feel like I spend a lot of time just refuting the basic data which he gets from (ugh) Drudge and such ilk. He is very responsive to solid data. (We are both physicians, so the more technical the better). I found this Ask to be helpful.

1) My google-fu has been weak on this front, and I feel like someone out there must have a fact-based-reality-check on what Drudge posts. I'm looking for sources which he won't dismiss out of hand as being part of the "liberal media."

2) Any anecdata, good books, or other sources on mixed unions and how to best navigate these waters would also be appreciated.
posted by eglenner to Human Relations (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My sister and her husband are in the same boat, and they just don't talk about politics. To me that seems a better solution than having the same debates and disagreements over and over for the rest of your life. But I'm not much one for political debate in general, so ymmv.
posted by something something at 5:10 PM on August 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

I agree. The great thing about politics is that the entire world wants to talk about it, so there are limitless opportunities to talk politics not with your spouse. Talk about politics on MetaFilter! Talk with your husband about everything else.

If "hope for the future" means "hope your husband will stop being a conservative," I wouldn't count on it. Not that it's impossible; but it's just as likely you'll change your beliefs. Most likely of all, neither of you will change, and you'll find that, in the vast context of a marriage, who you vote for doesn't matter very much.
posted by escabeche at 5:18 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

We don't talk about politics. Seriously, unless political debate is something that always ends up with the two of you passionately tangled up in the sheets, it's not worth the time/effort to refute things or try to change each other's mind.
posted by kimberussell at 5:26 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

You need to agree on the stuff relevant to your life. Like for example, if you're pro-choice and he's pro-life, that could be a huuuuuuge problem in a relationship if something goes terribly wrong. If you agree on nothing else in this life, you two need to be on the same page as to how to handle that.

Other than that...I just would try to not talk about politics either, unless the two of you love to argue "for fun."
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:27 PM on August 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm going to go with the crowd here and say, "Don't talk about politics." I mean, there's certainly a difference between a John McCain Republican and a Donald Trump Republican, with the former seemingly more likely to agree with hard data. There are literally hundreds of sources of reliable data, but you're on the Internet asking for sources your fiance won't reject because of his perception of bias. If you can't agree on facts being facts, you're kind of having to prove a negative to even get to the discussion. If I can't get someone to agree on basic facts, there's no basis for having a further discussion, so I leave it.

I guess to answer the question, take a look at Kevin Drum's blog. He constantly cites data from different sources, and I see no reason to question much of it. He's also a liberal, so I would assume a Republican who "sees" media bias wouldn't accept either the arguments or the data.
posted by cnc at 5:38 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mrs. W is very conservative. I am very liberal.

In the end, your votes essentially cancel each other out each 2 or 4 years.

Having temperaments that line up well together, and similar feelings about kids, money, etc. matters more than politics.

I'm also on the "we don't talk about it much" bandwagon.

Data point: We've been together for 25 years.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:39 PM on August 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I will Nth just do not discuss politics. If you wish to discuss it, try the following ground rules:

1) Be genuinely respectful of him and insist on the same from him. No one gets to say or imply anything like "Only an idiot would think that!"

2) Discuss it in order to try to get understanding of him or give him a chance to understand you. Do not discuss it for purposes of changing each other's minds.

3) If you want to argue about it, insist it be a debate and not a fight. It is fine to have a lively discussion about ideas, but the discussion is over the minute it turns ugly and personal. Stick to your guns about this.

If both (or either) of you are incapable of genuinely respecting each other and keeping it about ideas and avoiding a fight, stick with refusing to discuss it. Your relationship will go better.

If things get hairy, it might help to take the position that you/he finds the other attractive, you surely wouldn't fall for an idiot, so there must be something else going on that the two of you see it so differently. If handled in a sincerely respectful manner, this can expand the horizons of both of you and you may be able to find some common ground eventually where, initially, that seemed impossible. But this cannot happen without real mutual respect and willingness to actually listen rather than just bite your tongue waiting for your turn to shoot down everything they just said.

Congrats on your engagement.
posted by Michele in California at 6:56 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you don't already read him, you might like Brad DeLong-- an economist, so he loves data.

Michele's points are essential. Don't treat each other like an Internet forum. I hope he's not throwing these Drudge Report things at you; spouses shouldn't try to undermine each other.
posted by zompist at 8:52 PM on August 11, 2016

He ought to try NY Times Opinion Columnist Paul Krugman. He's a Nobel-winning economist.

I think a big conversion is about to happen, so you will be helped by a lot of others asking questions about what they've been lead to believe.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:59 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Remember that it's OK to disagree. Another person can have a perspective you find uncomfortable, yet if that isn't something they act on directly, who cares? (IE it's a big deal if your spouse is a racist HR director, but if they have some weird opinion about Putin, it doesn't have to be a big deal and you don't have to persuade them to see your perspective.)
posted by hungrytiger at 9:56 PM on August 11, 2016

Best answer: My metric for discussing "politics" (which can mean everything from "federal fiscal policy" to "how the cashier just treated me") with close friends with whom I disagree is: If I win this argument, does it change anything for the better? So if the conversation is about federal fiscal policy and I'm not talking to the US President or the Secretary of Labor or the Chair of the Federal Reserve, etc., I'm ok agreeing to disagree. If I'm talking to someone who is actively being racist against someone in his personal circle, I'm going to argue that a lot harder, because the person with whom I'm arguing could (e.g.) totally make the local cashier's life less shitty. It helps me pick my battles, and it makes any actual arguments more sincere and worthwhile.
posted by lazuli at 10:29 PM on August 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

And corollary: If I'm arguing federal fiscal policy and the outcome of this argument will not change anything, but both argument participants are having fun, it can continue. But that's rare, in my experience, between people who are close.
posted by lazuli at 10:32 PM on August 11, 2016

This question sounds like you're concerned about discussing topical issues that don't have a lot of bearing on your daily life. But have you spent some serious quality time talking about how your different values are going to impact your life every single day? Before I got married, we used to take the book Don't You Dare Get Married Until You Read This on long drives or hikes, and randomly flip through it for conversation starters. Because, seriously, who cares if he gets his political news from Drudge? (Ok, ok, I'd care, I admit.) But what will really determine whether your marriage is happy and successful is whether you agree about authoritative vs permissive vs authoritarian parenting styles. Whether you have the same expectations about career while raising young kids. And actually, not just what your expectations are right now--probably pretty similar if you're both career-driven singles--but what your family of origin's career-and-family setup looked like. Because that may be what you each fall back to under stress. Do you budget similarly? Have you talked about the impact religion will have on your family life pre and post kids? Will you buy cars with cash or finance? Should you stretch to buy that house you really want, or stay comfortably under your budget so you'll be ok on one income eventually? How will you split chores? How will you split chores in ten years, post-kid?

Apologies if you're both child free by choice, I didn't really mean for this post to be so kid-centric. But in my own marriage, we were SUPER on the same page pre-kids. Post-kids, we discovered a lot more variation in our values, or more accurately, we realized that family-of-origin life patterns suddenly felt very much more powerful and instinctive.

People are conservative or liberal not because of differences in economic policy, but because of real, deeply rooted differences in how they see and process the world. This doesn't mean that conservatives and liberals should never marry! But it does mean that you have to be really clear and honest with yourselves and each other and respect and value those differences. In fact, I'd almost go as far as to say that if you don't love him at least in part because he is conservative, make sure that you are absolutely, 100%, all-in on honoring and respecting his values, not just tolerating them, or thinking "oh, well, he will change when he understands X or Y about the world." And also respect and thoroughly understand your own value system, and be sure you are strong enough in it to live it peacefully and not feel under attack where you are negotiating that line between your world views in daily decisions.
posted by instamatic at 6:33 AM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I am in one of these marriages and it works just fine. Caveat: we are both lawyers so we get our need to argue and bicker out at the office most days. We were both leadership in our respective college political parties. One of us has been an elected official and one of us works for the government now. We argue about it respectfully when we do argue and we see eye to eye on an awful lot of issues. Things we'll always disagree on: abortion, the death penalty, free-trade agreements. We've been in this relationship for 12 years now, so this is our fourth presidential campaign. Our voting patterns thus far have been Kerry and Bush, Obama and Obama (Sarah Palin tripped the trigger for the Republican in our marriage), Obama and Johnson, and Clinton and Johnson. Obviously the Republican is not a dyed in the wool since they are willing to vote third party on occasion, but we make it work by being respectful and actually listening. Our country would function a lot better if everyone did this. That said, we're also different religions and I think part of the reason we make it work is out of sheer stubborness to our families who said that it wouldn't.
posted by notjustthefish at 8:49 AM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the key is to be OK with the other person having a different opinion than you. And if there are any topics where this is a deal-breaker, you should make sure up front that you are on the same page. There are people I disagree with that I can have good political discussions with, because we both accept that the other person can have a different opinion. And then there are people that think anyone that supports X is nuts, and it's hard to talk to them if you support X.
posted by tracer at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2016

Best answer: Read, both of you, Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.
posted by at at 11:27 AM on August 12, 2016

Best answer: Piping up just because I'm apparently in the minority: I'm also in that 6%, and we talk about politics frequently. I suppose we could avoid the subject, but we're both interested in it, and we generally talk about whatever's on our minds, so avoiding this one subject would be a weird exception. At family reunions, sure, let's talk about the weather for the sake of keeping the peace. But in my marriage, no.

It helps to believe in data-backed sources and well-reasoned arguments, sounds like you have a start there. If you feel like you're in the position of needing to research for him and refute his sources, that sounds tiring, but if he's willing to look for better sources to back his opinion up, you might have some interesting conversations. There are plenty of political points that moral, reasonable people disagree on.

It also helps to believe that similar values can lead to very different political views, depending on one's life experience. Can you talk about the roots of your political disagreements, and how you arrived at your beliefs? You might find you have a good deal in common. Or, you might find you have starkly different values, and that might be a relationship problem - but if it is, the sooner you find out, the better.

The political talk in my house tonight was about the value of third-party votes in the current presidential election, along with some speculation on the particular motivations of white, educated, male Trump supporters. It was a more substantive conversation than the one at my heavily left-leaning workplace today, where a few people struggled to get their heads around the idea that educated Trump voters even exist.

Tonight's conversation was calm overall, and now we're doing our own things. Husband just swung by to ask what I'm writing about on the internet. I said "relationships where people have political disagreements." His eyebrows went up, and then his dimples came out.

posted by orangejenny at 8:50 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful responses and for sharing your personal relationship experiences!

To clarify, we agree on abortion rights which is an absolute on my part (OB/Gyn and hope to be a provider at some point in my career). We're both in our mid-thirties and have very similar personal finance views which I think tend to cause more problems in marriages than mere political differences--which, as most of you point out, don't generally have an impact on the day-to-day living of individual lives.

I appreciate the reading links.
posted by eglenner at 5:35 PM on August 14, 2016

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