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Happy Couples Are Polls Apart

There's a split in some marriages at the ballot box. But bipartisan respect can help keep the peace.

November 07, 2000|DUANE NORIYUKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In 22 years of marriage, they have shared a passion for the outdoors, summer nights beneath the stars and winter days on powdery ski slopes. Their favorite movie is "Pulp Fiction," and they read the same authors--among them John Grisham and Anne Rice.

But, today, when they go to the polls, Mark Jacobson will vote for George W. Bush. And his wife, Linda Davidson, will back Al Gore. When it comes to politics, he is her "Archie Bunker," and she is his "left-wing Commie."

Linda, 54, is a Democrat. Mark, 52, is a Republican. Their votes for president will cancel each other out, as they have in almost every election since they have been together. But will that stop them from voting?

"No," says Mark, an account executive for an insurance company. Voting is a privilege and responsibility, he says. And if he's going to vote, it's all the more reason for Linda--who works as an account manager for a different insurance company--to march out and counter him.

Inter-political couples in the mold of Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican counterpart Mary Matalin say the key to peaceful co-existence is respect--not allowing politics to stand in the way of love. "We don't try to force our opinions on each other," Linda says. "That would be the death of the relationship--when you try to make the other person believe in the same things you do."

The Chatsworth couple's disparate political philosophies have caused only one major blowout. It was long ago and had to do with whether standardized tests used to determine college eligibility were culturally biased. "Absolutely," says Linda. "Show me," says Mark, who couldn't understand why she felt so passionately about the issue.

She showed him, all right. She showed him the couch, and that is where he spent the night. It is the only time in their relationship that that has happened.

She didn't stop there. Linda asked that Mark enroll in a college sociology course, which he did. His view, however, is unchanged.

Both say they have drifted to the right over time. Mark, a former Democrat, drifted all the way across party lines. It was during the Reagan era that he looked into the mirror and realized that the person he saw was not a Democrat at all.

Both are pro-choice. Linda says it is the one issue that would cause her to march on Washington, as her husband did in the late 1960s to protest the Vietnam War. She will vote for Gore today, she says, because he is more likely to nominate Supreme Court justices who would protect a woman's right to choose.

Mark is more concerned about issues related to the economy. Though he has supported women's rights in the past, he says, the playing field is near level now, leading him to the conclusion that a person's work should stand on its own merit. "Can I roll my eyes now?" Linda asks.

The couple have three grown children--all with different political views.

Jim and Joan Zoller, of Hacienda Heights, have been married 53 years and have voted for the same presidential candidate only twice.

Joan, 77, a Democrat who once worked for the University of Missouri as a 4-H home demonstration agent, cast a rogue vote for Richard Nixon; and Jim, 78, a Republican who worked as a chemical engineer, could not bring himself to vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964, so he went with Lyndon Johnson.

Both regret those votes. It won't happen this year, they say. Jim will vote for Bush, Joan for Gore.

"Our differences go back to our childhoods," says Jim. "She never heard a good word about Hoover growing up in Missouri, and I was growing up at the same time in Ohio and never heard a good word about Franklin Roosevelt."

John Streb, 57, and Trish Bennett, 54, of San Marino, have been married 20 years. Before they wed, they took time to talk about their differences. "We had more discussions than most people would have in a lifetime," says John, a business consultant. "Because it was my third marriage and her second, it was critical to us that we were selecting correctly, and we took the time and effort to have discussions on every topic we could think of. We didn't try to sell ourselves. We just presented ourselves as who we were and discussed our differences, and that's what has kept us together 20 years."

John and Trish, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Canada who works as a client-services consultant for an insurance brokerage, found common ground in only one election. Both supported Ross Perot in 1992.

Janette and Gerry Flintoft, of Pacific Palisades, have been married three years. In high school, Gerry, a real-estate agent, was a volunteer for then-Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. He served as Bradley's deputy campaign manager in the candidate's 1986 gubernatorial run and was a deputy finance director for Gore in his 1988 presidential bid.

Three years ago, he married Janette, a lawyer--and a Republican--he met at a party.

Their beliefs really aren't that different, suggests Janette, 31. "We're environmental liberals, social moderates and fiscal conservatives."

People change, of course, in matters of politics and even faith. Earlier in life, Gerry, 41, was a Republican. He also was Catholic. Now he's a Democrat and a Presbyterian. Janette is Catholic.

They have a 16-month-old son and a second child due in March. As in any relationship, Gerry says, compromise is important. Their children, he says, will be brought up Catholic, "but, at least initially, they'll be Democrats."

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