I spent the weekend thinking a lot about politics… and marriage.
I’m married myself. Like most marriages, I think, it’s more often than not a happy one. Sure, there are the occasional flares of temper or clashes of personality… and more rarely there are the knock-down, drag-out, winner-take-all blowouts that are inevitable when two different people with two different minds each believe they are “right” and the other, therefore, “wrong”.
Anyone who is in a successful marriage knows it’s a balancing act. A balancing act done on a high wire, in hurricane gusts, with the audience occasionally throwing things at you while you pinwheel your arms in an effort to keep it all together and up in the air.
I realize that sounds negative. It shouldn’t. It’s just that marriage is work. A successful, happy marriage is even more work – and includes sacrifice, selflessness, and support.
So, allow me to admit right up front that I’m sympathetic to Cheri Daniels, before I get further into this.
It’s no secret that Mitch Daniels is allowing his wife’s (and daughters’) feelings to play an enormous part in his decision whether to run for the Republican nomination. He compared running for President to bungee jumping… with your loved ones along for the ride.
“This is one where you have to strap a bunch of people, your family and others, along with you.”
Now, I don’t intend to touch on the actual gossip involved. It’s all over the innerwebs – go look it up if that interests you. I don’t care that they once divorced, I don’t care who left who or why. I’m not even going to speculate about it for the simple reason that I wasn’t there. (There are two sides to every story, especially between spouses, and it boils down to their business, in my opinion.)
What I consider relevant is that they are married now, and by all appearances want to remain that way. Mrs. Daniels clearly does not care for the role of “politician’s wife” and the media scrutiny that entails. Mr. Daniels just as clearly does care about the impact of a Presidential run on his wife and family.
As he should.
I’ll be honest… the reaction from many “pro-family” conservatives has surprised me.
Ace had a piece up at AOSHQ where he seemed to see this from the same angle I do… but unlike me, he realized ahead of time that others would see it very differently.
Here’s the thing: That’s what a husband is supposed to do, right? When women imagine dream husbands, that’s the sort of thing they’d claim they really respected, right?
But I don’t think people will respect this.
He notes in his post that some of his own commenters are going after Daniels. (Actually, savaging him might be a more apt description…)
When I wrote this post, I expected commenters to give Daniels a bit of a break. Turns out, not so much. It seems like even people who should be predisposed to giving him some space on this are looking for reasons to mock him. If the comments are a preview of the liberal media, then forget it.
The reality is this: In our era of “new civility”, it doesn’t even matter about the divorce and remarriage. The media, comedians, and Blogosphere will go after Cheri Daniels just because.
I’m no different. I have several posts about Michelle Obama that are not just uncomplimentary but actually kinda mean. (Though in comparison to some of what I’ve read, they’re mild.) So why did I write them? Because she’s fair game. (Lest you think this is a partisan thing for me, you can see where I’ve also called Olbermann’s remarks about SE Cupp acceptable as well. And while I don’t care for Glenn Beck, I found his remarks about Meghan McCain hilarious – and acceptable.)
A few years ago, while I was subjecting one of my offspring to a rant on politics, The Kid said, “You should run for office!” I replied, “Not at all. You couldn’t give me the job.” You see, unlike many Americans, I never want to be famous. The idea horrifies me. I’ve said it before:
See, this is America. In America, we ONLY put people on pedestals so we can watch them fall off. And if they don’t cooperate and fall of on their own, we nudge them off. And sometimes we knock them right off like American gladiators jousting with those big styrofoam lances. Get the picture?
Is it nice? Well, no. But it’s reality, which isn’t always nice.
So I can understand where Cheri Daniels is coming from. And as someone who acknowledges that marriage is a team sport, I can understand where Mitch Daniels is coming from, too.
What I can not understand is the conservative reaction.
The media has portrayed the deference to Daniels’s wife as “waiting for permission”, although I’ve yet to see an actual “permission” quote attributed to either Daniels. And reader comments on various blogs (which I’m not linking, as I don’t want to be held responsible for the ideas of my own commenters) have ranged from dismissive to downright brutal assertions that Daniels is “whipped”, along with some sentiments that he should just tell the little lady how it’s gonna be.
This from the pro-family side? Really? We should show we’re pro-family by mocking him as a wimp who took back a runaway wife? Or by encouraging him to disregard her wishes? Or by demanding (like the spoiled brats such commenters sound like) that the Daniels marriage be damned, run because we say so?
Ben Smith wrote (basically) that if Cheri was afraid of the spotlight… well, she’s in it anyway so, problem solved.
Uhh… no. If Daniels runs, Cheri will be subjected to everything from fashion critiques to parsing of her every spoken word. This is only the front edge of the storm.
Perhaps the best take on this, in my opinion, comes from Moe Lane:
But if Gov. Daniels is well and truly not sure whether his family is ready for that, well, I would advise the governor then that he already knows the answer to the question “Should Mitch Daniels run?”
I agree. He knows the answer.
And so do we.
While Mitch and Cheri have not announced their decision, I’ve made mine.
Daniels can’t run. And if he does, no genuine pro-family voter can support him.
We do not want a leader so callous that the feelings of the woman who shares his home and bed count for nothing. And if Cheri comes around under pressure, we do not want a leader who is (understandably) distracted from the job at hand because of marital strain that will happen when a hesitant spouse gets the treatment we must admit she will receive.
And do we want to bear partial responsibility if their marriage, after all it has survived, fails in the White House because we’ve pressured him to run and his wife to be compliant?
I don’t judge either Daniels for the things they’ve come through together. And I don’t think any of what I’ve learned from all this reflects on him as a candidate…
But his wife’s concerns have merit, and although I certainly won’t take a “Be nice to Cheri” pledge or suggest anyone else should, I won’t pretend that I would subject my own family to the kind of scrutiny and criticisms she’d be sure to face.
And I’d like to suggest that some married (or wanna-be-married) conservatives try looking at this from the perspective of their own relationships. Isn’t the mantra “God… Family… Country”? If you’re going to start disregarding the “family” part of it in favor of “country”, perhaps you’ve switched teams.
Cross-posted at Makes My Brain Itch