Presidential Race Dividing Families
The 2008 primaries are dividing political parties, with significant numbers of Republicans saying they won’t support John McCain and many Democrats saying they can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. With this weekend’s endorsement of McCain and Barack Obama by California first couple Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, respectively, we see splits within families as well.
Maria Shriver woke up Sunday morning and decided to surprise the audience at a rally for Senator Barack Obama in Los Angeles, materializing alongside Oprah Winfrey and telling the crowd she was there because she sought “an America that’s about unity.” But not the family kind. Ms. Shriver is a member of the Kennedy clan, and in the past week, her relatives have split over the Democratic race, publicizing their preferences on opinion pages and at campaign events.
With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. Obama locked in a tight race before Tuesday’s voting, the campaign has turned into a gigantic family feud, with prominent and everyday Democrats splitting with spouses, siblings, parents and children. There is former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin (Clinton supporter) and his son James (Obama); Representative Charles B. Rangel (Clinton), his wife, Alma (Obama); the Rev. Jesse Jackson (Obama), his wife, Jacqueline (Clinton), and their sons (split).
Loretta and Linda Sanchez, the only sisters in the House of Representatives, have endorsed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, respectively. And Penny Pritzker, a Chicago philanthropist, serves as Mr. Obama’s national finance chairman even as her brother, Jay Robert, holds fund-raisers across town for Mrs. Clinton.
“Within the family, for the first time you have different opinions,” Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California and Ms. Shriver’s husband, told The San Francisco Chronicle last week, around the same time Mr. Obama was calling his wife and coaxing her to his side. Three of Robert F. Kennedy’s children have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, while their mother, Ethel Kennedy, supports Mr. Obama, along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy and Representative Patrick J. Kennedy. “I’ve been in the family 30 years, and I’ve never seen that,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger, who has endorsed Senator John McCain.
In any election, members of the same families choose competing candidates. But while some primaries hinge on policy differences, this one also turns on the deep, perennial disagreements between parents and children, husbands and wives. Older family members argue with younger ones about experience versus freshness. Men and women question whether they operate on a level playing field. And when husbands and wives discuss the Clinton marriage, they often touch on raw issues within their own.
There’s more passion in this race than we’ve seen in quite some time. Certainly, it’s been generations since we’ve seen both parties have nomination battles this competitive at the same time.