Ostensibly, the story is about the ravages caused by the current presidential election campaign. Just as clearly, it offers a picture of married adults who function like fanatics. They threaten, they bully, they intimidate … and then they wonder whether their marriage can be saved.
The New York Times reports first on the perfectly egalitarian marriage of Dr. Thomas Stossel and Dr. Kerry Maguire. No name change for Dr. Mag. One day their domestic tranquility was shattered by the following exchange:
In early May, when Dr. Thomas Stossel told his wife, Dr. Kerry Maguire, of his plan to vote for Donald J. 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,” Dr. Maguire told him.
Before this spat, through nearly 20 years of marriage, politics had never caused much friction between Dr. Maguire, a dentist who is the director of the children’s outreach program at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and Dr. Stossel, a hematologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
OK, it’s not that egalitarian. Dr. Stossel is higher up on the medical hierarchy than Dr. Maguire.
Be that as it may, we note Dr. Maguire’s rhetorical tactic. She cannot stand the fact that her husband thinks differently. But she does not try to discuss the matter, to reason with him, to present her point of view. Not at all. She threatens him; she bullies him; she tries to beat him down. When all is said and done we have a rational man trying to deal with a wife who is an ideological zealot.
The fault is clear: this woman is a witch. One wonders why Dr. Stossel does not just walk out on her.
But she is convinced. She is convinced beyond the shadow of any doubt. And her passionate commitment to an idea—or a candidate—outdistances her commitment to her marriage.
She ought to have learned the following rule, rule that should be inscribed over the doorway to every therapist’s office: The fact that you believe very strongly in something means that you believe in it very strongly. Nothing more. It also means that you have dispensed with liberality and the marketplace of ideas. It means that you have dispensed with pragmatic and rational thought. It also means that you are most likely wrong.
As Hamlet put it: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” He sees her protest as a sign of culpability, not a sign that she has accessed a transcendent truth.
The Times asks the salient question, with a dash of irony: “Can this marriage be saved?”
The only way for it to be saved is for Dr. Maguire to grow up and pretend that she is an adult. She will also need to dispense with her feminist rage. Good luck with that.
If you have ever wondered how it happened that second-wave feminism produced a spike in divorces in the 1970s, here you have it. For the record, these people are not children: Dr. Maguire is 59. Dr. Stossel is 74.
One might say that Dr. Stossel should just call her bluff. He chose a different path. He decided not to discuss the matter anymore. Why bait your unhinged wife, he might have said to himself.
But then, when Dr. Stossel was interviewed by the Times reporter he averred that he was likely to vote for Trump. When the reporter relayed the information to Dr. Maguire, she reacted as you might expect:
In a separate interview later that afternoon, Dr. Maguire seemed unaware of her husband’s stance. She sounded confident that Dr. 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 Mr. Trump, she seemed shocked, if not angry.
“That is news to me,” Dr. 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.”
As for respecting a difference of opinion, forget that. As for knowing how to behave as an adult in a marriage, Dr. Maguire does not have a clue. As I said, the solution is for him to call the bluff and file for divorce. Or, perhaps some serious counseling might help.
Just in case you thought that the Times was going to be fair and was going to show us another couple where the man was unhinged and the woman was rational, you will be disappointed. The reporter then offers us a picture of the marriage of Matt Latimer and Anna Sproul-Latimer. She is a literary agent and he runs a communications company. He worked in the George W. Bush administration. She has libertarian leanings. At the least, neither is a crazed leftist.
Latimer is not exactly a Trumpophile. He does not know whom he will be voting for, but he provoked some domestic discord by suggesting that he was entertaining the possibility of supporting Trump. His wife was horrified. Then, he wrote an article recently in which he suggested that Mike Pence should persuade Trump to drop out of the race.
Sproul-Latimer was relieved. His column restored domestic harmony and got her off her high moral horse. If he had not been persuaded to take a more nuanced position she would have doubted the basis for her marriage. I am not exaggerating:
“At several points in our marriage, I’ve wondered if our political views reveal fundamental differences in what we believe, what’s right and what’s wrong,” she said. “But that’s swiftly been followed by moments of relief where I realize that we do have the same moral code. Knowing Trump’s recent behavior has cast doubt in Matt’s mind was that kind of moment.”
For his part, Mr. Latimer said, “I never viewed my support or lack of support for Mr. Trump as something that would affect my marriage.
“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.”
The same moral code… take a little time to digest that nugget. Sproul-Latimer believes that someone who would vote for Trump lacks the most basic moral code. And someone who threatens to divorce her husband over a difference of political of opinion has what kind of moral code herself?
Returning to the Stossel-Maguire marriage, Dr. Stossel also came around. He decided that he would vote for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate. Faced with implacable foes who were enraged-- Maguire was far more consumed than Sproul-Latimer--both men chose domestic harmony.
Of course, the truth of the matter is, each man can go into the polling booth and vote for whomever he pleases. He can then go home and lie to his wife. Relationship counselors will tell him that lying is bad, but when you are dealing with a harridan, what choice do you have? Tell a white lie or get a divorce?
Note that these women are willing to put their marriages on the line for something that they cannot verify objectively. This is not a very clever tactic.
In both cases the women are being insufferable. They might feel that they have gained a victory, but the victory might very be pyrrhic. While feminists will surely cheer these instances of empowered female fanaticism, we note that these women are acting very, very badly.
They might reflect on the fact that their bad behavior—their awful behavior—is one of the reasons why men find Donald Trump appealing. Would the Donald every put up with such shrewishness?
Do you want to know why these men are considering voting for Trump? Look at their wives… don’t they both resemble Hillary, the wicked witch of Chappaqua?