Press "Enter" to skip to content

Family values

carlson CHRIS


A steadily growing trend in political television advertising is the appearance of a candidate’s mother, spouse, daughter, son or his entire immediate family, all testifying to what a good person the candidate is. And yes, almost always it is a male candidate running these family testimonials.

Even the family dog can get drawn into the net. A few years back in the neighboring Fifth congressional district (Spokane), Congressman George Nethercutt prominently featured the family dog in his television commercials.

It used to be that just a picture of the candidate’s family would appear in a print ad or a brochure. Such pictures were designed to help the voter identify with the candidate. “See, I’m a normal person with a spouse, kids, pets, an old beater of a car, a mortgage and bills, just like you,” the ad would imply. Therefore vote for me because I know your challenges and I can feel your pain (As Bill Clinton famously said).

Such family testimonials must work at some level because media consultants would not be utilizing them if polling didn’t tell them that many voters accept such ads at face value. This is a classic case of myth-making overcoming reality.

It is also a classic case of a political aspirant using loved ones as props to feed the candidate’s ego and ambition. Often it is unseemly and demeaning, especially when the long-suffering spouse is asked to stand behind her man despite his blatant infidelity and is expected to look into the camera and testify that she still loves her spouse and please give them a zone of privacy to work through their difficulty.

Most of us recoil at such maudlin scenes and instinctively feel sorry for the spouse being asked to endure the public humiliation. Deep down most of us know also there is no such entity as a normal person nor a normal family nor a normal marriage.

We know that every marriage has its challenges. Couples have to work through these challenges together if they are to keep growing together. To pretend that maintaining the appearance of a normal family is somehow proof that if one can manage a fmaily they can manage a state is patently absurd.

Families and relationships are dynamic entities full of divegent, ever-changing personalities, and truth be told, most families have their dysfunctional aspects.

One thing we do know for sure is a spouse knows our weaknesses better than anyone else. We also know that it is just plain wrong for one spouse to expect the other to sacrifice their self-esteem, goals and ambitions on the altar of the other’s ambitions.

The smartest move I ever made was to marry my wife. On June 12th we will celebrate 44 years of marriage. We met when I was teaching at Kootenai High School and she was in Nursing school at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. The daughter of a hard-working, sometimes hard drinking north Idaho gyppo logger, she is one of nine children.

Her mother did not think the marriage would last because we seemed so different, a classic case of opposites attracting. I was gregarious and outgoing¸ she is shy and quiet, for example.

One of the critical keys to our marriage is good communications.

Two examples of her ability to communicate clearly:

Right after we were married I accepted a job in Washington, D.C. as a newspaper correspondent for the Anchorage Daily News. After about 20 months in D.C., I received a call from Cecil Andrus inviting me to Boise to discuss possibly going to work for him.

The day I flew out to interview as she dropped me off at National Airport she looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t care if he offers you a janitorship. You take it. I want to go home.” We went home.

A few years later I came through the door towards the end of my tenure with Andrus and asked the dear wife what would she think if I were to run for some statewide office back in Idaho?

By then we had four children, a mortgage and all the other challenges that come with raising a family. Once again she looked me square in the eye, then quietly said, “The day you file, I file.” I was pretty sure she didn’t mean she’d be running against me.

She was absolutely correct though. Raising four kids requires both parents on the scene and she wasn´about to be a sacrificial lamb on any altar of dear old hubby’s posssible ambitions.

Deep down, I knew she was correct. I love, admire and respect her all the more for telling me, all too often, I’m afraid, what I need to hear not what I want to hear. Happy 44th dear!

Share on Facebook