Brexit and American elections: Families can be torn apart by different ideas, but only if they choose to

Posted June 27

Families may argue vociferously the pros and cons of the British decision to exit the European Union. Across the pond, American siblings debate vigorously whether to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Politics takes a toll on families unless they can agree to disagree or rise above it.

The Guardian's James Walsh wrote: "Business is divided, political parties are divided, towns are divided, so it will come as no surprise that families across Britain are split down the middle on the EU referendum, leading to much finger-wagging, marital huffs and frosty exchanges at breakfast tables."

He continued, "Respondents to a Guardian survey described students arguing with their grandparents, spouses fuming with each other and antagonists agreeing to disagree and devising clever coping mechanisms to maintain the family peace."

USA Today captures the conflict in the story of Don Costello and his wife, who were on different sides of Thursday's vote. Wrote Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara: "Dan Costello voted for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union; his wife voted for it to leave — but all's fair in love and war and the 'Brexit.'

"'We don't talk about it. And there's no hard feelings,'" Costello, 64, said Thursday, standing outside the hardware store where he works just around the corner from the Palace of Westminster and houses of Parliament. 'Tomorrow when we wake up and know the result, I'll still do most of the cooking. It'll be fine.'"

In East Lansing, Michigan, in the Miller household, the girls are Republicans, the boys Democrats.

“I can’t remember exactly when we came to the realization that there were some very different political views in the household, but it wasn’t a good day, that is for sure,” 17-year-old Bradley told Olivia Rubick, in an article this March for Mi First Election, published by Michigan State University Journalism School. She wrote that "The Millers say that this is the worst time of year for their family."

The dad, Jeff Miller, said he and his wife "have always struggled with our political differences and now we have the kids and it just adds animosity. I think it started off as Bradley wanting to be like Dad and Michelle wanting to be like Mom, until they got old enough and developed their own political views that just happened to coincide with ours,” he told Rubick.

There's a twist, though, to their party politics disagreement: None of them like Trump, which should make the election even more interesting across the divide. Will the girls cross over? Will they hold their ground?

Some couples keep their differing views to themselves. That wasn't the case for the Montgomery family during the last election cycle, when Norman Montgomery backed Mitt Romney and his wife Sylvia continued to support Barack Obama.

According to Washington Post's Petula Dvorak, theirs was an epic but humorous battle that unfolded in a D.C. suburb. Wrote Dvorak at the time: "Every chance he gets, Montgomery said, her husband takes her Obama magnet off her car and puts it on the roof of her Chevy Tahoe, 'where I can’t reach it.' The teasing, taunting and near-fights are endless."

In an email to Dvorak, the woman wrote: “My husband came home from errands and declared he had lost my Obama magnet while driving. . . . I have now attached a rally sign from the ’08 campaign to my rear window. The drama continues.”

Dvorak on Twitter asked for families interacting across a political chasm to tell their stories. She said that "many of the folks who responded to my Twitter and Facebook call-outs for politically divided families said they were already dreading Thanksgiving, when there will be gloating or sorrow over the outcome of the election. Everyone should be thankful for the cool-down period between Election Day and Thanksgiving Day, lest the carving knife get used on someone other than the turkey."

As for Brexit, experts say there's much more on the line than a four-year presidential term or a different in political leaning. Just untangling membership in the EU is time-consuming. CNN reported, after the historical vote, that "it will take at least two years — if not more — to sort out the historic exit from the 28-country bloc."

Email:, Twitter: Loisco


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