Speak the names ‘George and Kellyanne Conway’ and you are sure to get anyone in Washington, D.C. talking.
Perhaps their most impressive accomplishment, however, has nothing to do with their careers.
In a town that often prizes power and position over family and faithfulness, the Conways are raising four children and will soon celebrate an 18th wedding anniversary.
That is an accomplishment anywhere. For a high profile couple in Washington, D.C. in 2019 under the glow of a harsh spotlight, it deserves a medal.
Of course, the Conways are household names not just for their career success but because – gasp! – they dare to hold diverging political views. She is one of President Donald Trump’s most ardent defenders and he is a frequent critic of the president.
Such couplings are not unusual. For decades, we watched Mary Matalin and James Carville – alumni of Republican and Democrat presidential administrations, respectively – remind us that that the bonds of family are stronger than politics.
‘We love each other. What can I say?’ explained Matalin in a 2014 US News and World Report interview.
We could also look to the example of former House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, a staunch conservative, and his socially progressive wife, Diana.
‘We have a “mixed marriage,”’ Cantor told The Washington Post in 2008. They will celebrate 30 years this November.
At best, we admired these couples’ example of love across political fault lines. At worst, we simply minded our own business.
Somewhere along the way, however, we decided that the rules were different for Trump supporters and foes and, thus, for the Conways.
Take, for example, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. In the run-up to 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized marriage equality nationwide, the group touted itself as champions for the sanctity of marriage.
Now? Not so much. The group’s founder, Larry Klayman, said recently that George Conway’s divergence from his wife’s political views is cause for divorce.
‘Time for Kellyanne to dump her so-called husband!’ Klayman tweeted. He went on to call George Conway ‘pathetic’ and ‘hateful.’
I would ascribe those same terms to anyone who gleefully recommends upending a family and breaking a marriage covenant for reasons of politics. May we all run fast and far from such unwise counsel.
Conservatives, of which I am one, sometimes warn of threats to ‘family values.’ This is a glaring example. I imagine that Kellyanne Conway values her family immensely. I wish the president did too.
Sadly, some will take a measure of delight in this attack.
At a time when the political has become so intensely personal, chances are we think at least one half of this couple is not just wrong on the issues, but wrong as a person. We pit them against each other as though they were opposing teams at a football game rather than two real people seeking to honor a lifetime commitment with children who are impacted by the outcome of that effort.
I don’t want to play that game. I want to see politically opposite spouses stick up for their beliefs and stick up even more loudly for each other. It would do a divided country good to see this in action.
I want to root for every couple who is swimming against the current of the culture, and maybe even the tweets of the president, to maintain their marriage – regardless of their party labels or mine.
I suspect that George and Kellyanne Conway are wise enough not to pay any attention to our opinions anyway but, to the extent this background noise ever reaches their lives, may they hear our respect and our best hopes, not our insults and Twitter trolling. So help us God.
Jonathan Frank is a communications professional and former Congressional staffer living in Washington, D.C.