When Abraham Lincoln professed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he certainly could not have envisioned the Mt. Lebanon home of Elaine Rosenfield last week around Yom Kippur.
Rosenfield, an ardent campaign worker for the McCain/Palin ticket, played hostess to her visiting daughter and son-in-law from San Fransisco, who came to Pittsburgh in an effort to combine a family visit with some hard-core canvassing for Sen. Barack Obama.
Also on hand for much of the visit was Dave Rosenfield, another McCain supporter, and Elaine’s ex-husband.
Criminal defense attorney Peter Goodman, the Rosenfields’ son-in-law, had been troubled of late, unsure whether Pennsylvania’s 21 pivotal electoral votes would go to Obama.
“It dawned on me that Yom Kippur was coming up, and Mindy [his wife] loves seeing family,” said Goodman. “We decided to combine a visit with doing some work for Obama.”
While the Goodmans’ and the Rosenfields’ opinions on this election could not be more diametrically opposed, they still had no problem in getting beyond politics and enjoying each others’ company.
“If Mary Matalin can live with James Carville, I could certainly put up with him,” said Elaine, speaking of her son-in-law. “We tease each other, but he is allowed to vote for whomever he pleases. We might banter, but family is family. I’m not going to hold it against him.”
Goodman has never before campaigned for a candidate, but is passionate in his fervor for electing Obama. He got in touch with Obama’s South Hills field officer, Jon Schuster, when he arrived in Pittsburgh last Tuesday, and spent the next three days knocking on doors in South Park on Obama’s behalf.
“It felt good to do it,” said Goodman. “I had been watching the news in California and getting more frustrated with the Republican attacks on Obama. I couldn’t just sit there and churn.”
Although his in-laws do not agree with his views, Goodman believes they are “supportive” while remaining strong in their own convictions.
“I think it’s a disgrace,” said Dave Rosenfield, refusing to mince words when asked what he thought about the Goodmans’ campaigning for Obama. “I told them that. They don’t agree with me. I’m really surprised at my daughter. I thought she knew better.”
Elaine, who also has never before campaigned for a candidate, has been making phone calls on behalf of McCain for weeks. Dave, a registered Democrat who has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton’s first run, was convinced by his ex-wife to make calls for McCain as well.
“If he’d listened to me like this 30 years ago,” said Elaine, “we never would have gotten divorced.”
Despite their differences, the Goodmans and the Rosenfields have kept their senses of humor throughout this campaign, and have enjoyed some “heated but respectful political discussions” around the dinner table, said Goodman.
“We didn’t hit each other,” Dave noted.
But magnanimity can only go so far. Goodman had to rent a car to do his campaign work.
“I told him, ‘You’re not using my car to campaign for Obama,’” Elaine said.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)