Democrats Divided, Even at Dinner Table

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 9, 2008

Jennifer Robinson's husband remained quiet when she lauded the virtues of Sen. Barack Obama, explaining how the Illinois Democrat's vision inspired her and gave her hope, how he, if anyone, could bring bipartisanship to a split country.

Paul Robinson never hushed his wife, never tried to dissuade her. He simply declared in an e-mail this week during a business trip that he would vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for president.

"I sat there for a moment. Then I just wrote back 'Wow' in all caps, 'WOW,' " said Jennifer Robinson, 36, a politically active Fairfax City homemaker. "Just to see it in writing, to see it so final. You have a rumbling and a thought, but that shattered everything."

Just as Super Tuesday revealed a divide among the nation's Democrats, many households are finding loyalties split as the capital region prepares to vote in Tuesday's primaries.

Political experts measure the divide along gender, racial and ethnic lines. But a look at families shows the unbounded complexities of individual political identity. Within homes, lines have been drawn, sides picked. Paul Robinson, 37, a black man, chose the white female candidate. His wife, who also is black, chose the African American male candidate.

Political passions also divide generations.

Michele Chapman, 52, drove up to her house in Alexandria a few days ago and found two signs planted on her lawn: one for Clinton, whom she supports, the other for Obama, whom her son backs.

"I wish I smoked at that time, so I could get a lighter out" to burn the Obama sign, Chapman joked. The house is next to a traffic light, she said, so most people who stop see the signs. "They are sitting there saying, 'These people are confused.' "

As a woman who raised two children alone, Chapman said she likes Clinton because she has done a lot for children and lower-income families.

"I just feel she has more experience. She's had 35 years working for change," said Chapman, a retired school administrative assistant. As she spoke, her son, John, 26, sat next to her, laughing and shaking his head, a move that did not go unnoticed. "See, it just makes him crazy," she said.

John Chapman, president of Alexandria Young Democrats, said he and his mother were united in support of Clinton until he was drawn by Obama's energy and message.

"It's something new. What we've been doing in the past hasn't worked," he said.

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