Monday, July 28, 2014


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Agreeing To Disagree: The U.S. Election And One Middle Class Couple

He's voting for Romney and she's plumping for Obama -- politics are a bone of contention in the Marountas household.
He's voting for Romney and she's plumping for Obama -- politics are a bone of contention in the Marountas household.
By Heather Maher
For him, it’s gun rights and gay marriage. For her, it’s health care and individual freedom.

It’s an understatement to say George and Abreen Marountas are focused on different issues in this upcoming presidential election.

The married couple, who have three small children, live in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Ashburn, Virginia -- a critical state in this year’s election because its residents are almost equally divided in their support for Democrat President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

The Marountas household is similarly split. George and Abreen’s votes will cancel each other out because he plans to vote for Romney and she’s voting for Obama.

Ask George, who emigrated from Greece 25 years ago, why he’s voting for Romney and the first reason he gives is that he agrees with the party’s pro-death penalty position.

"I don't necessarily believe that homosexuals should be married," he says. "I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And the other reason why I’m Republican is because of the fact that they absolutely support the right of an individual to [own guns].”

Ask Abreen why she’s voting for Obama and she talks about how important personal freedom is to her. Originally from Afghanistan, her diplomat father raised her in Saudi Arabia where she says "females had zero freedom."

"He wanted a better life for me, so we came here," she says. "So, you know, I feel that liberty [and] freedom -- as a female, as a mother, a wife -- [being a Democrat] just goes with my beliefs."

Different Priorities

Abreen isn’t bothered by the idea of two men or two women having the right to legally marry, and the issue of gun rights barely interests her.

Similarly, George doesn’t even mention the issue that’s most important to his wife: the health care law that Obama signed in 2010, which Romney has pledged to repeal.

"My priorities are my children and really, the pinnacle for me, is health care," Abreen says. "So everything else is really noise to me. I really, really, really, am concerned about my children’s future. My children could bleed to death if they don’t have insurance so it’s very, very important to me.”

Two of the couple’s three children have a chronic illness and need constant care and medicine. The Affordable Care Act bans insurance companies from setting lifetime limits on how much they will pay for a person’s medical care and prevents them from denying coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition. It also lets children remain on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26. 

According to Abreen, her husband doesn’t share her concern because she -- not he -- is the children's primary caregiver. She isn’t bitter about that; she simply sees it as her role.

"George is a very intelligent man, he’s the businessman of the family, but I’m the practical person -- I’m the everyday parent that deals with children who have medical issues," she says. "Their hospital bills are very high. Their medication – just to keep them safe and healthy – is about $100,000 a year. You can hit a million-dollar lifetime max in 10 years. That's extremely scary for me. So the blocking of the health care bill [by Romney], I mean, there’s not even a discussion for me, I need that. That’s the life of my children, really."

Not Seeing Eye To Eye On Entitlements

The couple also diverge in their views on government benefits. In this election, so-called "entitlement programs" -- assistance for the poor, pensions for the elderly, and care for veterans – are a target for Republicans, who say too much money is being spent on them.

George says Democrats let people who should be working take money from the government. He sees a parallel with his debt-ridden home country of Greece, which is paying the price of decades of high public spending:

"It is always good to help the poor and the needy. I’m not against that at all. I feel it’s a necessary element," he says. "Every society should make provisions and be able to help those who cannot afford medical care, or food, or housing.  Absolutely.  But there is a subset of the population who, for whatever reason, don’t want to work. They don’t feel they should work. And they expect the government to give them a free ride. That’s what I’m against."

Abreen is also concerned that government benefits sometimes go to people who don’t need them. But she’s also worried that the deep spending cuts Romney is proposing could leave some truly needy people out in the cold.

On the issue of taxes -- one of the biggest differences between Romney and Obama -- George feels strongly that the wealthy should be included in tax cuts.

But Abreen disagrees.

"You shouldn’t be penalized for being rich," she says. "But unfortunately, [people in] the middle class are the ones that are hurting. I know many people who are literally living paycheck to paycheck, who make good money, who work in really good companies, but they struggle. And if the wealthy have the ability because they’re living comfortably, then something's got to give."

All this disagreement raises the question: can this politically divided couple talk politics together?

"Sometimes we don’t really talk about politics because it’s a point of contention," says Abreen. "He’s very traditional. He’s not as open-minded as I am, but that’s the thing about America -- it’s a country of freedom, people can do whatever they want, and what people choose as far as their mates, however they live, that’s their own business. He and I don’t see eye to eye on that.”

But they do see eye to eye on this: their political disagreements don't change how they feel about each other.

"We married out of love and we’re still together out of love, so the other items – yeah, there might be difference of opinion or beliefs, but I don’t necessarily know if it makes a huge difference at the end of the day," says George. "It’s just preference. It’s the same thing as liking a certain type of food – some people like Italian, some people like Chinese."
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