The Ethical Dilemma: Electing Not to Bicker over Candidates

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Anybody But: My spouse and I are often on opposite sides in elections, and during this current presidential cycle, we are more opposed than ever. He doesn’t try to change my mind, although I try to change his, but he is very adamant on advertising his preferred candidate to the world. He wanted to put a bumper sticker on our car, which I went bonkers about, insisting I wasn’t going to risk being run off the road or keyed for a candidate I don’t support. He was kind enough to back off. But last weekend we were at our beach place, and when I went back to the room, I saw he put a campaign sign against my candidate in our window that everyone passing by can see, and everyone in this community knows us. I was mortified. I went in, snatched the sign, and hid it, though my first impulse was to destroy it. He never said anything about it, and I know he has more of those signs, but he didn’t put up another one, so I guess we’re okay.

I’m just wondering if he has the right to express his political views like this when they are contrary to mine. I don’t feel any compulsion to tout my candidate, but I adamantly don’t want to appear to back his.

—He Is Not My Voice

Dear Voice,

Of course he has the right to express his views—and so do you. That includes the right not to express your views (or his). If he wants to put a bumper sticker on the car, so can you. And if he wants a sign in the window, you can have a sign in the window as well. But if you don’t want to broadcast conflicting propaganda to the world and cover your possessions with posters, you certainly shouldn’t have to go along with posting his.

You need to make clear to your spouse that he doesn’t speak for you. He has no right to plaster messages on your community property that misrepresent your views. He can wear a hat or t-shirt touting his candidate if he wants, but it would be a courtesy if he didn’t when you are with him if it makes you uncomfortable. (Or he could wear his, and you could wear one of those “I’m with stupid” shirts.)

It is not right for him to expect you to drive around advertising his candidate in lieu of your own or to override you in your shared residence. It was a good move to relocate rather than destroy his sign, and it seems you won your point in a passive-aggressive way. But go one step further and explicitly work out the ground rules with him. If you want to keep your shared space partisan-free, he needs to respect that—and respect you.