the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Al and Tipper Gore: A Story of Too Much Sacrifice Too Long?

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Marriage has become as disposable as diapers. Even for Tipper and Al Gore.
As Politics Daily’s Editor in Chief Melinda Henneberger wrote about the couple, “If they couldn’t stay together after 40 years, four kids, almost losing their son to a terrible accident, her depression, his schedule, their winning and losing and worse – and then coming back from what must have been hell together after the recount – well, what, if anything, does that mean for the rest of us?”
Let’s have a moment of revisionist history. It’s 2000 and instead of George W. Bush becoming president, Al Gore wins the recount. He and Tipper move into the White House, finally out of the shadow of Bill and Hillary. He creates a green economy. She focuses on mental illness and the homeless. They tackle Hurricane Katrina as a couple. Together, they accomplish a litany of progressive programs – a 21st century Great Society.
You have to wonder if Al and Tipper have played the “what if” game a hundred times in their heads. Sure, Al won the Nobel Peace Prize and tries to save the planet, and Tipper’s list of accomplishments is impressive, including author and photographer. Still, they invested a lot of years into a political marriage aimed for the White House, only to have it disintegrate in the dust of a Supreme Court ruling.
Marriage is hard. Political marriages are even harder – like rock stars’ marriages except with policy wonkiness instead of song lyrics. It takes a mammoth ego to run for office. Politicians are continuously surrounded by aides catering to every whim. A vice president and second lady for eight years grow accustomed to even more presidential pomp and perks.
Then, there was Tipper and Al’s collective dream of the presidency sealed – they believed – with that passionate kiss at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Oops, psyche. Sorry, you don’t win. Deal with it. Or maybe don’t.
The last ten years for Al and Tipper have likely involved a hard examination of their hopes and dreams both as a couple and individuals. Tipper sacrificed a lot of herself, no doubt, for Al’s political career. If she hadn’t married Al, she may have been the great girl drummer of her generation.
Tipper is not the first person to forgo dreams in a marriage, nor will she be the last. Plenty men and women do it every day.
So why even marry?
That question bubbled at a lovely wedding that I attended the weekend before Tipper and Al’s big break-up. The theory was that marriage – aside from all of its blessed tulle and tuxedo bliss – seems like a hefty investment for companionship that might not last until death.
“Nice that they invited us to celebrate the beginning of what will be the hardest thing they ever do in life,” one girlfriend said.
Cynical, yes. But perhaps accurate. Marriage is like climbing an emotional Mt. Everest. Yet plenty of people want to do it, including the skeptical friend who uttered those words.
But not me. I crave adventure more than stability. Maybe it’s a way of rebelling against what was my childhood norm.
My parents were married for 51 years when my dad died last year. They were like two peas in a pod – where one went, so did the other. When my dad went to the local coffee shop in the afternoons to solve the world’s problems, my mom went too. She was the only woman sitting around jabbering about politics. She didn’t go because she was jealous. They just truly loved hanging out with each other. Not every day was a fairy tale, but they worked through their problems.
Did my mom surrender her own interests? Of course. One thing she always wanted to be: a girl drummer like Tipper. Did my dad? Yes; he wanted to live in California.
There’s not a marriage vow that says, “I’ll sacrifice my interests for yours and you’ll sacrifice your interests for mine.”
But maybe there should be.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm

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