Many families are divided over politics, with husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children, wondering where their kin went so wrong.
But consider the perplexity facing Joyce Woodhouse of Raleigh, who raised her two boys, Brad and Dallas, exactly the same – rocked in the same rocker as she has so frequently told inquiring reporters.
It is not just that Brad is a Democrat and Dallas is a Republican. It is that they are political warriors, and were spear carriers in the debate over the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare.
Brad was the communications director for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, playing a major role in passage of the president’s health care program.
Dallas headed up the Koch-funded North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, where he led state efforts to defeat the federal health care law. (They have both since changed jobs but are still heavily involved in politics.)
The fraternal fight is the subject of an engaging one-hour documentary, called “Woodhouse Divided,” that premiered last week in Cary, and the previous week in Washington, D.C. The film can be watched free at woodhousedivided.com.
The documentary, produced by Bryan Miller, follows the two brothers for nearly four years, from the health care fight in 2009, to Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. It films them at work as Brad leads the communications shop at the DNC and Dallas in Raleigh as he leads rallies across the state against Obamacare. And it follows the two brothers at family holiday gatherings, as mother Joyce listens patiently as they bring their heated arguments to the dinner table.
The film is a meditation on political polarization in America. It shows how two smart Raleigh boys came to different conclusions about their government, and how, even while they still love each other – in a sibling rivalry, taunting kind of way – they are now dedicated to taking their country in different directions.
The documentary is not all about political arguments. It’s also about growing up, about raising families, and not letting strong political views ruin the really important things in life.
“At the end of the day, the political fights will change,” Dallas says, “and at the end of the day, you will have your family.”
I’ve known the two brothers for a long time – since Dallas was a TV reporter at WNCN, the local NBC affiliate, and Brad was press secretary to Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge. (Dallas’ role in running TV commercials to defeat Etheridge is still a sore point between the two brothers.)
You can’t hardly cover Raleigh politics without bumping into a Woodhouse. Mom Joyce Woodhouse was secretary to Democratic Gov. Terry Sanford. Cousin Eddie Woodhouse was an aide to Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. Uncle Edwin Woodhouse was a longtime lobbyist for agriculture interests.
It was Dallas who agreed to let his friend, Bryan Miller, make the documentary. Brad said he didn’t realize he was agreeing to several years of filming when he signed on. Miller hopes the documentary will find its way to film festivals, and then to wider distributions.
The sibling rivalry has given the brothers some celebrity status, a little like Bill Clinton adviser James Carville and his wife, Mary Matalin, the Republican consultant.
When Obama visited Raleigh, Brad had his mother meet the president, who said nice things about her son.
Even though Dallas does not like Obama, he had to admit that he was “proud” that the president of the United States was bragging to his mama about his brother.
The Cary premier drew a full house, which was filled half with liberal activists – Brad’s friends – and half with conservative activists – Dallas’ friends. Which led to some interesting audience reactions during the movie, such as when it was announced that the Affordable Care Act had passed. There was a wave of audience cheers, followed by a wave of audience boos.
The house was divided for “Woodhouse Divided.”