Tony Norman: Candidate’s extremist spouse is a challenge

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My wife prides herself on not being a regular reader of this column. Being in the dark about it gives her cover for when a column she truly considers idiotic comes along, which is at least twice a month.

“No, I didn’t read Tony’s latest rant,” she’ll say when queried about it on Facebook. Believe me, that’s a lot better than her previous dodge: “What, Tony still has a column?” 

It’s not that our politics or ideas about life or society are all that different. With the exception of whether God exists -- she’s an atheist, I’m not -- our disagreements tend to be on the margins, but those margins are a big deal for her. Thus, her informal boycott of my column continues. 

Maybe this is pure projection, but I think it is the nature of spouses to disagree once the weird alchemy that initially draws couples together cools from its magical, hot golden ingot peak and settles into the common-coin-made-from-lumpy-slag phase that, incidentally, makes every relationship more suitable for daily handling. 

Today, the voters in and around Plainfield, Conn., will decide if a candidate running for probate judge in the Democratic primary can fairly distance herself from her husband’s opinions. By all accounts, Anna Zubkova, a Plainfield lawyer, is a mainstream Democrat. Before her husband became a factor in the race last week, Ms. Zubkova managed to score the endorsement of her hometown’s Democratic committee over her main rival, Andrea Truppa.

Rob Freeman, Ms. Zubkova’s husband of 17 years, isn’t a Democrat. He’s a former member of the National Alliance, a once prominent neo-Nazi militia group that has fallen on hard times. These days, Mr. Freeman runs his own blog called “Mindweapons of Ragnarok,” a cheesy “pro-white” site in which he warns his readers of a coming racial apocalypse that will consume whites unless they wake up and start associating strictly along racial lines again.

“I am defending that part of my identity that is being attacked,” he wrote recently. “I am defending my own, and I welcome all sincere allies -- Black, Hispanic, Jewish, Asian, Muslim, Arab, Persian.”  Yeah, good luck with that, buddy. While he’s at it, he can also explain his crazy theory that the 2003 American invasion of Iraq wouldn’t have happened if only “white people had a voice in the government,” instead of those rogue black guys George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. 

Of course, Ms. Zubkova is mortified by her husband’s sudden prominence and has sought to address the controversy head on: “He did not have those views when we married, but acquired them after,” she said. “What am I supposed to do -- divorce him?” As anyone who has been threatened with divorce for far less than being a neo-Nazi can tell you, that might not be a bad option to seriously consider.

Because Ms. Zubkova and Mr. Freeman have a daughter, divorce isn’t something that should be considered for reasons of pure political expediency. It’s possible that even an extremist who believes a race war is not only imminent, but desirable, has good qualities we can’t imagine.

Still, you have to wonder what their small talk at dinner is like.

Her: “So, honey, how did the cross-burning in Hartford go today? Scare any black kids at recess, or did they just laugh at you?”

Him: “How many times do I have to tell you -- I’m a neo-Nazi, not a Klansman! There’s a difference. I would never have anything to do with those sheet-wearing freaks. I’m an old-school white power fascist schooled in Third Reich logic. Heil Hitler and pass the potatoes.”

If Ms. Zubkova isn’t thoroughly disgusted by her husband’s opinions, she should be. Her judgment will constantly be called into question whether she wins the primary or not. She probably loves him, which is admirable in a perverse way.

Twenty-three years ago, Woody Allen, whom my wife says I should never quote in any context, put his finger on the heart of Ms. Zubkova’s marital dilemma in describing a controversial love story of his own: “The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love, and that’s that.”

Tony Norman: or 412-263-1631; Twitter: @TonyNormanPG.

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