Dear Prudence

The Best, Election-Related Dear Prudie Letters All in One Place

A whole lot of Prudie to pass the time on Election Day.

Woman smiling wearing an I Voted sticker on her shirt.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by vesperstock/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

We’re publishing a special-edition column of classic Prudie letters to help readers pass the time on Election Day, whether you’re in line to vote or anxiously awaiting results. (If you prefer to face your anxiety head on, Slate writers are covering the latest news.) 

Dear Prudence, 

Years ago I was pressured by one of my superiors into having an affair with him in exchange for a promotion and substantial raise. I was very young at the time, and didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I’ve always felt terrible for what I allowed to happen to me, and that I just let the man get away with it. I had been considering reporting him to his superiors (I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s put several new hires and interns in the same position to date) but he left the company to run for a prominent office in our city. I’m now faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to expose him publicly for what he really is. I feel it would be the right thing to do, but part of me is afraid of the scandal that would surely follow, and I’m not sure I want to be in the middle of it. Should I take the plunge?

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—Reveal Past Affair

This is a terribly hard decision to make because unfortunately, as has played out over and over again, women who truthfully accuse powerful men of sexually abusing them often find themselves trashed. If you go ahead, you need to be prepared to have your entire life exposed: that shoplifting arrest in high school, the bad check you passed in your 20s. As you know, men who behave this way almost always do it to many women, and they need to be exposed and stopped. When Herman Cain was first accused of sexual improprieties, he went on the attack and it wasn’t pretty for his accuser. But then other women stepped forward and Cain was cooked. I hope you step up, but first you should protect yourself. Talk to a lawyer about how best to go about this. If you have the names of other victims, maybe an attorney can reach out to them and they might come forward to support you. You can strategize about how best to make your situation known—probably through an interview at the local newspaper. You will be doing the citizens of your state a service by letting them know the true character of the man who would serve them.—Emily Yoffe

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From: Help! My Boss Pressured Me Into an Affair and Is Now Running for Office. Should I Expose Him? (Oct. 1, 2012).

Dear Prudence,

Many years ago I had a brief, passion-filled affair with a co-worker. I had no kids (I now have one), and he had two (now has more). There was no fallout as our spouses (the same then as they are now) never found out. We were utterly enamored with each other, but never considered leaving our families due, in a large part, to our diametrically opposed political outlooks. I am incredibly liberal, he staunchly conservative. Were we to have attempted being together in the real world, the amount of strife caused by our differing views would have made the relationship unsustainable. Still, I do occasionally think back on our affair with intense longing. Eventually, he moved several states away, and I had a baby and got on with my life. I have never had another affair—for me it was about him, but I’m not sure if he ever has. We aren’t in contact, though I think of him fondly. He has transitioned into politics as a career, become even more conservative, and is now running for a powerful position. If he is elected, he will be able to enact what I consider to be very negative changes to women’s rights and the environment. I have proof of the affair that would likely derail his campaign—but maybe not, as he’s a charmer. I am now wondering if it’s my civic duty to come forward. I don’t think I could do this anonymously, but I think my husband and I could weather the storm. I also don’t want to hurt his wife or family. But maybe I should take this hit for the greater good, because there are millions of people who could be negatively affected should he win. What should I do?

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—Blue About It

Please spare us yet another politician making that lipless grimace while standing next to a wife who looks as if she’s been hit with a 2-by-4. You’re right you can’t out him anonymously. While you hope your marriage would weather this, you actually have no idea how your husband would react. You’d be giving him a terrible shock, then opening your private lives to public ridicule. If he shares your political beliefs, he’ll be thinking that you slept with the enemy solely because the guy was so damn good in bed. Let’s say your confession causes your husband to divorce you. Telling your child you blew up your family so that a bad man wouldn’t vote for abortion restrictions or would allow fracking is likely not going to make you a heroic figure. If your ex-lover doesn’t win because of you, that just leaves an opening for another conservative in the next election. If during your affair he had impregnated you and assisted you in getting you an abortion, then he could kiss this election goodbye. But that didn’t happen, so while his views on reproductive rights may be repellent to you, he’s likely not running on an anti-infidelity platform. If it turns out he’s not a compulsive screw-around, he can say that years ago he made a terrible mistake, deeply regrets it, and all he can do is ask forgiveness of his family and the voters. Even you acknowledge there’s a good chance he’d receive it. Voters might even be sympathetic to a politician who got blindsided over a long-ago dalliance by a lover who simply hated his politics. If you want to do something to make yourself feel better, give the biggest check you can afford to his opponent. —EY

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From: Help! I Once Had an Affair With a Man Now Running for Office. Should I Come Forward? (Oct. 16, 2014).

Dear Prudence,

My husband is running for mayor of our small city against a popular incumbent. Unfortunately, this man is not above going negative; his campaign has dug up the fact that my husband and I started dating while I was separated, but not yet divorced, from my ex-husband. We live in a very conservative area, and despite all of the economic problems the city is facing, it looks as if this will become an issue in the election this spring. We have suffered quite a few hateful remarks in public already, and I’m afraid the harassment will multiply. My husband is a real soldier in facing this, but I’m not sure how much more I can handle, and I’m considering asking him to drop out of the race. On the other hand, the party leaders have shown tremendous support for my husband, and people have donated countless hours of their time. I’m not sure whether my hurt should outweigh the hard work of my husband and his supporters, but I’m also not sure how long I can stand this.

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—Distraught Wife

Remind me again why so many good people turn away from politics. Perhaps you can gain some strength from knowing you and your husband have done nothing wrong, and that caving in just encourages this kind of vitriol. Your husband can deal with this head-on by saying something like: “My opponent can say what he likes about me, but I will not stand for him smearing my wife. Meeting Mary is the best thing to ever happen to me. Given the serious problems that face Bedford Falls, if my opponent thinks the biggest issue before us is my courtship of my wife, then that’s the best argument possible for getting new leadership.” The election is only a few months away. I know it seems hard, but try to keep in perspective the ludicrousness of attacking you because you were dating while you were legally separated. No matter how conservative your town is, fortunately you can’t be buried in the sand and stoned for this. Stand proud, stick it out, and let your example embarrass the small-minded.—EY

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From: Family mental health issues, political mudslinging, STD concerns: Advice from Dear Prudence. (Jan. 20, 2011).

Dear Prudence, 

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An old friend is running for office. She was a counselor for me as a teenager. We’ve never discussed politics and had lost touch (except for Facebook) until a mutual friend’s funeral recently. She asked if I would help with her campaign via Facebook messenger. She is running for local school board (non-partisan) and I am not a parent. I’ve already told her yes because I wanted to be supportive but also asked about her platform and who she was running against. She gave me her campaign website which is pretty generic about her experience. Her opponent has several endorsements but again, a pretty generic website although he does say he supports LGBTQ+ students. I decided to check her and her opponent’s party registration on our State Board of Elections website. My old friend is registered as a Republican, her opponent is unaffiliated.

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I am a progressive person. I often post news stories and views on Facebook. There is no way she doesn’t know that I’m at least liberal-leaning. I have no idea what to do at this point. I know that the school board can be so contentious, but we are in an urban, liberal area so I’m not sure if that applies here. I don’t think she believes in things like banning books or critical race theory. Nothing on her Facebook page suggests she is a Trump supporter. What should I do and how do I talk to her about it? I don’t want to damage the relationship (though we haven’t been in contact, we have a bunch of mutual friends, and she is a member of my liberal protestant church). Unless she doesn’t support non-negotiable issues, I am willing to be friends (we had talked about getting together again soon), but I don’t want to support a Republican running for any office.

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—Candidate Confusion

“Hi Candidate Friend. I know I agreed to help with your campaign, but as I was getting up to speed on you and your opponent, I learned that you’re a Republican. As you probably know from my Facebook posts, I’m a very progressive person so I’m not sure this will be a great fit. If I’ve misunderstood something or if you want to give me a call and let me know more about your stances on the issues the school board is taking on, I would be happy to keep an open mind and see if we’re actually more aligned than I thought. Otherwise, I will go ahead and take a step back from volunteering but I hope you’re doing well during this busy time for you, and I hope we can still get together just for fun like we’d planned.”—Jenée Desmond-Harris

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From: Help! I Promised to Help a Friend Running for Office. Uh, I Just Found Out We Have Very Different Views. (Sept. 17, 2022).

Dear Prudence,

My sibling is a toxic, narcissistic, controlling codependent type who is estranged from several people in our extended family. They are verbally and emotionally abusive to their spouse and extended family, including our aged father. While we were moving Dad into assisted living, we discovered they had secretly changed his estate planning documents to give themselves complete control (Dad didn’t realize what the revised documents actually said). They lied about it when it came to light. They’ve also been fired from multiple professional positions due to toxic behavior.

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They are now campaigning for local political office, with little substance behind positions, but with great publicity and lots of photo ops. Like many in the current political arena, the narcissism is the likely driver behind the campaign. I think our sibling is “unfit” for office. Should I write a letter to the local paper (about why I can’t support them) or otherwise get involved? Do these character issues really matter, or is the family discord irrelevant and impairing my view?

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—Concerned Out-of-District Voter

The situation with your sibling is a little similar to that of Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, whose six siblings spoke out against his reelection campaign. It generated a lot of press, but ultimately he was reelected. So it’s worth asking yourself what result you’re hoping to get. Not to put on the election strategist hat, but do you think adding your voice to this election will have the result you intend, or will it simply bring more drama into your life? That’s not to say you shouldn’t speak out if your sibling’s polling numbers are too good, but you should be clear about what you want to accomplish here and if your tactics can achieve that. Some of the things you intend to write about are, unfortunately, going to come off as family issues and may be less persuasive. Others, like financial elder abuse, are illegal and, if provable, should be aired. But if you can’t prove it, you open yourself up to libel. In an ideal world, character matters. But in the worlds of politics and PR (and family), it’s not always that clear.—R. Eric Thomas

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From: Help! My Sibling Is Running for Office. I Want to Tell Everyone Not to Vote for Them. (May 24, 2022).

Dear Prudence,

I’m in my mid-20s and my best friend from high school is running for political office for the first time. We’ve lived in different cities since high school, so I don’t see him often, but I was the best man at his wedding and I love him as a friend. The problem is he asked me for money for his campaign, and I disagree with his politics. He’s smart and well-educated, but he’s a relatively extreme Republican and some of his stances make me sick. If I did donate I suppose I could match his with one to a left-wing candidate in a close race in a different district. What should I do?

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—Undecided Citizen

It’s one thing to be asked to donate to a friend’s cause that’s not at the top of your list—he raises money for historic preservation and you’re interested in population control. It’s another to be solicited to support an ideology you feel is noxious. I do wish more people could look across the political aisle and say, as you do of your friend, that while you profoundly disagree with his conclusions, you think he’s arrived at them honorably. Still, that doesn’t mean you should cut a check to someone who would try to implement policies you hate. I think you should write to your friend and say you will always wish him happiness and success. Then say, in case he didn’t know, you need to reveal a secret: You’re a Democrat, a really liberal one. Explain you hope he understands that while you’re personally proud of him, you two need to keep politics out of your friendship. But if he wins, you will raise a glass to a great guy’s victory.—EY

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From: Help! A Man Keeps Giving Presents to My 5-Year-Old Daughter. (June 7, 2012).

Dear Prudence,

My daughters have been phone banking, calling Arizona and Michigan and so on to get out the vote. I didn’t want to do that but I felt guilty. Then I read an article in Slate about using the dating app Hinge to get out the vote. That sounded like fun to me, so I set up an account. I figured that there were few people my age (about 70) on Hinge, so I used a pic that was 40(!) years old and pretended to be young, single, and child-free. My state was also in the bag as far as electoral votes were concerned, so I decided to “live” in another state. Anyway, you could say I was catfishing, but I figured it was for a good cause—no one would get hurt, thus, no harm, no foul.

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However. I found a match. Of course he is much younger than I am and lives in a different state. But we are politically similar. And we have the same (very niche!) hobby. (I can’t name the hobby, because all my friends who read this column would immediately identify me! But, as a false example, it is not that we both like to read biographies—it is more like we both like to make art with old encyclopedias. So we share this unusual passion.)

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Now I want to tell him the truth and be friends. But I know that no one wants to be fooled. Is there any way to break the news—that I am decades older than he is and not interested in dating—that would not destroy this budding relationship?

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—Catfishing

No, sorry! But you can certainly find other people online who share your interest in this hobby, so go forth and do so honestly.—Danny M. Lavery

From: Help! I Catfished a Much Younger Man to Help Get Out the Vote. (Nov. 10, 2020).

Dear Prudence,

I live in Ohio, the battleground state in this year’s presidential election. I have just learned that my mother, who is the caretaker of my aging and infirm grandparents, has filled out their absentee ballots for them, having them vote for my mother’s preferred party. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and believes it’s 1989. She is unaware of a single issue being discussed in the election. Worse, my grandmother has been a lifelong voter for a party that is not the one my mother supports. Should I attempt to intervene in some way?

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—Feeling the Civil War in Ohio

I’m going to guess that your ardent opposition to voter fraud does not make this the first time you have found your mother’s actions wanting. If your mother has filled out a ballot for people who are too mentally incompetent to make their own decision, or is she has filled out a ballot that is contradictory to the wishes of one or both and coerced them into signing it—or signed for them—then she is committing a crime. Since the integrity of the voting process is fundamental to democracy, and if your report of your mother’s actions is accurate, then her behavior is morally and legally indefensible and I join you in condemning her. At this point, assuming the ballots have been mailed, the only way to intervene would be to report this to the local election board. They should flag the ballots and at the least see if the signatures on the envelopes match those of the voter registration applications. Maybe the officials will find the ballots suspicious and investigate further. Let’s say they decide to make an example of your mother and prosecute her for voter fraud. Yes, justice may well be done, but at a very high cost to your family. It will be obvious that someone with a close but not affectionate relationship ratted her out. If your mother ends up busy with her legal defense, then someone else is going to have to pick up the slack of caring for your grandparents. Not every wrong can be righted, and I think you’re better off concluding this is one of those cases. But if on Tuesday it turns out the presidential election is decided by a two-vote margin in Ohio, then you’re going to have a story the whole country will want to hear.—EY

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From: Help! My Girlfriend Dumped Me for My Looks—They’re Too Good. (Nov. 1, 2012).

Dear Prudence,

I have been happily (mostly) married to a great man for the past 17 years. This past election season, he ran for our local city council election and came close to winning. Because he did so well, he is being courted by the local party to run in another local election in 2012. The thing is, I hated the whole process of campaigning, and the thought of him running again makes me fantasize about moving into my own apartment during the campaign season. I told him that I needed a few months to think about whether I could support another campaign, but I don’t see my feelings changing in three months. My question: Should I endure another campaign season (and possibly more) and support him, or should I tell him that I can’t support him this time? I know this is something that he really wants to do, and I know he ( and others) will try to make me feel guilty for not supporting him. But I think that another campaign will not be good for my mental health or for our marriage.

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—Spousal Relationship

By not supporting your husband’s race, I hope you don’t intend to campaign for his opponent. You haven’t made clear whether you hated the role you were forced to play, or whether you hated the fact that the campaign consumed all his time and you felt like a political widow. If it’s the former, then the answer is you need to tell him you plan to be the be the kind of political wife Dr. Judith Steinberg was—she’s the spouse of Howard Dean. While he was running for president, she continued her Vermont medical practice and was virtually invisible on the campaign trail. If you can’t stand the effect getting involved in politics has on your time together, then you two need some honest conversations about how important this race is to him, and how damaging it would be to your marriage.—EY

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From: Help! I Kissed My Wife’s Ex-Husband’s New Wife. (Nov. 21, 2011).

Dear Prudence,

The father of one of my daughter’s good friends in middle school has contacted me and asked me for an endorsement in the upcoming election. He’s running for a city council position. I am a prominent businessman and philanthropist in our large city, and so far he hasn’t been able to attract many big endorsements. The problem is, I think this man’s a lousy father, businessman, and person. I don’t want to endorse him at all. How can I tactfully reject his request so as to maintain our daughters’ friendship?

—Turning Down an Endorsement Request

Tell him that as a matter of policy you’ve decided not to do endorsements for this race. If you have endorsed before and he mentions that, you can say that policies are sometimes in flux and this is currently where you stand. Surely as a businessman and philanthropist you have plenty of experience telling people, “No.”—EY

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From: Help! My Fiancé Had a Child With His Brother’s Wife. (Oct. 8, 2012).

Dear Prudence,

This will be my first election ever, and I’m really excited to vote. My parents are both political junkies and do a lot of volunteer work. The problem is they are in opposite parties. This has never been a problem at home since they are very good at agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s opinions. But its different being stuck in the middle. I’m pretty sure I know who I’m voting for, but I haven’t told either my mom or dad and they keep trying to convince me their guy is better. Do you think I should just tell them who my candidate is they might just accept it and stop campaigning for my vote?

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—My Family’s Swing Vote

Tell them that if they each were on television as part of a political ad, you would change the channel. If they were phone canvassers, you would hang up. If you want to tell them who you’re voting for, fine. But don’t expect that will shut up the other one. If you don’t want to tell, remind them that in this country we have a secret ballot.—EY

From: Help! My Girlfriend Grows Hair on Her Chest. (Oct. 16, 2012)

Another Classic Prudie Question

My mother is a very intense person. She’s passionately angry about the state of our country (I am too, for the record!) and she can’t talk about anything else. Everything is negative. Everything is outrage. And of course, she isn’t doing anything to improve the situation like volunteering or donating money. She’s just angry and yelling into the void constantly. And it’s gotten worse…

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