Family Split Over Politics Is Now on the Big Screen

The partisan divide between the Woodhouse brothers is the subject of a documentary.

National Journal
Billy House
April 30, 2014, 5:46 p.m.

They are broth­ers di­vided over polit­ics. But are the par­tis­an teas­ing and sib­ling rivalry between Brad Wood­house, former Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee spokes­man, and Dal­las Wood­house, former dir­ect­or of the North Car­o­lina chapter of Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity (the con­ser­vat­ive group foun­ded by the Koch broth­ers), the mak­ings of a great film?

Bry­an Miller thinks so, and he has spent the past four years shoot­ing a doc­u­ment­ary with the broth­ers at its cen­ter. Now, the first-time film­maker is lob­by­ing to get his 72-minute movie, Wood­house Di­vided, in­to vari­ous film fest­ivals na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing at the Amer­ic­an Film In­sti­tute’s events in the Wash­ing­ton area this sum­mer.

The film cap­tures the broth­ers pas­sion­ately pick­ing fights in pub­lic and private over health care and oth­er is­sues dur­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s first term and the 2012 cam­paign, in­clud­ing at fam­ily get-to­geth­ers over Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas.

“It’s all straight, totally real, and some­times crazy — they’re both big per­son­al­it­ies,” said Miller, who ad­ded that he tries not to take sides between the two.

Brad, 46, and Dal­las, 40, both say they like the movie. “And I think it’s an in­ter­est­ing story,” Brad said. “I think it re­flects a time when a lot of fam­il­ies are di­vided along lines of par­tis­an­ship, and how they feel about is­sues and policy.”

In the film, the broth­ers are con­stantly pok­ing fin­gers and fun at each oth­er, oc­ca­sion­ally caus­ing their moth­er, Joyce Wood­house, to cringe. “They get a little heated,” said Joyce, who lives in Raleigh and was her­self once ex­ec­ut­ive as­sist­ant to former North Car­o­lina Demo­crat­ic Gov. Terry San­ford.

When they vis­it or share time at the beach, she says, they both have a habit of con­duct­ing busi­ness loudly on their phones. She makes it a point to nev­er di­vulge in­form­a­tion she over­hears from one to the oth­er. She also re­fuses to tell her sons which pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate earned her vote. “They both think I voted for their can­did­ate. And I’m keep­ing my mouth shut,” she said.

The big ques­tion — not par­tic­u­larly answered in the film — is ex­actly why or how broth­ers who grew up to­geth­er, once shared a place as adults, and are both now mar­ried with two young chil­dren could drift so far apart polit­ic­ally. Joyce says she can’t ex­plain it, of­fer­ing what is sure to be­come her stand­ard line. “I rocked them as ba­bies in the same rock­er,” she said.

For Brad, who waves the Demo­crat­ic ban­ner, there is no clear an­swer for why Dal­las, who has spent his ca­reer in North Car­o­lina, views things dif­fer­ently. “I really don’t know how to ex­plain it oth­er than he’s be­come an angry not-so-old white guy,” he joked.

But Dal­las re­sponds that he’s al­ways been a little more cen­ter-right, and that it was Brad who “changed” after he left the state for Wash­ing­ton “and lost all com­mon sense.”

“He fights his battles and I fight mine,” Dal­las said, adding that “I can get un­der his skin. And he starts yelling. He gets mad­der about it than I do.”

Nat­ur­ally, Brad doesn’t agree. “I’m the first one who tries to de­fuse these situ­ations — be­cause if I am with my broth­er and my wife, I’m get­ting double-teamed,” he said. (Brad is mar­ried to Jes­sica Carter, chief of staff to Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Steph­en Finch­er of Ten­ness­ee.)

Brad says their fam­ily was in­volved in polit­ics as long as he can re­mem­ber, usu­ally as Demo­crats in North Car­o­lina state and loc­al races. He most re­cently spent five years at the DNC, help­ing to lead the mes­saging wars over the Af­ford­able Care Act and oth­er is­sues, and he has since re­joined Amer­ic­ans United for Change, a lib­er­al ad­vocacy group, as pres­id­ent, and runs the Demo­crat­ic su­per PAC Amer­ic­an Bridge. His primary role is daily rap­id re­sponse to Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates.

Dal­las, a former on-air tele­vi­sion host and polit­ic­al re­port­er, launched a new non­profit or­gan­iz­a­tion in North Car­o­lina called Car­o­lina Rising in April after work­ing with Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity. In that role he was a highly vis­ible crit­ic of Obama­care and the state’s two pre­vi­ous Demo­crat­ic gov­ernors.

In­deed, health care is a point of fric­tion between the two, at least ac­cord­ing to Dal­las, who is dia­bet­ic. “The mad­dest I ever got at my broth­er was when I lost my en­do­crino­lo­gist — a single-prac­tice en­do­crino­lo­gist,” he said, not­ing that the doc­tor told him he could no longer prac­tice un­der Obama­care. “I called up my broth­er and cussed him out for try­ing to kill me!”

In fact, the doc­u­ment­ary has its roots in health care, ad­dress­ing some of Dal­las’s three-year cru­sade against the law — and against the ef­forts of his older broth­er to sell it.

Miller says he star­ted film­ing Dal­las about five years ago at some “Hands Off of Health Care” events, then went up to D.C. and met Brad. His in­ten­tion was to do “a quick little 20-minute short on health care.” But then the broad­er story struck him.

“They are two totally po­lar op­pos­ite broth­ers — yet, at the end of the day they get along and truly love each oth­er,” he said.

As Dal­las put it, “The truth is that a lot of fam­il­ies who have dis­agree­ments might see their own lives in this movie.”

What We're Following See More »
DONATING TO FOOD BANKS
Government Buying $20 Million in Cheese
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Thanks to competition from Europe, America's cheese stockpiles are at a 30-year high. Enter the U.S. government, which announced it's buying 11 million pounds of the stuff (about $20 million). The cheese will be donated to food banks.

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
THE SHAKE-UP CONTINUES
RNC’s Spicer to Work from Trump HQ
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican party will coordinate more closely going forward, with the GOP's top communicator and chief strategist Sean Spicer increasingly working out of Trump campaign headquarters, the campaign confirmed Sunday."

Source:
×