Growing up, I was the poet and my younger brother was the politico. I put on plays and entered writing contests, while he watched C-SPAN and organized his friends into cabinet positions. If you shared your video games with him, then he might make you secretary of Defense someday. Insult him, and you could forget about being secretary of State. Despite our differences, and a dose of sibling rivalry, we were close.
These days, we're still close. In fact, we live within 15 minutes of each other. But, politically speaking, that's another story. I'm a registered Democrat – not the kind who carries a "Democrats for McCain" sign – and he's a devoted Republican.
Long before he could vote, my brother was manning phone banks and talking up his candidates, trying to learn as much about campaigns as he could. My dad even took him on a weekend road trip before the Arizona primary in 2000 to help with the McCain primary campaign. I stayed home with Mom so I could rehearse for whatever musical I was doing at the time.
I'm still writing and he's still campaigning. He spent his summer at McCain's Washington campaign headquarters, and now, as a college senior, he spends as many weekends as he can jetting off to campaign events.
I've always been proud of him, but I've never agreed with his political views. After several heated debates about abortion and economic policy, we've just agreed to disagree. Since politics are such an important part of his life, I try to respect his views. I don't crack jokes about Sarah Palin or attend Obama rallies or post political rants on my blog. Our phone chats center on movies, friends, or family.
Though policy discussions are offlimits, I admit to feeling a surge of pride when he called from the convention to tell me he'd worked on a speech for the first lady. Or when he talked about riding in the Straight Talk Express with people I've only read about.
I'll even brag about him to my friends (most of whom have liberal leanings). Some think it's strange that two siblings with the same upbringing could turn out so differently. A few even shake their heads disapprovingly. But they can't deny that he's a smart, passionate person who commits himself 100 percent to the issues he believes in.
Recently he asked if I'd come meet Meghan McCain and see what he's been doing. I hesitated, worried that one of my liberal friends might see me next to a McCain-Palin sign and get the wrong idea. Or worse, that I'd get outed as a Democrat and embarrass my brother in front of his colleagues.
He reminded me of all the choir concerts and plays he's attended over the years, adding that it would mean a lot to have his sister supporting him in the last few weeks of the campaign. I told him I'd come as long as I didn't have to wear a campaign button or wave a sign. He agreed.
But walking into the Republican's victory headquarters made me feel a little guilty. Could they tell I wasn't one of them? Would they enlist me to paint signs or give out leaflets?
"I'm here to see my brother," I explained awkwardly, praying they wouldn't escort me out of the building for politely dodging requests to wear a sticker and man the phone bank.
I wondered: Where's the line between supporting him and supporting his party? If he ever ran for office, would I put my political views aside and hop on his campaign bus? Can you really love and support someone without fully understanding that side of them?
When it comes down to it, Democrat or Republican or Independent, he's my brother and I'm proud of the person he's become. Beneath his navy-blue blazer with a gold McCain pin at the lapel, I see the little brother who costarred in my home movies and comforts me at funerals. He's the kind of guy who is never too busy to answer my phone calls and who always follows his conscience.
My brother interrupted my inner monologue as he nudged me toward a photo op with him and Meghan McCain. Without hesitation, she offered me a hug, gushing over my brother and his dedication to the campaign.
"He's great, isn't he?"
That we could agree on.
• Susan Johnston is a freelance writer.