Barbie Adler, the owner of a high-end Chicago matchmaking service, recently told the Wall Street Journal that 75% of her clients refuse to date people who belong to a different political party than they do, up from 25% in past election cycles. Meanwhile, 40% of Americans now say they would be “upset” if their children married a member of the opposite party, up from about 20% in 2008 and about 5% in 1960.
It’s not surprising that our country’s growing political polarization is playing out in the dating realm. As Megan McArdle points out in a blog post at The Daily Beast, the more that people surround themselves with like-minded individuals, the harder it becomes for them to befriend — or date — someone with different political views.
Nowhere is this a bigger problem than in my town, Washington, D.C., where half the population works in politics and the other half wants to work in politics. A lot of my friends seem to have completely ruled out the idea of dating people who aren’t members of their political party. “I can’t date someone who doesn’t share my values” is the usual refrain.
They’re probably right: It’s hard to date someone whose values are drastically different from your own. The thing is, though, Democrats and Republicans have very similar values. Both Democrats and Republicans believe strongly in fairness, liberty and charity. Where the two sides differ is on how to realize those values — not so much on the values themselves.
Republicans are critical of social safety net programs not because they’re uncompassionate — they’re actually slightly more charitable than their Democratic counterparts — but rather because they question the effectiveness of social safety net programs and worry about their unintended consequences and long-term fiscal sustainability.
Likewise, Democrats support raising taxes not because they’re unconcerned about freedom — Democrats were actually slightly more opposed to this year’s controversial Stop Online Privacy Act than Republicans were — but rather because they think that the benefits of higher levels of taxation (increased revenue) outweigh the costs.
Democrats and Republicans have different views on human nature, the efficiency of markets and the efficacy of government, and these differences affect which policies they support, but it’s hard to see why these differences should matter in a relationship. It’s even harder to see why someone would write off half the dating population without at least giving bipartisan dating a try.
Bipartisan relationships can work — I know, because I was in one for five years — as long as both partners remember (1) that people can disagree with them without being evil, and (2) that a person’s political views are more a reflection of that person’s background than they are a reflection of his or her values.
Peter Tucci is an editor at The Daily Caller.