When arch enemies Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner exchanged a fleeting moment of passion after a House Majority leadership vote, the photo of the exchange went viral, and not just because of its supreme awkwardness. Instances of interpolitical tenderness are about as rare as Congress passing a bill.
Putting Boeh-Losi romance rumors aside, political differences have become so polarizing they appear to be permeating Americans' relationships. A 2009 survey of married couples found that only 9% were cross-party pairs. And it's gotten worse in recent years: In 1960, 4% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans said they'd be displeased if their children married an opposing party member; in 2010, those numbers were up to 33% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans.
The polarized political environment has clearly impacted the married generations older than us. Given how cynical young people supposedly are about dating, you'd think that it was ruining courtship too. After all, with our ever-growing pool of online and app-based options, today's dating world lends itself to pickiness even without the added layer of political disagreement.
But the romantic reality for millennials is more optimistic. As my brief jaunt on a Republican dating site confirmed, we're transcending the current partisan political divide in the way we date — and it's a positive indicator of what a new generation of politics can look like.
Partisan dating apps miss the mark: Evidence of the fact that millennials don't ascribe to political identities exists on online dating sites. Liberal Hearts and Republican Singles Dating have been around for almost a decade, while new sites like Red State Date have recently been added to the market. But none have gotten serious attention from young users.
A quick look at Red State Date (yes, I joined, because I'm a real journalist) shows just how ridiculously specific partisan dating can be. As Business Insider summed it up, "Finally, a Way to Date Only People Who Agree With You on Politics."
For starters, there's this hilarious promo with an S.E Cupp lookalike host that warns of the perils of inter-party dating.
Sure, it appears to be tongue-in-cheek; but the website is serious business. In order to complete my profile, I had to fill out a very explicit checklist on my politics (because apparently nothing gets me in the mood like offshore drilling).
Although I was shocked to find there are some Republicans in Brooklyn (OK, there was one), the entire experience felt profoundly off-putting. The site, from the survey questions to the site's promo images, would be a hilarious parody of our society's political divisiveness... if only it weren't real.
There's a reason filling out the hyper-specific questions felt so unnatural, and it's not just because no one debates the validity of fair trade agreements over mozzarella sticks on their first date (and if you are, it might be why you aren't scoring a second one).
It's because politically specific dating websites don't reflect the way 20-somethings date — or the way we think about politics.
Politics doesn't require divisive parties: Political dating websites aren't just bizarre; they also fail to truly represent 20-somethings and the increasing resistance to identify along party lines. Although we are very politically engaged, adopting labels seems unnecessary at best or counterproductive at worst. We are more likely to identify as independents and tend to connect with issues rather than parties.
Tellingly, the popular site OkCupid doesn't start out by asking users which party they affiliate with; instead, it serves many an issue-based query: "Is homosexuality a sin?" The focus is on the issue, not the party.
Millennials' discomfort with political classification means that interpolitical dating can, indeed, work — and that operating on strict party lines seems absurd. To highlight the inherent ridiculousness of strictly dating within your political in-group, the Daily Show set up a Republican and a Democrat (hi!) on a blind date and proved that yes, it's entirely possible.
Thankfully, cross-party dating success isn't limited to TV. Kristin Zanotti, a 24-year-old professional from Boston, identifies as a Democrat and vocal feminist and has been joyously paired with a Republican for almost two years.
"My new relationship with a Republican is easy-going, honest and happy. A tiff or difference over a political issue doesn't weigh heavily or affect our relationship at all," she told Mic. Although they don't agree on everything, Zanotti says the key is mutual respect.
"Overall, we have slight differences, but what I am most thankful for is that we can have healthy, passionate debates without discrediting each other or taking anything personally," she said. "We both respect each other's opinions and views, which is 100% necessary if you're dating someone who has a different ideology than you."
This kind of openness applies to young men too. I spoke to Billy (name has been changed) who says that although he recently ended things with a conservative woman, he doesn't let that discourage him from dating outside of his own political ideology.
"There's no screening and I'm not vetting people based on what party they align themselves with," he told Mic over the phone. He said that "a person's political position at the end of the day matters less," adding, "It's more about the reasons behind their position than any kind of label they attach themselves."
That open-mindedness isn't just love speaking; it's an encouraging indicator of a political tolerance for a whole generation. A successful Democrat-Republican meet-cute isn't exactly an accomplishment on the level of, say, passing a bipartisan budget bill. But the generational shift from divisive partisanship to more reasoned, issue-based dialogue can hopefully make its way from our happy hours to Washington, where it's desperately needed.
Until we reach that point, we'll settle for photos of Boeh-Losi's near-makeouts.