As a lifelong Democrat, I never thought I would be in this place. I never thought I would have to confront this dreaded unforeseen fear -- the terror that is, for me, dating a Republican. I don't even know very many Republicans. But it turns out, I'm not alone. Outside of Washington D.C., the entire country is pretty segregated when it comes to political parties. According to dating website, seven out of ten people are in a relationship with someone of the same political persuasion. I grew up knowing very few Republicans and the rare ones I did know got made fun behind their backs, be it children or adults. I know there were some Republicans at my college because there was a "College Republicans" group on campus, but this was the Bushy era and the conservatives who were smart enough to get into my university were too smart to be vocal defenders of the Dick Cheney puppet show that was the aughts. I've been living in Los Angeles ever since in the type of place where, at the moment President Obama was pronounced the winner of the race, we threw open our windows and whooped and shrieked out into the streets till an impromptu parade erupted and bars served free drinks. I cried. I've worked for the Democratic Party, interned for a Democratic Congressman and Senator. And even though I went to a more conservative law school, there were enough liberals on campus that if you included the faculty, we could flock together so that I rarely interacted with those others who met with our derision.
So when I tell you I never thought I would date a Republican, it's not because I really contemplated it and made a specific decision. It's because as long as I didn't drive to Orange County, my chances of actually running into one felt slim to none. We live in a birds-of-a-feather type of country. So how did I get to here? How did I come to date a man who told me he "liked a lot of Mitt Romney's ideas" and that he thought John Kerry wasn't really a war hero and that cap and trade is a terrible system? At first I didn't think it would be a big issue. I fell in love with someone who has many similar interests and a big generous heart and when he told me he was an Independent, I thought that was just something moderate Democrats said when being pretentious about how non-conformist they are. I didn't realize I was dating someone who would spend every single Tuesday night glued to Wolf Blitzer's analysis of another Republican primary. And to be frank, at this point, it's making me freak out. I get mad at him just thinking about our past political discussions. I can't date a Republican! What was I thinking? What if I have little Republican babies?
Naturally, he doesn't think it's a big deal. He keeps saying we can always find common ground. But I find myself angry with him for things that I expect to take for granted. He admitted to me that the word "liberal" for him had a bad connotation and that the word "conservative" did not. It's hard to blame him when this is a common phenomena in our country now so that only 20% of the population identifies as liberal while 40% is willing to identify as conservative. I tell him this is a direct result of the vitriol that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have injected into our discourse and he shouldn't buy into their demonizing of the left. But for my boyfriend, "liberal" means big government inefficiency. I'm normally a calm person, but when he said this, I was close to flipping out. How could he buy into all that? He's a smart person, he reads reputable news sources. And yet, I continually find myself mad at him for buying into conservative propaganda.
Everyone always points to Mary Matalin and James Carville as shining examples of a couple with different political beliefs and a stable marriage. But honestly, have you seen them bicker on tv? I love watching them but I don't want to fight like that in my home. I want my home to be a place of tranquility and calm and little social justice fighters playing pin your favorite president on the blue donkey.
Another burgeoning concern is that I'm starting to feel like I always have to watch what I say. Yes, I know there are many intelligent Republicans out there and if the party was made up of just David Frums and Christopher Buckleys or even Mitt Romneys, they'd be a reasonable moderate party that I have an intellectual disagreement with and there wouldn't be anything to make fun of. But for now, there are a lot of crazy extremist kooks running the Republican party and when you get into Santorum territory and Palin country, I want the freedom to openly mock and deride in a forum where I don't have to worry about offending someone. Is that so wrong? I'm sick of back-peddling every time I accidentally call them teabaggers.
Months ago, we got to talking about Ron Paul, or rather, my boyfriend got to telling me all about him. Although we don't disagree that much on social issues, we disagree quite a bit about how influential social issues should be when it comes to casting a ballot, so we started to really get into it. At one point, I said that certain individual rights and liberties should be the most important issue and I was disappointed in my boyfriend because he was willing to forgo those liberties in order to "make a buck." He was offended and hurt. Admittedly, I went too far and I believe he is compassionate for those less fortunate and I know he doesn't think he's sacrificing civil rights for money. But I was making an impassioned argument and this is how liberals talk when we're amongst friends. To stay in my relationship, I must resolve myself somewhat to being more careful in my language now when talking about fiscal conservatives but in so doing, is that the best decision for a healthy relationship? No one wants to have to walk on eggshells around their partner.
Last week, I went over to my boyfriend's to watch the HBO docudrama Game Change about Palin's Vice Presidential bid over some wine and take-out. When it was over, I felt bad for John McCain, but outraged at all the doltish hicks who were venerating this ignorant backwards woman who reveled in her lack of knowledge. My boyfriend on the other hand, said he felt bad for her.
How can you feel bad for her? I was shocked. Why is it always the Republican party that nominates idiots? Joe the Plumber, Christine O'Donnell. Democrats would never allow someone who didn't understand what the "fed" was to run for city councilman let alone the Vice-Presidency.
How much do you really know about what the Fed does? He shot back.
I almost lost it. In that moment, he was impugning my knowledge and at the same time defending Sarah Palin. I was livid. How can I build my life with someone who defends Sarah Palin and thinks "liberal" is a dirty word? We went back and forth for a while with me spouting off economic knowledge and him keeping my rhetoric in check. But I went to bed angry that night.
I know we're not supposed to try to change our significant others, but I can't help but hope that I might be able to make a tried and true blue Democrat out of him. It's worked somewhat so far, as I've been able to convince him that John Kerry really was a war hero and that Mitt Romney has backtracked on climate change. And maybe I am better off calling them teapartyers and aside from adjusting interest rates I don't really know that much about the Fed. Congress recently passed the first Bi-partisan piece of legislation in years so if they can do it, surely two people who love each other and share many of the same values can find common ground as well. Now, if I could only get him to start watching Bill Maher with me...