I finished the book “Make Trouble” by Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards on a flight back to Ann Arbor from my hometown in New Jersey. As I closed the back cover of a memoir following Richards’s rise in the ranks from seven-year-old daughter of politician Ann Richards to president of Planned Parenthood, I began to cry. 

I was overwhelmingly fervent about women’s reproductive rights prior to stumbling upon the memoir, but with the closing remarks of the book, I felt tears prick suddenly at my eyes. I equated the emotion to being moved fiercely by a woman who is dedicating her whole life to fighting for equality and choice. I was met with an incredible awareness of my potential place in the fight — perhaps like Richards once experienced. Her story of working from young, punchy activist to president of an esteemed nonprofit ignited a hunger in me. If one woman could have such a relevant stake in fighting for what she believes in and stimulating progress, there must be a way I could do the same for my own beliefs. 

Advocating for reproductive rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment is intrinsic to me in a way that I feel in my bones. I want to share that message, and explore its implications. For me, this amounts to my words — my writing. It has become important to me that I can explore these topics in the lines of my articles, plays and poetry in order to open a dialogue between myself and, hopefully, my readers and peers.

Surrounding myself with friends and acquaintances who share my views on women’s rights and other hotbed social-political policies is not difficult on a campus like the University of Michigan. In 2017, after the divisive election season and Trump’s inauguration, the Freshman Survey, a survey run by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, stratified and released results on students’ political affiliation per University. They found that 34.1 percent of U-M students identified as middle of the road politically, 43.7 percent identified as liberals and 15.4 percent identified as conservative. In comparison to previous years, the number of left-leaning students on campus in 2017 had grown. 

I never thought much about the polarity between political parties until I was a freshman. The climate in my hometown, Rumson, New Jersey, is relatively even split and slightly right leaning. I did not witness much animosity between parties growing up: 52.5 percent of Rumson residents voted Republican in the last election and 43.2 percent voted Democrat. On Michigan’s campus, and specifically in 2016 when I arrived as a freshman, I realized that politics are divisive and significant, being a consistently popular, important topic of conversation. Something that was never immediately relevant to me — bipartisanship, animosity over political affiliation and alignment — suddenly became meaningful in my life. Upon President Trump’s inauguration, the crippling political polarity both on campus and nationally showed its face. Amiable bipartisanism seemed further away from us than ever. 

When I began to date someone I quickly learned was Republican, I initially didn’t give much importance to the probable differences in our political values. In fact, we didn’t talk politics often — almost as if to avoid confrontation. It’s easier to be agreeable in conversation and avoid antipathy than to challenge someone, especially in the early stages of a relationship. We dated for a year, edging on political debate a few times, only to extinguish the conversations if they neared argumentative, as if we both feared we’d squander the chance at our happy relationship if we revealed our startling polarity on social-political policy and news bites. 

Finally, near nine months into our relationship, I wanted to hear out loud what I already knew was true: I asked if he was pro-life or pro-choice — a simple question. I knew what he’d say before he said it, and he was aware of my zeal regarding reproductive rights. We’d been awkwardly shielding the truth of our viewpoints instead of allowing the other to see what the other believed. 

I don’t care for his opinion, and I do not agree with it, but that doesn’t make his having it invalid. His contrasting viewpoint, or his being pro-life, doesn’t make him a bad person. It doesn’t make him a monster, it doesn’t make him cruel, or horrible. It makes him a human being with an opinion, just as I am. We were simply two mutually respectful individuals with deeply different moral values. 

We both had our feet firmly planted on either side of so many issues: gun control, abortion and the Colorado baker who refused a wedding cake to a gay couple. Political polarity couldn’t break us up — or could it? 

Our political affiliation wasn’t the reason for the relationship’s demise. But what did end the relationship was a stark difference in moral values and personal ethics — something closely tied to the heart and at core of the aforementioned issues. Since handling the disagreement on the basis of so many political issues with a serious significant other, I’ve been wondering about bipartisan relationships in 2020. As we near another intense election season, I kept asking myself: Can millennials/Gen Zers date over party lines? Do we even want to? 

I never personally anticipated someone’s political affiliation would influence my relationship with them, either romantic or otherwise, unless their opinions were severe or hateful. Upon explicitly conversing about politics with the ex-boyfriend who stood on the complete opposite end as I do on social issues, I recognized perhaps I have a threshold of tolerance, in regards to social politics, when it comes to the political ideology of my significant others.

I put out a poll on my Instagram story –– a quick, efficient way to gauge ideas on the topics from acquaintances, friends and strangers who fall in the 16 to 24 age range — and was impressed by the 300 responses I received. Most of the respondents were middle-class, Caucasian females, leaving about 33 percent of the respondents as male. 

I am aware that the results of this poll cannot be fully relied on as any concrete data, as it is a biased sample from only my Instagram followers who participated. I am aware that different communities may have varied reactions to the same questions asked, therefore, it is necessary to keep in mind that the survey merely disclosed the opinion of the group of peers I have myself. That being said, the results provide an interesting look into the minds of my peers. 

I asked a series of questions, all with the intention of uncovering my peers’ dating experience among party lines. The first “would you date someone with extreme, absolute opposing political views from your own?” received 244 answers for no, and 69 answers for yes. This means about 80 percent of the participants stated they wouldn’t be interested in involvement with someone romantically of their opposing political opinion. 

When asked if they would be open to dating someone with extremely different social-political values, 235 people said no, and 78 people said yes. Conversely, to the question “would you date someone with extremely different fiscal political values?” 106 people said no, and 207 people said yes. The overwhelming majority are willing to write off fiscal political differences, yet would be uninterested on the basis of social-political differences. 

One of my final questions asked if politics are a relationship dealbreaker, broadly, to which 217 said no, and 96 said yes. The results confirmed what I’d already anticipated: My peers valued social-political values to a point of unwillingness to pursue someone intimately and valued having similar political values to a significant other. That being said, politics aren’t a relationship dealbreaker to those who took the poll, meaning there is a happy medium of space where we can coexist and even have the chance to enjoy those with differing political beliefs. 

A Journal of Politics study published in 2019 found that 54 percent of married couples had the same political affiliation in 1973. In 2014, it was 74 percent. Opposing political values are more of a turnoff romantically than ever, especially within the rampant dating and hookup culture of college campuses. In a Boston Globe article from March of 2018, a conservative student was referenced who struggled with dating due to his political beliefs. Another conservative student cited her aversion to referencing her political views on the dating apps she uses, hoping that her potential suitors will get to know her before passing judgement. It’s clear that fewer and fewer Americans are willing to cross the aisle with romantic partners, most probably due to the heightened societal disdain for the opposite party. 

On dating apps — from Bumble to Tinder to Hinge — one has the option to list their political affiliation, making it clear that this detail could be an indicator of whether someone is interested in a potential match. Other details, like height, astrological sign and preferences on drinking don’t carry quite the same weight. Many people want to weed out the opposition prior to even meeting in person, which is a development that’s only made possible by technological advancements. The idea of dating someone who could potentially challenge us is disconcerting enough to want to circumvent the possibility entirely. 

From the frenzy of answers I’d received on my social media poll, I also received a lot of personal anecdotes from those who have experienced bipartisan romantic relationships. 19.8 percent of poll takers identify as conservative with the remaining 80.2 percent identifying as liberal. Those who answered with personal anecdotes about their own experiences are predominantly liberal women dating conservative men. Many of them, despite the aforementioned statistics and analysis, were rather positive:

“Open communication and mutual respect is key. There is a way to make it work.” 

“My boyfriend and I talked about politics early on, later he told me it was to make sure we’d work.” 

“My boyfriend is a republican but we make it work because I care a lot more about social values and he does as well.” 

“My ex-boyfriend got me away from getting my news exclusively from one liberal source.”

“My boyfriend and I agree to disagree and we don’t talk about things when they become heated.” 

“I was a fierce libreal and my boyfriend of 3 years was a fierce republican — since meeting one another, we’re both a little more moderate then we used to be. We grew to understand each other.”

“My boyfriend and I voted opposite in the 2016 election but we find that we are similarly motivated on behalf of individual issues, not politicians.”

There’s a saying that goes “love conquers all.” It’s the idea that if there’s a feeling that’s intimate and strong enough, nothing can stand in the way of two people who are destined to be together. It can be argued that if you’re more passionate about your love for your partner than your political values, you can make it work. Perhaps, if you value listening to listen and not solely to retaliate, strong communication and respect, your bipartisan relationship can thrive. For some, that may not be the case.

In my own experience, dating across party lines comes down to our moral values, the core of who we are. I morally align with many liberal social views and struggled to feel supported by being intimate with someone who does not share my views of women’s reproductive rights. That being said, I believe that two intellectual human beings can respect and learn from opposition — we can welcome it romantically, because by way of challenge, we grow. 

I understand wanting to agree upon moral values and principles that are key to our identity with those we are intimately involved with. Regardless of my past experience, I’d be willing to date someone who doesn’t share all of my political values as long as our virtues and ethics see eye to eye. For me, there exists a space in which bipartisanship can be a healthy part of a relationship. I believe discourse and opposition can exist with those we’re dating; but truly, it’s about pinpointing the best balance for you within your own romantic life. It’s an individual decision which others may strongly disagree with, and some may feel uncomfortable involving themselves with those of the other party. Some may not even have the luxury to choose to date someone with opposing values, because opposing values compromise their existence and safety.

Politics will always exist. So will love. We live in an echo chamber where we seek out those who agree with our perspective, rather than search for those who don’t. It’s in our best interest — as we descend further into a divergent, antipathic political climate — to attempt to understand and respect one another before judging. In today’s dicey climate, we’ve found that many hotbed issues prohibit us from having intimate or even amiable relationships, when perhaps we can find some common ground.

No singular relationship can be identical to another, and that is why it is up to individuals to decide how important partisan loyalty is to them, figure out if they can bridge differences to find similarities on positions or policies and work toward a middle ground. For me, I found that I’d like to agree with a significant other on social politics, because they’re of high value to me. Though my bipartisan relationship did eventually end, I value the lessons I learned through its duration. Not only that, I discovered that by way of political disagreement, we have the opportunity to sharpen our opinions and acquire important skills in sympathy and amiable discourse. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *