K-State professor says political dating sites contribute to widening schism between polarized nation, citizens
By Keener A. Tippin II
Once upon a time, a fair maiden may have had to kiss several frogs before she found her Prince Charming. If she was republican, that frog just might be a democrat; a liberal if she was conservative and vice verse.
But, in the words of conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, " despite the liberal lads you've been dating, there is hope out there." Democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives can now find their perfect matches -- ones who share the same political ideology -- on one of several political dating services that are springing up on the Internet.
A match made in political utopia via Al Gore and the World Wide Web, right? Not so, says a Kansas State University professor of family studies and human services.
While many of these political dating Web sites offer lovesick, politically minded singles the opportunity for friendship, romance and marriage within a community of people who share similar values, Tony Jurich said these sites serve to further polarize the United States. According to Jurich, abortion used to be the only issue that polarized the nation. Now that list includes same-sex marriage, the economy, national security, the war in Iraq Americans tend to polarize so much now that "we're in trouble," Jurich said.
"I think extremists on the conservative end of things are polarizing politically," Jurich said. "I think there are some things on the liberal side that socially are polarizing as well. The fact of the matter is that we are more divisive today than we have been before. People are more likely to cast stones at the other side, not only as being different and therefore someone they disagree with but also being someone who is absolutely immoral."
With these dating sites, Jurich said "some fairly opportunistic people" have determined, rather than match "ideal" dating partners based on several factors of compatibility, the single most important factor for a love connection is how a partner votes politically.
"The fact of the matter is that there are people -- liberal couples and conservative couples -- they work well together, no problems," Jurich said. "But I've also seen some people who are fairly liberal or conservative and they've intermarried and the world hasn't come to an end; they don't produce children that have IQ deficiencies. They simply disagree with some things in politics."
Jurich points to the highly public and political marriage of political strategist James Carville and political consultant Mary Matalin. The pair, complete political opposites in every way, comprise Washington's most unlikely romance: He's an outspoken Democrat, she's a steadfast Republican; she's very conservative, he's pretty liberal and their views clash constantly.
Jurich said they exist and have a good relationship. Instead of trying to change each other, they embrace their differences and are more in love now than ever. Yet he sadly admits the couple is anomaly.
"What happens if you don't have any differences?" Jurich asks. "If all you hear is the same rhetoric over and over again, that may look very strong but ultimately it tends to be weak. The nice thing about conservative and liberal marriages is that they cross-fertilize ideas."
As a family therapist, Jurich said his problem with this "huddling together over political ideologies," becomes so paramount that couples often forget the other things that comprise a marriage -- personal attraction, the ability to get along with each other, the ability to compromise, the ability to find common ground. He said relationships built upon a political philosophy will often mask the differences, weakening the relationship and enhancing the potential to kill the relationship in the future.
"I don't think it's good for the marriage if you base it solely on political philosophy," Jurich said. "You're not going to see a lot of things and consequently you may mask some things that may come back and bite you. The most important thing as far as your marriage is not your political affiliation. There are things you can do to deal with your political affiliation, but if you make that the most important thing you'll accomplish two things: you'll accomplish making us even more divisive, which is not a good idea, and secondly is that you draw people together with a common enemy.
"I would pose to you what I see as a tremendous danger -- not only is this divisive in terms of the nation, but it's also a dangerous problem because this couple is going to think they have all this commonality around a political philosophy and I'm afraid that they are going to look at anything else. 'I'm going to marry the liberal girl because I'm liberal' 'I'm going to marry the conservative girl because I'm conservative.' And they never ask what they think about, are they a morning person or a night person; when are we going to have sex, how do you feel about having children, a slew things that have nothing to do with political affiliation but that you don't cover."
In the long run, Jurich predicts this type of political cupid will ultimately increase an already staggering divorce rate "unless we wind up having the divisions within the country become so paramount that they become the defining issues of who we are.
"It's kind of like building a foundation and you're laying bricks," Jurich said. "You don't lay one stack of bricks on top of each other because it may look strong, it's actually kind of weak. You lay brick and then you cross-lay a brick so that they lean on each other and you build a much stronger foundation. Subsequently you have more intermingling."
Jurich equates this political cleansing to dog breeding.
"Pure breeds are beautiful and have all the characteristics of that breed," Jurich said. "But they are also fairly unhealthy because they are so inbred along those bloodlines that there are certain things that become characteristic. If you are a purist politically there are no new ideas; it becomes a fossilized ideology. I don't care if you're talking about religious purism or political purism or dogma on environment, it doesn't make any difference. you need to have cross fertilization of ideas.