By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
You are young, single and unmistakably right.
You love Fox News and the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page. You've got "yahoos" for Chris Baker; "mega-dittos" for the Maharushi. You stood in line opening weekend for The Passion of the Christ. You're fed up with activist judges, teachers' unions, illegal immigrants, Hollywood pinheads and the "red diaper doper babies" over at the ACLU.
Wait -- no, that's not you.
You stood in line opening weekend for Fahrenheit 9/11. You think NPR is the cat's pajamas. You've got Naomi Klein on your bookshelf, The New York Times as your homepage, Ani DiFranco in your CD player. You dated Dean, but married Kerry. You like France -- or at least see no shame in vacationing there. And you're praying that Dubya loses next month, just like he did four years ago.
In America today, united we stand, divided we date. Internet romance has only recently caught up to this fact. As consumers -- social, political and religious -- we wallpaper our lives with artifacts of validation. Things that affirm an already hardened credo that is What I Believe. Why should love be any different? And why did it take niche-marketing this long to capture our hearts?
"I think niche-specific dating sites are starting to become a norm now," says Tony Sandoval, president of the Los Angeles-based Terra9 Singles, a company that runs DemocraticSingles.com and RepublicanSingles.com. "Just because of the fact that, yeah, there are millions of members on the major dating sites, but I think that people find it a lot easier to weed through the profiles."
Since it started up in March, about 2,000 hopefuls have signed on to the Democrat side; about 4,000 have gone GOP. "Texas is actually one of our larger states on both sides," adds Sandoval, citing 250 lonely Lone Star Republicans and 100 Dems.
Tom Swanson, CEO of www.SingleRepublican.com, says his community has grown from a few hundred in its early days to more than 7,500 nationwide, with 105 members in southeast Texas. He launched the site last November after a year of frustration trying to meet like-minded conservatives through mainstream sites.
"The entrepreneurial bell kind of went off in my head," says the St. Louis resident. "This was something that might be a good niche to fill, and nobody's doing it right now, so why not try it?"
She is 31, a Rice graduate student doing her dissertation on 19th-century British lit. She is Corie-11506, and she says she was liberal back in the day before she "you know, became smart." A short time ago, she stumbled across the link for www.ConservativeMatch.com ("for sweet hearts, not bleeding hearts") on a pro-Bush blog and, having tried Internet matchmaking before, decided to give the site a try.
ConservativeMatch built Corie-11506's profile based upon her appearance, background, preferences and values. Questions include whether "Prayer should be permitted in public schools" and if "All human life is sacred."
"That issue is so fundamental to everything about me," she says. "It would be like somebody who was pro-slavery being married to an abolitionist."
For Corie-11506, attraction along ideological lines just cuts out the hassle. "Dating is really horrid enough and difficult enough and stressful enough without adding to it, jeez, am I going to sit down and have a screaming match over 'no blood for oil'?"
The female who goes by CarsonMcCullersFan understands where Corie-11506 is coming from. Not with the lit-fuse pro-life agitprop, of course -- CarsonMcCullersFan is ardently pro-choice -- but in the sense she could never again be attracted to the Other Side. "I could not kiss someone who voted for George Bush," she proclaims loudly in a phone interview.
A thirtysomething consulting manager who lives inside the Loop, CarsonMcCullersFan (by request, not her exact screen name) is featured on www.ActForLove.org, "the online personals service that lets you take action while getting action." Causes include global warming, volunteering for the Kerry campaign in swing states and tappin' a sweet piece of ass.
"It's really hard in Houston to meet somebody," says CarsonMcCullersFan. "Not to be snobby or anything, but I'm not going to hang out at the labor union hall I make $250,000 a year. There's not that many people in my income tax bracket who would categorize themselves as Democrats." For her, a recent divorcée with work, kids and soccer practice, Internet dating is the shortest line between two lonely points.
"What am I going to do? Hang out at a bar?" she asks. "If I can order an iPod on the Internet, you know, why can't I find a boyfriend?" Explicitly partisan networks simply refine her search.
"Not to say that I wouldn't be interested in meeting or dating an open-minded Republican, I just have never met one of those," she says.
Part of that is personal experience. CarsonMcCullersFan had been married to a hawkish conservative before. Kristi-9507, a southeast-side Southern Baptist who loves Sean Hannity and Tom DeLay, made the same mistake with her ex. The 25-year-old turned to ConservativeMatch to find "an old-fashioned man who will hold the door for me" after she endured disastrous encounters through the online meet market.