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Party Animals

Joe Rocco

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.

"I had signed up for Match.com for a little while and there was just, pardon my French, just way too much sex going on in there. It was a lot of hard-core, almost borderline porn stuff, you know," says Kristi-9507. "They just come right out, 'Are you bisexual?' 'Are you gay?' 'Are you willing to be with another woman?' "

Her aversion to premarital, nonprocreative sex -- America's most decadent cultural fault line -- is possibly the main reason these Web sites flourish. "I think there is a general sense of, these are not dirtbags that are only interested in sex," Corie-11506 says of the men of ConservativeMatch.

ActForLove, on the other hand, asks participants to rank their favorite on-screen sex scene as part of their profile. For his part, local boy Second_to_some sticks Naomi Watts's tongue and groove with Laura Herring in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive at the top of his list. Corie-11506, on her page, checked the box for "The homosexual lifestyle is immoral."

With the presidential home stretch bearing down -- and the electorate allegedly as divided as ever -- the din of shrill rhetoric from both extremes will likely continue drowning out any rational conversation.

"Election year has made it impossible to really hang out with any left-leaning friends," writes SingleRepublican.com's c2501 of The Woodlands. "Despite the love, peace and flower power of the left wing, they tend to get very malicious and sometimes even violent towards people with opposing points of view."


So whatever happened to "opposites attract"? What of Red and Blue America making purple (if not whoopee)?

Morris P. Fiorina, a professor of political science at Stanford University who recently authored Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, believes these folks are the exception and not the rule.

"My sense would be that this would attract the same kind of intensely committed people that, you know, Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore would attract. Not many people are going to say that 'My principal criterion for meeting a mate is what party they're in,' " he says.

His research posits that once you move past the special interest group spokespeople and the ear-splitting activist minority, America is more moderate at heart and that the cultural divide is, in fact, more myth than fact. That could wash, considering the traditional "Wal-Marts" of online dating, such as Dallas-based Match.com, remain healthy. According to a recent report by Jupiter Research, a market research firm, online dating is a $400 million industry -- a figure expected to grow by 50 percent in five years.

"It's bigger than porn," says Nate Elliot, an associate analyst for Jupiter. "Last year, 6.7 million Americans paid to subscribe to these sites." Elliot believes explicitly political Web sites may see growth stall after November.

"Everything in an election year focuses on the election, and then it disappears again for three years," he says. "I don't know if the sites will go away, but they'll have a much harder time attracting attention."

Corie-11506 thinks that, at the very least, this trend confirms that the old Hollywood fantasy of unlikely mates finding love is just that: fantasy.

"I'm certainly not looking for my twin by any means. I mean, the only person you ever agree with 100 percent stares you back in the mirror every day," says Corie-11506. "But I think that romantic-comedy paradigm of looking for your opposites, I don't really know that that works in practice.

"There's a reason, it seems to me, that it always ends with that big kiss and you don't see them married ten years later."


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