GELFAND’S WORLD - The august editorial writers at the Washington Post have been getting a lot of comment for a warning they gave over the weekend. Said editorial is titled "If attitudes don't shift, a political dating mismatch will threaten marriage." What is this latest threat to the republic -- is it nuclear war, or another pandemic?
Here is the problem: Modern women find conservative men too icky to date.
Oh, the WAPO editorial board uses more academic-sounding language, as in "A growing number of young women are discovering that they can't find suitable male partners." Following a few sentences of explication, they point out, "There’s a growing ideological divide, too. Since Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, the percentage of single women ages 18-30 who identify as liberal has shot up from slightly over 20 percent to 32 percent. Young men have not followed suit. If anything, they have grown more conservative. "
The argument that has been getting so much comment is the following: "But, increasingly, the political is personal. A 2021 survey of college students found that 71 percent of Democrats would not date someone with opposing views. There is some logic to this. Marriage across religious or political lines — if either partner considers those things to be central to their identity — can be associated with lower levels of life satisfaction. And politics is becoming more central to people’s identity."
Where the WAPO editorial writers go aground is their expressed remedy for the sad and lonely boys of the GOP: "This mismatch means that someone will need to compromise. As the researchers Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox have noted, about 1 in 5 young singles will have little choice but to marry someone outside their ideological tribe. The other option is that they decline to get married at all — not an ideal outcome considering the data showing that marriage is good for the health of societies and individuals alike."
Writers of political blogs are getting sprained cheeks from all their tongue in cheek responses to this Oh So Stern concern.
What's curious is that the WAPO editorial board -- a group that should be clued in to the national political climate as much as anyone on earth -- is missing the main point: The political differences between liberals and Trumpian conservatives is lots wider than differences in previous generations. In the 1950s, it was possible to be a Republican and also a supporter of civil rights, just as it was possible to be a conservative Democrat. The parties themselves allowed for broader political ranges, and what it meant to be liberal or conservative allowed for some coexistence.
The current realm of conservative thought and teaching is that liberalism is a hateful, disgraceful condition. Hatred and contempt towards not just liberalism, but liberals themselves, is what is taught in the realm of right wing radio and television. It is no wonder that a liberal 25 year old would be reticent about dating a red-hat-wearing conservative, simply on the basis that there is a mutually felt contempt and perhaps even hatred of the opposing views.
The WAPO editorial team -- perhaps on a slow day -- needed to put some thoughts together and managed to figure out that the political mismatch between young women and young men, along with a dislike for dating people who are openly contemptuous of your views, could create a less stable society somewhere down the line, because fewer people in the Gen Z generation (today's young adults) would end up in stable marriages.
Their solution is for young liberal women to take one for the team, so to speak, or as columnist Shakezula says, "Washington Post to liberal women: Close your eyes and MAGA." Shakezula may be exaggerating the WAPO message a bit, but it is fair to ask whether either sex is going to be accepting of such a wide divergence in political beliefs in their mates.
And then there is the newly created divide over the abortion question, a political fight that the right wing owns entirely.
May we offer a counter proposal. Let's use this as a teaching moment for all those conservative boys and young men out there. Let's make it clear that support for Trump and wearing the red hat is the modern-day equivalent of having bad breath or dandruff when it comes to the dating sweepstakes.
Those of a certain generation may remember radio and television commercials that warned us of the dangers of halitosis and offensive bodily odors, not to mention hair that fails to comb smoothly. Come to think of it, modern late-night commercials offer us an ointment to slather between the toes, even as other companies explain that we should be taking a new and expensive pharmaceutical remedy if we want to go to the class reunion without having unsightly eczema.
In other words, the corporations of America have always been sensitive to the blunders made by those of dating age. Do they suggest that the women of America should learn to accept those who go around in a stinky, ungroomed state? Not hardly. They instead advise that those men with these predilections learn to conform to social norms.
So, newspaper editorial writers might be better advised to tell the men of America, "If you want to get a girl, don't be such a jerk politically. Being a Maga is the 2020s equivalent of wearing a leisure suit without using your dandruff shampoo."
To put it another way, your red cap is full of flakes.
There's a joke there somewhere, along the lines of the real flakes being the wearers of the red caps, but it will take a little work. I'll get back to you.
Come to think of it, this might be the one and only way this nation can cure itself of the Trumpian scourge. People who live in the Fox News bubble are protected from hearing negative thoughts about their one true leader. The hard part has always been to get them to venture beyond that bubble. Perhaps this is our chance. If you are going to snuggle up with the television on, insist on something other than the Fox. Perhaps MSNBC is too much at the beginning -- it's akin to a total cold turkey withdrawal from heavy heroin use -- but ABC news or CNN would be a start. The young women of America have our future in their hands. Let them communicate to young men that they can either learn a more civilized kind of politics or stay home on Saturday night.
A learned colleague of mine suggested a tee shirt caption that young women could don:
I don't sleep with Republicans
After careful consideration, she revised the caption to read:
Don't sleep with Republicans
There could be a whole new trade in tee shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)