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Opening Arguments

Not-so-strange bedfellows

"Cats and dogs just weren't meant to live together" department:

Most of the major online dating sites won't set up Republicans with Democrats either.

"People who identify very strongly one way or another, they're adamant that they would never date somebody who just doesn't have the same values," says Toni Coleman, a dating counselor in McLean, Va. "They would just clash all the time."

For most people, it's not that partisan loyalty is all that meaningful. It's more that firmly-held positions on issues — particularly social issues such as abortion and gay marriage — are wrapped up tight with their overall worldviews, says Peter Hatemi, a political scientist at Penn State University.

[. . .]

But survey data indicate that on average, political and social attitudes are as strong a predictor of whether two people will get together and stay together as religion or drinking habits, and a stronger predictor than things like personality types.

Political preferences seem to come packaged with a whole set of other kinds of tastes, with liberals and conservatives having separate preferences when it comes to things such as humor, food and even whether they want poetry to rhyme, according to John Hibbing, coauthor of the forthcoming book Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives and the Biology of Political Difference.

I think I've covered this before, but it's something I see more and more of, so it's worth talking about some more. Whatever particular mix of conservatism and libertarianism I'm feeling on a particular day, it's fair to say I'm someone of the right, and have been for a long time. But most of the women who've been the most important in my life have been either from the left or not that political one way or the other. And we always got along just fine. I even learned the skill of disagreeing with someone without being disagreeable about it, argument without rancor.

But I have to say it's getting harder and harder, for the two chief reasons mentioned in the article. Having a set of philosophical beliefs spills over into other areas of our lives, and we end up with tastes that are increasingly incompatible. And firmly held positions on major issues makes us wonder how anyone could ever come to the opposite position.

When I learned that my ex-wife had voted for Barack Obama -- twice! -- I admit I was shocked. I had known our thinking was moving in different directions since the divorce, but I honestly didn't think we had gotten that far apart. This is an even more striking example of something I mentioned a few weeks ago: Now I understand Bush Derangement Syndrome, because I suffer from a variation of it.