Finding Mr. Left
A new online dating service helps liberals find like-minded partners
Finally, someone is being honest about the link between political activism and getting some action. For too long, we’ve been fed the myth that young people who get involved in political campaigns do so because they are committed to Big Ideals, Great Candidates or Other Capitalized Nouns.
But a new Web site admits that there’s another motivating factor: hooking up. The site, actforlove.org, is the latest master stroke by political animal/Internet buzzmeister John Hlinko. That name may not be familiar to you, but Hlinko is one of those guys who have figured out how to actually get some use out of the Internet, whether by tapping into heretofore unidentified fund-raising pools, getting a political message out to people who typically ignore political messages, or poking a pointed stick in the Establishment’s eye, as he did with his anti-drug-war effort, justsayblow.com. (Full disclosure? I’m not one of those smart Internet guys. I once left a stable, well-paying, Old Media job to work at an Internet startup that went out of business four months after I signed on.)
Hlinko once helped create MoveOn.org, one of the web’s most successful political crusades. Now, he wants you to meet Mr. or Miss Right (or, more accurately, Mr. or Miss Left).
“My sister met her husband on Match.com and I met my fiancàe online, so I said, ‘Why fight this trend?'” says Hlinko, whose day job right now is director of Internet strategy for Wesley Clark’s surging campaign. “If you can get people interested in activism by helping them get some action, too, that’s a great thing.” So ActForLove promises to create “an ever-growing network of activist singles—and turn them into activist doubles.”
The notion of keeping liberal blood pure might have disturbing echoes of the old miscegenation laws of decades past. But considering how we liberals are constantly being told that we’re a dying breed, we’ve got to do something to protect our numbers (and, more important, save valuable dating time). If you hook up with someone on Match.com, for example, it could take four dates before you find out that he drives an SUV, believes in the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war or thinks that federal anti-pollution regulations are destroying corporate competitiveness.
Even narrowly focused Web dating services such as J-date are problematic. Sure, you know she’s Jewish, but you won’t know until after that first, interminable date that she favors the construction of more settlements, has no problems with Israel’s past support for the apartheid government of South Africa, and her idea of a sexy man is Ariel Sharon.
You know Hlinko is onto something because Rush Limbaugh lampooned ActForLove in a recent, post-rehab column. Clearly, Rush is terrified that like-minded lefties will no longer be watering-down their political strength in mixed marriages.
“Why do these people need a Web site? They all go to the same protests, and they can meet each other there,” mocked Limbaugh, as if only liberals protest things or attend rallies. Then Limbaugh—"Fat, closed-minded pill-popper seeks non-thinking automaton to say, ‘Ditto'"—further mocked the whole idea of WWW-dating by offering his parody of an ActForLove personal: “Tall, blond, ‘No blood for oil’ activist seeks same. Let’s have fair-trade coffee sometime.”
Limbaugh’s parody pretty much describes the liberal of my dreams. In reality, though, you’d have to be a pretty darned committed liberal to date some of these people. One man confesses that he’s currently reading “a treatise on the rise of Western quantification from 1250-1350. Yes, I am a geek.” And another confesses, “I’m horribly bored, so I’m always up for doing pretty much whatever you’ve got planned. No scheduling conflicts to worry about with me!” (Sample conversation with this guy: “I don’t know, what do you want to do tonight?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do tonight?” Oy.)
Even the women raise red flags. One, for example, claims to be “bisexual, in great shape, and a pretty good vegan cook” (well, one out of three ain’t bad). Another says that one of her most attractive features is that “I know how to spell and use correct grammar.” (Too bad for her, however, because another woman seems to be targeting the same men when she offered, “I can use apostrophes correctly.") And another offered a perfect example of why America should reject the metric system: “I’m not bad looking, although I could lose a few kilos.” (Kilos?!)
But at least these people know what they want in a partner: “I want to be able to tell people that George Bush is a moron and have them agree with me,” wrote the “bored” guy. “[I want to] make fun of people who eat meat, drive SUVs and have no idea who Thomas Pynchon is.”
Given all the silt in the ActForLove dating pool, it’s hard to say if this kind of dating works.
“Neither of my dates went particularly well,” admitted one woman. “But in both cases, it was a situation where the other person and I just didn’t click.” (Even silicon chips can’t create chemistry, alas.)
Another woman told me of a horrible interchange with a man who was “a real ass on the phone” and then basically stood her up (would Al Gore do that?). But she did say she’d had “quite a few pleasant in-person dates from the site,” including one at a Chicago Bulls game (aren’t they considered lame now?) and another at a French restaurant (see Bulls comment).
Of course, the link between committed activism for justice and craven attempts to get some action has always been the mother’s milk of politics. No one wants to admit it, of course, but there were plenty of guys who went to the March on Washington with a slightly different dream than Martin Luther King Jr. had. And don’t try to tell me that some of the Founding Fathers—I’m talking low-level guys like Button Gwinnett, Carter Braxton and William Whipple—didn’t rush to sign the Declaration of Independence because they knew it would impress the ladies. (Indeed, years after the Revolutionary War was won, Lewis Morris was still sidling up to women at Fraunces Tavern and saying, “Hey, babe. d’ya like freedom? Well, you’re welcome.")
Look, I’m not above such things. The truth is that I was a loser in high school (actually, “loser” is too generous; I was the idiot who always wanted to know your favorite Star Trek episode). I’ve come a long way since then (although if you say, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” you’re the loser)—and I have Ronald Reagan to thank.
See, when Reagan became president, college students like me were still much more likely to be liberal. So anything Reagan did—from claiming that the ketchup in school lunches qualified as a vegetable, to illegally funding the Nicaraguan contras, to hoping that silence would end the AIDS epidemic—sent us scurrying to the College Green decrying the end of civilization.
It may sound as though I was passionate about my country, but, really, I was just trying to meet women. Every “Rally on the Green” was another chance to sidle up to a comely lass and see if the anger we shared about apartheid would lead to a shared bed.
If Al Gore had only invented the Internet a decade earlier, I could have saved a lot of frustration.