Relationships

Ignoring Politics for Love Is a Beautiful Idea. But It’s Only Available to a Privileged Few.

Donald Trump kisses First Lady Melania Trump in front of a group of people clapping.
President Donald Trump kisses first lady Melania Trump as he arrives to speak about combating the opioid crisis at Manchester Community College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on March 19.
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

In a recent essay for HuffPost, author and self-described feminist iconoclast Lisa L. Kirchner narrates how she met her soon-to-be husband. Coming off a decade spent mostly single, Kirchner recounts how the day after Trump was elected she went online to change her dating profile. Right at the top, she added a note: “If you voted for Donald Trump, keep scrolling.” She admits that, living in deep-red St. Petersburg, Florida, she rarely used the account. But she didn’t make the change “to winnow potential partners so much as to announce how sickened [she] was by the president-elect.” Seeing as the headline for this essay is “I’m a Liberal Feminist and Next Month I’m Marrying a Trump Voter,” it’s pretty clear that her note had the opposite effect.

Unfortunately—or fortunately depending on how you view the unfolding romance—Kirchner’s profile started attracting more and more Trump voters, even despite the fact that one of Kirchner’s photos included a life-size cutout of Hillary Clinton. She soon realized that these MAGA-ites were interpreting “keep scrolling” as “keep reading.” An understandable error, but one that prompted Kirchner to seriously consider deleting her profile, especially after discovering her Trump-related anxiety was causing heart attack–like symptoms prompted by “a swelling of the cartilage around [her] sternum.”

However, this drastic step was forestalled by one magical message from her now-fiancé: “Nice use of the parenthetical.” What parenthetical this was we sadly never find out, but the rest was, as they say, history. In a month, Kirchner will get married among a variety of guests—“some rabid Republicans, others die-hard Democrats.” “No one,” she cheers, “will refuse to celebrate love over political differences [and] … by learning to put love above all else, the pains in my heart—physical and emotional—have finally disappeared.”

It’s a touching love story. And one, it’s worth pointing out, that is only available to straight cisgender white people. Kirchner admits that if she was a “person of color, someone with DACA status, or of different sexual orientations,” she wouldn’t have the privilege to put love above all else, but her story is still one that falls into a familiar trope. One where political differences are just that—differences. Rather than votes that directly contribute to policies that make people’s lives better or worse, differing political views are analogous to contradicting opinions on whether fitted sheets are scams: With enough patience and love, they can be easily solved.

NPR’s Linda Holmes touched on this pernicious idea in a series of tweets about the Roseanne reboot:

That same idea, as my colleague Jamelle Bouie pointed out, is one implicit in Politico’s recent “safari into Clinton country,” which ignored communities of color who overwhelmingly voted for Clinton to interview upper-crust white people on their feelings about Trump. This, as if his tenure in the White House is only a popularity contest rather than a rebuke of a lot of people’s humanity.

Even Kirchner’s ability to unplug from politics by leaving Facebook groups, unfollowing journalists on Twitter, and asking her friends not to gripe about Trump as much is an exercise in privilege. Only in a world where the daily exhausting machinations of policy and politics don’t directly affect your life can you really detach yourself from the madhouse that currently is Washington, D.C. Only in that world can someone’s willingness to put himself in “a submissive stance,” as Kirchner’s fiancé did, be enough for you to look beyond their vote for a noted xenophobic sexist. It’s an enviable world, no doubt—but it’s one that most people don’t live in.