Was Henry Kissinger right when he said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”?
Seeking an answer to that question, The Hill set out recently to discover whether dating has changed in the last six months, and whether Democrats, newly empowered, now have an edge on Republicans when it comes to dating prowess.
Many GOP aides say that it’s the same-old, same-old around the nation’s capital — they are sexier and they dress better.
But some Democrats claim that being in the majority has meant more partying and more dates.
Due to the nature of this story — sex and dating — few aides were willing to discuss the subject on the record for fear of getting into trouble with their offices. They were also wary of having their personal lives or dating tastes made public.
The bottom line: Romantic opportunities have increased for Democrats. For one thing, there are now more of them around Capitol Hill — all the better for socializing. And some aides and political experts have noticed that Democrats have begun to dress the part and are looking better.
Strategists are, however, generally more vocal than staffers about the new possibilities for Democrats.
As one Democratic campaign strategist remarked, “Taking back the majority certainly has its perks. With the shift in power has come a shift in social standing for once-shunned Democratic operatives. It seems everyone from lowly interns to nerdy policy wonks have a full dance card so long as they have a ‘D’ behind their name.”
The strategist added that perks aren’t limited to normal social interactions: “Not only are Dems getting more dates, they are getting better tables at restaurants and they are not waiting in line at exclusive clubs.”
And Glen Bolger, a GOP strategist for Public Opinion Strategies, recently told National Public Radio: “Democrats are sexier to voters than Republicans are now.”
One male GOP aide took a somewhat different view, saying that the dating scene on the Hill hasn’t changed much. But he noted that since there are more Democrats around, the likelihood that he would date a liberal-minded woman may be higher.
“[It’s a] sheer numbers game,” he said. “Now you have to pay more attention to what you say, who your audience is.”
The GOP aide admitted that he has been dating some Democratic women and called it a “bipartisan venture on the weekend.”
Republicans “may get some more sympathy votes,” he joked.
Nonetheless, there could be a drawback beyond heated political discussion with your significant other, the aide continued. “You’ve got to deal with a lot of blowback from your boss, [who may] question your motives [after hanging out with a bunch of Democrats],” he said.
A female GOP staffer observed that her liberal-leaning colleagues have begun dressing differently since November — but she’s still not impressed.
“Democrats have definitely changed their wardrobe,” she said. “It seems they’ve upgraded from mock-turtlenecks and sport coats to black dress shirts with monochromatic Regis Philbin-style ties.”
But she indicated that it would be hard for her to find a Democrat attractive. “Unfortunately, [creating a new wardrobe] is a futile endeavor,” the aide said. “Nothing can make a Democrat more attractive to a well-bred, pearl-donning Republican lady.”
Dating on Capitol Hill can be touchy business. A few years ago, Jessica Cutler, a former Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) staffer more commonly known as “Washingtonienne,” made headlines when she aired the details of her active dating life via an X-rated blog. She lost her job over the incident.
“Dems are very in right now, but there’s only so much party affiliation can do for a guy who drives a Prius,” said Cutler, who is visiting Manhattan this week for her birthday and still has no job. Toyota’s hybrid model, Cutler says, is hardly the sex-mobile.
One female staffer admitted that she wasn’t interested in Democratic guys, even though they are in the majority and she shares the same political views.
“I am sooooo not into Dem guys even though I am a Dem,” the aide wrote in an e-mail. “Republican boys are generally more attractive, sharper dressers and throw better parties.”
She noted that BlackBerrys have had more real effect on the dating scene: “No one ever calls anymore to ask someone out. It’s so weird.”
One male Democratic staffer admitted that he was “perplexed” by the notion that the dating scene may shift with the change in power.
Even though he’s single, he said that he “wouldn’t notice anything like that.” The aide noted that some staffers are dressing better, but he wasn’t sure whether it was a reflection of the party in power or the result of a change in the weather.
A female Democratic staffer admitted that her boyfriend works for a GOP senator. They started dating when the GOP held the reins of power. But her main concerns are normal for most anyone dating a Capitol Hill staffer: They’re
“It’s difficult,” she said. “[There] definitely [is] some juggling, but he basically works on the same schedule.”
Darrell West, a politics professor at Brown University, said that a change in power usually brings about changes in the dating scene.
“There are big ramifications for the dating scene depending on who is in power,” West said. “Those in power have the best dating opportunities and get the best tables at restaurants. With Republicans losing control of Congress, Democrats should be rejoicing at their new opportunities for romance.”
Another male staffer working in a moderate GOP senator’s office hasn’t been denied dates because his party is now in the minority.
Bipartisan dating, he said, is “no more or less than it was. But [political party is] more of a conversation-starter” than an attraction.
He did say that he and his friends have been noticing “a lot of new girls on the Hill.”
“[It’s] funny,” he said. “This is the only town where that would be a question.”
For David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, the nexus of dating and power doesn’t have much an impact on his life — he’s married — but the change in power does lead to more Democrats on Capitol Hill.
“If single Democrats are looking for more single Democrats, there are more pickings on the Hill,” Corn said.
He also remarked that the Speaker is looking good: “I think Nancy Pelosi’s hot. What can I say?”
Corn, a well-known liberal, also noted the sartorial differences between Republican and Democratic women. “Republican dresser — more Ann Taylor-ish. A Democratic dresser — a little more eclectic, a touch more of Banana Republic.”
Corn said that the change in power has had ramifications on the quality of food around the District.
“I’ll tell you, being in Washington for 20 years, when Democrats took over the White House, there were better restaurants in Washington. Better socializing. I have high hopes for 2009.”