Online, observers have hounded Grimes about her beau’s financing of Republicans, his demonstrated contempt toward organized labor, and his general rich-and-rude savior shtick. “Fans of Elon Musk and Grimes Are Worried Their Relationship Has Broken Art and Capitalism,” summarized Slate, without much exaggeration. “Break up with elon NOW,” went a tweet that launched the latest round of scandal by drawing Grimes to reply “no.” Shot back the fan:
elon donates to republicans, people who deny climate change, a cause you and your boyfriend or whatever are supposed to care for so??? why are [you] still with him? why? you’re one of my favorite artists it is quite infuriating how blind or unwilling to see you are
In response, Grimes could have hit “block ” and moved on. She could have dropped some bromide about the mysterious ways of the heart, the value of getting to know someone different from you, or the need for everyone to butt out of her private affairs. But instead came a volley on the merits of the claims. She offered excuses for Musk (donating to the GOP is “the cost of doing business”), argued for his progressive cred (he gives “way more money, like absurdly more, to environmental causes”), and testified to his veracity (she’d personally tried to get Tesla factory workers to unionize but a majority didn’t want to, just as he’d said). Later, she deleted some of those tweets, objected to the media writing them up without interviewing her, and stressed her own views, saying, “i’m not on the board of tesla or any of these companies.”
Those defenses may vary in persuasiveness, but they all cede the premise that a person should answer for her romantic partner’s politics. Which is rooted in a larger idea: that one’s personal life is political, and that one’s politics are directly tied to one’s moral character. Those are old ideas, but they’ve come to be taken for granted in our allegedly woke zeitgeist—which has, of course, partly been shaped by figures like Grimes proudly linking their values, art, and lives. “I’m sad that it’s uncool or offensive to talk about environmental or human rights issues,” she wrote in a widely shared (then deleted) 2013 Tumblr post titled “I don’t want to have to compromise my morals in order to make a living.”
Now her fans are extending that principle to include romance, and she doesn’t seem to object: The substance of the disagreement is just over whether Musk is unaligned with her. Were Grimes to decide that Musk is in fact more on the side of the “imperialists,” the implication goes, they’d have to break up. The much-mythologized irrationality of love? The fun of “opposites attract”? It never enters the conversation.
Of course, people have always wanted their partners to share their deepest convictions. But for better or worse—and there are strong arguments that it’s for the better when racism, xenophobia, sexual assault, fascism, and the fate of the planet are at issue—those desires appear to be increasingly litigated in blunt political terms nationwide. Relationships of all sorts are being tested on the crucible of rising partisanship, which is now arguably a more significant divider than race, class, or geography.