Friday, June 03, 2005

The Destructiveness of Wedge Issues

David Corn at The Nation wonders if stem cells can be a wedge issue for Democrats to use against Republicans. Notice that Corn did not write about how to create broader support for the research. Nope, his concern is finding that all-important wedge issue to split the opposing party.

That, I think, is one of the problems with debate and politics in this country. Instead of trying to build consensus and find real compromise, politicians and their ideological friends in the media see contentious issues not as problems to overcome but as opportunities to exploit. Both sides have eagerly embraced this destructive method of politicking.

But when elections are over, the passions stirred up by the wedge issues don’t just go away. On many of the most controversial issues, like abortion, they don’t even go dormant. How are we ever going to solve our most difficult issues if our elected leaders keep purposefully radicalizing the electorate? How can we even start a rationale debate when the media fills its airtime with shouting talking heads rather than people who might actually offer solutions?

Politics is passion. Politics is conflict. But government exists to solve problems, not exploit them. Those who see wedge issues in every controversy are putting the selfish needs of their candidates and party before the needs of the nation. That’s not the kind of politics we need today.


At 12:27 PM, Blogger Jonathan C said...

Thank you! Someone needed to say it! Let's face it, solving problems takes a back seat to winning elections in Washington. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you don't have a single issue for which you are willing to loose your seat, then you don't deserve to be in office.

At 12:56 PM, Anonymous corey said...

if you don't have a single issue for which you are willing to loose your seat, then you don't deserve to be in office.

very well put.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Joe Weedon said...

I must say that I disagree with the comments here (at least as I'm reading the parts of them that call for a candidate to have such strong convictions on individual issues that they are willing to lose their seat).

Very, very rarely can the issues, whether discussed in Washington or in state capitols, be broken down into such a black and white contrast that you should have a "single issue for which you are willing to lose your seat." There is almost always some room for compromise and consensus without sacrificing your principles.

Candidates, and the parties, must have strong principles that guide their decision-making which they are unwilling to sacrifice. But, on the specific issues, they must work within those principles to find common ground with their opponents to do what is best for the nation.

If you look at the Centrist movement, that's a large part of what we're about. Standing firm on our principles, but working to identify common sense compromise that benefits the nation as a whole.

A quick look at abortion. An individual can be pro-life and pro-choice (I am). These two positions need not be mutually exclusive (you can support life without limiting the choice of others to make their own decision).

Yet, in American politics today a candidate has difficulty walking down the middle of this road.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Given that Johnathan writes an excellent Centrist blog, I think he was arguing that candidates shouldn't be trying to slice up the electorate through wedge issues but should actually stand for something real--you can't be altering your convictions based on wedge issues.

At least, that's my take on what he had to say.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Joe Weedon said...

I'd agree with that.

Far too often politicians look to polls for guidance on what their position needs to be, rather than resting on their principles.

At 9:00 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Here, here! Great post, Alan


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