Wedge issues are to politics like bread is to butter. Politicians absolutely love wedge issues. What is not to love about them. They create a natural constituency.As a result, politicians would be stupid to do anything to actually solve a problem over a wedge issue.
Abortion is probably the biggest wedge issue of the last few generations. In 1973, the Supreme Court decided that a woman can terminate her pregnancy for any reason up to the point of viability. I don’t plan on going in the the crux of the debate over viability. Suffice to say, I’m pro-choice, meaning I believe in the right of any individual to decide for themselves what they want to do with their own bodies. I’m also pro-life, I think it’s wrong to terminate a pregnancy. I’m also a man, so my pro-life views are pretty much meaningless, since my wife feels the same way and it would ultimately be her decision anyway. What I do want to address is how politicians are using the abortion as a wedge issue.
Pro-Choice vs Pro-Life
The names of the two sides don’t tell you the whole story here. The pro-choice groups try to paint the other side as trying to deny women their right to reproduce. The pro-lifers try to paint all pro-choice groups as baby killers. Both suffer from the logical fallacy of false dilemma. Politicians love the black vs white style of debate. They can play both sides against each other. Obama is an expert at doing just that. Since the groups fall into a natural constituency, Democrats take up the mantle of choice and Republicans take up the mantle of life. It’s a win-win for both parties.
Life and choice are both fundamental principles of the United States. That gives both parties ample reason to beat their chest over which side is right, always their own. And since choice and life are so intertwined in our culture, the debate will never be settled. Niether side will acknowledge that there might be a middle ground, or gray area. So politicians will never lose a voting bloc. Ask yourself this, do you think NARAL will ever support a Republican candidate? Thinking along those lines, do you think a Democrat will ever vote for any middle ground?
Why should they, they will lose their voting bloc. As it is now, abortion is a huge club that Democratic groups such as NARAL, and EMILY’s list can use to keep women from voting Republican. It’s become more of a method of control than anything else. You can tell by the rhetoric being used against each other. If a woman, or a man to a certain extent, were to chose a GOP or any candidate that didn’t rate high on either NARAL’s or EMILY’s List rating system, they are labeled anti-choice. Who wants to be anti-choice? It’s another fallacy of false dilemma, since very few is directly advocating that women have absolutely no choice. Ironically, it’s the ones that are “pro-choice” that are trying to deny women a choice, by the use of such ad hominums. Again, politicians love it, particularly Democratic party politicians. It’s a voting bloc they don’t have to worry about, they will always be there to vote for them. Unless something happens to disrupt the status quo.
Gay rights is another wedge issue. I’m firmly in the group that supports gay rights. To me it’s an issue of equal protection under the law. Democrats play the pro-gay side and Republican play up the traditional marriage groups. Neither side will ever want anything to actually get done. Politicians like to talk tough about gay marriage, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but in reality they don’t want to see gay marriage pass and they really don’t want to repeal DADT. Again, think about the natural constituency. Why would a Democrat really want to repeal DADT? It’s one less wedge issue they can use to bring in the votes. Republicans don’t want to lose the “traditional” vote, and repealing DADT will surely lose them a few of those votes.
This is exactly what we’ve seen in the Obama administration, so far. Obama came in talking big on repealing DADT during the election, they promptly put it on the back-burner. This pissed of a lot of gay rights advocates, especially on the back of Prop 8, but to Obama it was just good politics. We can see why now. Now that Obama’s poll numbers have tanked, he is again using DADT as bait and a wedge. He is trying to bait back some of those gay rights advocates into supporting him again, by talking big about DADT again. Of course he made the same promise back in October as well.
Of course there are more wedge issues that politicians like to play one against another. Immigration, Affirmative action, and Global Warming are a few more issues that politicians like to play one segment of the population against the other over. One thing about them is that in some sense, politicians will never really want those issues to be solved, or at least come to some sort of conclusion. Contrary to popular belief, politicians are not stupid. They do what they do for a reason. That reason almost always involves staying in power, which means getting more votes than the other guy. So when talking about the HCR debate and the apparent incompetence in the leadership of the democrats in charge, you need to ask yourself, was it incompetence or where they trying to keep a wedge issue alive?
There have been books and Nobel Prizes won over why politicians do what they do, it’s called Public Choice Theory.