God, Guns and Gays: The Problem with Wedge Issues

by: Jimmy Garfield 

Wedge issues.  Frankly, this should only be used when talking about the quality of cheese.  But alas, what it refers to is something far more insidious than brie.  When we’re talking politics and we say “wedge issues,” we mean topics that are brought up specifically to drive people apart by finding one or two things that they cling to hating you for, even if everything else is cool.

Me, a Liberal:  “Hey.  I wanna tax the billionaires more. How about you?”

Moderate (but religious) Dude:  “Yeah.  That sounds like a good idea.”

M,aL:  “And provide broad medical care for people, so our insurance premiums come down.”

M(br)D:  “Yeah, I hate my premiums.”

M,aL:  “And invest in green energy so that we don’t have to give Saudi Arabia money for oil, and we can spur an entire new industry at the same time.

M(br)D: “That sounds wonderful!”

Republican Candidate:  “Yeah, but this guy supports fags, and his president is a ‘Muslim.’” (wink)

M(br)D:  “Oh.  Well, I guess I’ll go support the Republican then.”

This is what I’m talking about.  One candidate uses one or two sticking points that a voter simply can’t get past, and uses that to run the whole conversation.  The Republican Party has managed to pick out a couple that have been working well for them for 40 years now:  God, Guns and Gays.

They can bring any discussion back to those topics, and manage to convince a segment of the population to vote Republican, no matter what else they espouse.  You like this Democrat?  Well he’s an atheist, and is trying to take away your right to pray in church.  This one’s a good Christian?  Well he doesn’t think you have your right to own whatever guns you want, and wants to steal them so he can rule you.  He likes guns?  Then he wants to force your children to learn about buttsex in school and thinks that having another dude hit on you is natural.

So can I count on your vote?  Great!  Let’s go bomb Iran.

But recently, they’ve added another to that list:  Gynecology.  Yes, that’s right, the GOP has declared war on being female.  And don’t take my word for it, just look at the number of states that have been trying to pass anti-abortion “personhood amendments;” not by actually banning the practice, but by saying that the fetus is a person at the moment of conception, and therefore killing it is murder, and the mother will be prosecuted, along with any doctor that performs the procedure.  (Note:  Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, Florida, Ohio, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, California.)

Or the states that have passed (or are trying to pass) bills that require a woman to have an ultrasound and see the fetus before being allowed to proceed with the abortion.  This is meant to stir the maternal instincts in the woman and convince her to not terminate the pregnancy. Some states have even gone as far as bills that require a “Trans-vaginal” ultrasound.  In layman’s terms, they stick a cold probe up your vagina to your uterus so that you can get the clearest picture of the fetus, which you then have to look at.  (NOTE:  Virginia, Alabama, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina.)

Did you know that if you take birth control, you’re a slut?  Because clearly the only reason you’d want birth control is if you’re having so much sex that you’re officially a slut!  So says Rush Limbaugh, the bloated host of an uber-conservative radio show.  This was his response to a Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke, testifying that insurance plans should cover contraception care, because it helps women’s health.  (In fact, “the pill,” while it does stop pregnancy, also regulates hormones, keeps bleeding down during menstruation to stop anemia, helps prevent uterine cancer, ovarian cysts and polyps.)  Oh, and did I forget to mention that 98% of women in the country have taken the pill?

So, now we have a new wedge issue:  Do you think that women should have the right to not have an ultrasound, or that a fetus isn’t alive until it’s actually born?  Well, then you support killing children, you murderer.

And that’s how easy it is to use a wedge issue.  You take one point, on one position, and blow that issue up to be the only important one in the world.  Then you make it so that anything other than your position on it is the extreme in the other direction, and convince people that since you don’t want to be that child-murderer, then you must vote our way.

I truly hope that the GOP, in this election, find themselves having put so many different categories of people into wedge issues, that they find that the only ones left to support them are a vast minority of people who would rather hold firm to 1% of the issues, than agree on the other 99%.  That every black, Hispanic, gay, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, middle-class, and female voter takes a good hard look and says, “Yeah, I’m going with the other guy.”  Maybe then, we will get those corrosive legislators out, and start coming to real compromise in this country.

Jimmy Garfield is a DePaul University graduate in Communications.  A full-time political guru who worked in politics for 5 years, he now gets paid in the IT field.  He reads more than is good for him, and loves having somewhere to vent his outrage at the world.

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