Monday, October 11, 2010

Wedge Issues

I have been meaning to write a post about wedge issues (with the usual delays and procrastinations) when commenter Fritz obliquely brought up the issue. So I went a lookin and found this. So - procrastination over.

Carl Paladino, Tea Party darling and New York Republican gubernatorial candidate, went on a shocking anti-gay rant, telling a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders that homosexuality is unacceptable.

Speaking in Brooklyn Sunday Paladino claimed that children should not be “brainwashed” into thinking that homosexuality was a "valid" or "acceptable" option.

Paladino's harsh words proved to be a stunning example of homophobia. Paladino's tone and words serve to foster and perpetuate a hostile environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) people.
I believe the days of wedge issue politics are numbered. Why? Well there is a tale in that.

To start it is always wise to know what you are talking about.
A wedge issue is a social or political issue, often of a divisive or otherwise controversial nature, which splits apart or creates a "wedge" in the support base of one political group. Wedge issues can be advertised, publicly aired, and otherwise emphasized by an opposing political group, in an attempt to weaken the unity of the divided group, or to entice voters in the divided group to give their support to the opposing group. The use of wedge issues gives rise to wedge politics.

Wedge politics are the key to understanding the behavior of both candidates and voters during political campaigns. Among the voters most likely to be responsive to campaign information are those with conflicting predispositions—partisans who disagree with their party on a policy issue. For these cross-pressured partisans, campaign messages from the opposition can be persuasive if they are focused on the incongruent issue.
Of course this kind of thing could backfire. In fact it often does. As it did in Illinois in 2004

Currently Wisconsin is also embroiled in a culture war.
The economy has dominated the debate in the race for governor, but groups opposing abortion and supporting reproductive rights say the stark differences between the candidates mean results of the Nov. 2 election will have repercussions for years to come.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat in the race, and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the Republican, have spelled out their positions over the years, and groups on both sides of the abortion divide say the distinctions are clear.

"We look at Tom Barrett as a retread of (outgoing Gov.) Jim Doyle on our issues," said Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life.

Walker "is really out of the mainstream when it comes to basic health care for women," said Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.
OK. Republicans are doing again. I knew it couldn't last.

Despite these examples (and how the two races turn out and the exit polling afterward) I think this tactic will get deep sixed. Why? Well to figure out that question we have to look at why wedge issues are used. That is not to hard - it is used because there is not a dimes worth of difference between the major parties on general issues - you know - one party wants socialism hell bent for leather. The other party is not quite in such a rush. Some choice. So you need wedge issues to crank up your base and maybe gather a few votes from the other side.

The down side is that you get a culture war. Straights vs gays. Dopers vs alkys. Pro abortionists vs those who prefer a black market in abortion. And on it goes. And you know this kind of thing works. In some places at some times. And when it does the outcome is always ugly. How do I know? Because it has worked before in Germany against the Jews. In fact it seems to be happening in this country against gays. Just suicides so far. I'm not encouraged. Still. I don't think Americans will stand for this. It is not in our nature generally. Most of the time. People who push this crap are playing with fire. Why? Because there are some of us who would rather vote bankruptcy than culture war.

And with all the economic issues on the table a "Culture War" is unnecessary unless you have nothing generally different to offer. I don't care who the TEA Party darlings are, if they are culture warriors I will work against them with all my power. So - Thanks Fritz!

Because I will be God Damned if any of these bastard sons of bitches are coming after any one, because Jews will always be on that list sooner or later. Which is why I take this sort of thing personally. And why Republicans have such a hard time attracting Jews. You stupid fucks.

OK. Deep breath. Anyway I think this will end in time because unity on financial issues is the most pressing issue now and we will not have a culture to fight over unless we get our economic house in order.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Tom Grey said...

Really good point about "Jews being on that list".

But, sorry to say, pro-life groups aren't going to stop supporting pro-life candidates, often ANY pro-life candidate, rather than pro-abortionists.

The anti-gay marriage stuff is a surrogate for the abortion culture disagreement. Just as 5-4 Roe v. Wade "amendment" changed the constitution by unelected folk, it looks like gays will become constitutionally protected the same way.

The Tea Parties were heavily manned by pro-lifers, at first; tho it wasn't there biggest issue.

Unknown said...

There was no particular reason for Paladino to go there, though. I guess that was his public response to the recent public issue of gay teens being bullied until they suicide. Classy guy.

Then his campaign manager tried to deflect criticism by saying that Cuomo should ask his priest about Catholic doctrine. Um -- are they in a race for Supreme Religious Counselor of the state, or for Governor?

Anonymous said...

I think there's a lot of confusion about what unacceptable means in a cultural context for committed christians. Every single one of them, unless they're in that very rare category of saint, has their own transgressions, their own sins. Every single sin is unacceptable.

The issue in politics is which sins get fought against by the coercive power of the state. Muder, for instance, is a sin that has a broad consensus for state enforcement. The sin of lust in one's heart has a broad based consensus that the state should not enforce that, even if it could. Neither sin is "acceptable" though.

So maybe you're getting worried about something you needn't worry about due to the differences in what is acceptable in religious and political contexts.

M. Simon said...


There are bigger things on our plate right now than abortion. I figure if the culture warriors lose a few sure things they may wise up.

My friend Erick has a post up on winning elections.

The action is among the independents. Wedge issues do not play well among that crowd.



M. Simon said...


Nice to see you. Long time since "Winds of Change".

The problem for Rs is that they scare the horses with this culture war stuff.

Easily defused. "This is my personal position, but I believe it is none of the government's business."

yes said...

I thought Palladino was a blowhard but basically in the right place on economic issues, and I was going to vote for him. Although being a blowhard how much he could actually get done in the NY Legislature would be interesting to watch. Also any governor who says HE is going to make sure the ground zero mosque is not built doesn't understand rule of law very well. So I was going to hold my nose and vote for him just to kill one more liberal political dynasty (Cuomo).

Now I feel like sitting home, and I rarely feel like sitting home.

Unknown said...

Everyone should know there's an alternative. I'm focused on the important issues - cutting wasteful spending to fix NY's budget.

The gay-abortion talk is a distraction from the important issues.

M. Simon said...

Unknown said...

Yeah, there are two pro-market candidates for governor of NY state, and Paladino is neither of them.