Wedge Issues and What to Do About Them

It’s worth remembering that many contentious ideas started as wedge issues, whereby one political party seeks to divide the other political party:

The debate around gay marriage was created by Republicans looking to divide the Democrats. The debate around stem cells was created by Democrats looking to divide Republicans. Later, these artificially inflated debates ended up getting fueled by foreign powers to further divide and conquer.

I consider wedge issues a form of a Denial of Service attack on democratic public discourse. As such, the worst thing to do is to actually try to take a side.

Instead, one should pull out the Libertarian trump card, point out that consensus on this topic is impossible, and that the two camps need to stay separate. The political goal should be do disarm the conflict by limiting the outrage to a sufficiently small part of population not to burden the silent majority with unnecessary debate. For example:

  • Gay marriage: sure, allow legal unions of multiple people (why stop at two) for tax, representation, and inheritance purposes, ensure that this is in societal benefit. Religions can choose themselves what will and won’t be acceptable.
  • Abortion: appoint a group that will decide on what definitely is and what definitely isn’t allowed; defer to local authorities and insurance companies about what will be covered, and protect the diversity of choices.
  • Sexual behavior: if it can’t be controlled, it shouldn’t be regulated. However, the economic and public health externalities of certain choices, such as promiscuity leading to sexually transmitted disease, should not be borne by the public as a whole.

Perhaps we can explore constructive solutions to other wedge issues.

Politicians who engage in wedging should be identified and shunned for their demagogic ways. Media promulgating wedge issues should similarly be identified and shunned. A scalable way of doing that is by scoring politicians and media based on different components of political activism, with the ‘far’ sources engaging in shunnable politicking:

Educational materials and software tools can be developed to increase familiarity with politicking, in the spirit of: