Wedge Issues and Politics

Wedge Issues and Politics

By Robert Scott

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

As much as any year can avoid being “a political year,” this year – 2021 – should be one of those. There are only a very few political races being contested this year, including none of the U.S. or state Senators, Representatives, or Governor here. There are already people posturing to be nominated to be candidates in 2022, but it’s easy on an early summer day in Edgefield County just to ignore them and decide (in the famous words of Scarlett O’Hara) to worry about that tomorrow.

Those for whom every year is a political year, and that the next election is always The Most Important Election In Our History, will insist on being heard from, even in the non-political year 2021. You can tell who they are by their loudly espousing wedge issues. What are wedge issues, you may ask? 

Here are some wedge issues from our recent political past. (1) We need to stop Sharia Law from being enacted in the United States, by making it illegal here. That there are no states or even sizable localities that have Sharia Law doesn’t seem to matter; it’s not hard to ban something that’s not happening, and it feels good. (2) We need to stop the surreptitious invasion of Islamic Terrorists by radically cutting back, or banning outright, immigration by refugees or others from Muslim countries. Yes, there have certainly been terrorist acts here in the U.S. since 2001, but very few by Muslims – and those that were, were not committed by immigrants but rather by visitors or second (or later) generation Americans. The “wedge” comes up when people allow themselves to be convinced that there is an imminent threat, right now, that wasn’t here yesterday or the day before, and therefore action is urgent. Pointing out that in the two decades since 9-11 more victims of terrorism were victims of “white nationalists” than of anybody else, just drives the wedge in further. (3) LGBTQ rights are fundamentally changing America for the worse and are threatening the sanctity of marriage (among other things). Has anybody actually seen that their own marriage or that of their immediate family was harmed by somebody else’s LGBTQ rights? It’s a wedge issue. (4) Teaching Critical Race Theory to our elementary and middle school children should be banned. This one is like the Sharia Law wedge, above; it’s banning something that is not really happening. Have any of the readers of this paper discovered that CRT is being taught in public schools here, to their children? The answer of course is no, because it isn’t. Again, banning something that is not occurring is not difficult to do, but it does make people feel good. It’s a wedge issue, designed specifically because it drives a wedge between those perceived to be “us” right-thinking people and “them,” those who aren’t.

I enjoy writing about politics for The Edgefield Advertiser and talking about it with my friends – friends whose political views span the spectrum from far left to far right. But all of us should recognize that “wedge issues” exist because there are those who want to drive those wedges in. The wedge is designed to separate friends, and like its mechanical namesake the wedge is supposed to split that group into two disjoint sides, who will no longer consider themselves friends with those on the other side of the wedge. Friendship, discussion, and compromise are the ways to defeat the wedge. We all need to work on that, especially in non-political years like 2021.