“The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” These were the exact words spoken by Richard Mourdock, a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Indiana, during a debate. The quote was prompted by some asking the candidates to clarify their position on abortion.
I have already addressed the whole rape/abortion issue previously in this blog here. And I have already addressed the whole theodicy (the problem of evil in the world) issue here. But I still feel like there is something to be said about these issues because they keep on getting brought up.
I will try to be neutral, because in politics I agree with no particular party completely. Both major parties have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Right now I identify more with one party than the other, but that was not always so. When I was younger I identified more with the other party. So I’m a living example of people changing what they feel is most important. So with that in mind, let me dive into this murky water of “social issues.”
Abortion and same-sex marriage are hot button issues no doubt. But why? I have heard interviews on the radio with “one-issue” voters who only vote for a person because they agree with the candidate on one issue, usually abortion or same-sex marriage and usually against it. Why? I believe that it is because one party catered to their position.
For awhile after the Scopes Monkey trial, where the Evangelical headliner, William Jennings Bryan was made a fool by an atheist Lawyer, Clarence Darrow, over the issue of evolution and the power of God, the conservative Evangelical voting bloc was non-existent. Mostly composed of people in the South, this voting bloc would either vote for a Presidential candidate that they liked, or they would not vote at all. It wasn’t until Richard Nixon saw this untapped resource as a way to ensure his Presidency. In his book God’s Own Party, Daniel Williams talks about how “Nixon brought evangelicals into the Republican Party by focusing his campaigns on cultural issues and by using Billy Graham” as a liaison to conservative Protestants” (Abstract Here). And so Nixon tailored his own campaign to meet the wants of a group of voters who were not being “utilized” in elections.
This campaign strategy was halted for a brief period by Jimmy Carter because he was a Evangelical Christian from the South. But because of his handling of the recession that was gripping the U.S. then (sounds familiar) and the Iran hostage crisis he was ousted in favor of another President who catered to the culturally conservative voting bloc, Reagan. This wedding continues to this day with statements like the one at the beginning of the blog.
This voting bloc has become vital for a Republican candidate to gain a nomination, so the issues that these people care about come to the forefront. Being against abortion (except for the health of the mother is an exception that most are willing to give) and for a definition of marriage as one man and one woman (forgetting that the Biblical father Abraham had more than one wife) has become vital for getting into office as a Republican, and thus are points where Democrats can be different than their counterpart (most people don’t want to agree with their opponent on things, it just doesn’t sound right: “I agree with my opponent” is bad debate strategy, sorry Romney).
Social issues are thus usually a point of major difference between the two sides and brought to the front of the conversation because there is an argument there.
Do I think that social issues should be at the top of the list of things to talk about in an election? Not really, but that is just my opinion. I would rather us talk about how to improve education or how to make sure that every child that lives in the U.S. goes to bed not hungry. I think most of us can at least agree on that.
Along the lines about agreeing on things, I think we can all agree that the rhetoric that is being spit between the Presidential candidates has crossed the line. I pray in the next election cycle civility will reign, not attack ads. Maybe that’s a social issue too.