A recent article in the NY Times revealed how the Democrats and Republicans in Washington tend to gravitate toward contrary positions on most issues. The result of this tendency, especially in an era of stalemates, is that nothing gets done even when the parties are in fundamental agreement on an issue.
The example that the Times article focuses on is called the Common Core:
- “A once little-known set of national educational standards introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia with the overwhelming support of Republican governors, the Common Core has incited intense resistance on the right and prompted some in the party to reverse field and join colleagues who believe it will lead to a federal takeover of schools.”
- “The learning benchmarks, intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English, were adopted as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness. Some conservatives, in an echo of their criticism of the health care law, say the standards are an overreach by the federal government.”
A liberal friend posted the article on Facebook and made the following comment:
- “Why do we keep looking for wedge issues? When are we going to start looking for issues to come together with? BTW, this applies to both sides, not just the right. More hashtag politics here.”
I think my friend misused the term “wedge issues.” Google defines it as a divisive political issue, esp. one that is raised by a candidate for public office in hopes of attracting or alienating an opponent’s supporters. Most often, wedge issues are things like same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, illegal immigration, or gun ownership. They are intended to distract from other more important issues. By contrast, the NY Times article examines why political parties attempt to create divisiveness where none exists. Because that doesn’t make sense to me, I commented to my friend my essential agreement:
- “I was initially disappointed to see Jeb [Bush] associated with this policy shift, but later was happy to read that he remains committed to education reform. Although Obama’s actions prompted the conservative shift of Rubio, Rand, and Cruz, they remind me of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”