Single Issue Anyone?

February 8, 2008 | By | 8 Replies More

With the possible spoiler of Mike Huckabee, it’s clear that John McCain is set to be the candidate the Democrats need to beat in November. The irony of the ongoing battle between Hillary and Obama is that, policy-wise, they just aren’t that different. There were some real differences between the Republicans, but those differences are not what McCain seems to be gearing up to run on. He is all about Iraq.

McCain has to convince hardline conservatives that he’s their guy. Why? Because he has occasionally backed some responsible legislation, like McCain-Feingold. He refused to sugarcoat our waning industrial possibilities while campaigning in Michigan. He has spoken positively about amnesty programs for illegal immigrants. He has not always been a friend to Big Business. True Red Republicans of the Bush League see the potential for fiscal treason in McCain—that he might raise taxes, control campaign spending, or propose, back, and sign Democratic-sounding legislation that would take the country toward *gasp* Socialism.

I have a hard time squaring complaints from anyone that McCain is somehow not a fiscal conservative when Bush just put forward a three-point-one TRILLION dollar budget (with the largest slice for defense spending since WWII). It just goes to show, all the rhetoric about Democratic profligacy is really just a complaint that the Dems spend the money on things the Republicans don’t like. It’s not the money, it’s the programs.

Setting that aside, though, McCain obviously doesn’t think he can sway them all. So he’s about to start campaigning hard on the pitfalls of an Iraq withdrawal. I will wait for the P-word to rear its ugly torso—Patriotism. The suggestion will be made that anyone wishing to pull out is somehow not patriotic. We saw this under Bush, aspersions cast on some of the most loyal, patriotic, and demonstrably courageous people who suggested that maybe this war was a bad idea and that, furthermore, we more or less screwed it up by going in blind, deaf, and predetermined.

I hear echoes of the Sixties all over again, and of all the people who should know better, it is John McCain. (“Pull out…doesn’t sound manly to me, Bub. I say leave it in there till the job is done and they’re thoroughly messed up.”)

The problem is, this may well play for the American voter. When we have serious doubts, we tend to stick with what we’re doing rather than risk change. We have to have our faces rubbed in the muck of bad decision-making before we finally say—in sufficient numbers to matter—enough is enough. I am not sanguine about the political maturity of the American people.

And the thing is, we aren’t getting our faces rubbed in it. We’re adapting. Gasoline is high, the American industrial base is shrinking, we have infrastructure problems galore, but we’re making accommodations and doing fine, thank you. People complain, but by and large we haven’t actually lost anything that matters. So much of this debate is still in the realm of hypotheticals, theories, ideas, and potentials.

So we look to the Democratic candidates and what do we see? One old school politician who would probably do a fine enough job and maybe make a few worthwhile changes, mainly around the edges, and one young firebrand who is promising Big Changes. And a serious look at their policies shows that, really, they differ by degrees, not ideas. It’s going to devolve into a popularity and demographics battle. Which barrier do we want to break first? Gender or race? And underlying that, is the question no one wants to ask: does it really matter anymore?

In my misbegotten youth, I used to be what they call a Single Issue Voter. Was a time I voted against anyone who wanted to erode the Second Amendment. Yes, I was one of those Right to Bear Arms purists. I had bought into the argument that an armed populace kept the government in line and the first step towards tyranny is to disarm the population at large. There’s truth to that in history, but today, here, in this country, it’s a rather weak argument. Power doesn’t work that way. Not to say it couldn’t, but for now it simply doesn’t.

I could also argue that anyone wishing to tamper with the Constitution was de facto untrustworthy. Which may also be true. People doing good for me whether I want it or not is loathesome. Make the subject anything but guns and you see this immediately.

But the truth is, single issue voting only means you’re not informed, interested, or intellectually capable of understanding multiple issues. Or it means you don’t care about anything else, which is just as bad. It is stupid.

As it has transpired, most of the Second Amendment purists voted into office in the last forty years have also brought with them a whole suite of ideologies I cannot abide. They are, many of them, the natural constituency of the George W. Bush League. That single issue—preserving an unquestioned right to own, carry, and by implication use something which I, in fact, do not own or carry—comes packaged with people whose other policy positions I find absurd or dangerous.

The word Balance comes to mind. Tricky at the best of times.

McCain will campaign on a single issue. Oh, there will be other policy positions he’ll talk about and want to deal with, but at present it looks like he’s going to threaten America with the awful prospect of “pulling out” if we vote for the Democrats. He will polarize people over a Single Issue that will push all the rest to the side in an emotional gambit to convince us to—wait for it, he may yet use the phrase—Stay The Course.

In such an environment, the first casualty is reason. You can’t even get close to truth without that.

I would really like to see the two Democratic front-runners make a deal, put together a ticket that can roll over this irrationalism. The Republicans are once again demonstrating their major strength—they’re forming ranks and closing up behind a candidate and they will see it through as a group. For a bunch of people who profess to believe in American Individuality, they sure can cast it aside quickly enough for their Cause. Democrats traditionally devour each other.

The one factor we have left to see whether McCain has a reasonable shot or not is who he picks as a running mate. Because that will indicate who he thinks his successor will be, ought to be. As it appears right now, if Hilary and Obama made a deal and ran together, it would be the best of all possible worlds. Either one of them is acceptable to me.

I suppose I should say whether I think we should get out of Iraq. Saying— believing—that we should never have gone in to begin with is not the same thing. Now it would be like making a mess of a paraplegic’s kitchen, then leaving without cleaning up the mess. So I guess I’m forced into the opinion that we would be ill-advised to simply pull out until Iraq really does have a security base that works well enough. Otherwise, they will be divvied up by the various factions outside their borders. Iran has, in fact, an old score to settle, and they are more dangerous to future peace in the region than Iraq ever was. Saddam ultimately was just greedy. The Iranian hierarchy are Inspired.

But that doesn’t mean I’d vote for John McCain—all the other things he’s bringing to the table are things I do not really support.

Single Issue Voting is for morons.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: American Culture, Campaign Finance Reform, Communication, Culture, Current Events, History, Iraq, Military, Noteworthy, Politics, The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (8)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Edgar Montrose says:

    Your experiences parallel mine, to an almost eerie extent, right down to the Second Amendment. My transformation was complete before the end of Bush's first term, when I found myself writing a letter to the NRA in which I proclaimed that the 2nd Amendment would have been better protected under Al Gore than it was under George W. Bush, given Bush's destruction of the ENTIRE Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    I think that people take single-issue stands because the world is so big and so complex that getting one's mind around the whole thing is just impossible. So people delude themselves into believing that all the wrong and all the evil in the world would be eliminated if they could just solve that one "monumental, all-encompassing" problem. It is naive and unsophisticated, but it is also very common.

    It is also not likely to go away soon. Sure, the solution to the problem is education, but most people don't seem to want to be educated. They might actually learn that their beliefs are unfounded, you see, and that's just too much for them to bear.

  2. Dave says:

    This is what we get, when the corporate controled Mainstream Media propaganda mill "pre-selects" the candidates of both parties using selective reporting of the "news".

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

    Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965)

  4. Will says:

    I agree with much of what you say, but I've always thought of the single issue voters as selfish voters. For twenty years I've questioned why people in America vote for what benefits them personally rather than what is best for our country. This is a dangerous precedent because it is also reflected in the way politics works in America–politicians use their offices for their own self interests, so if voters are voting them in for the same reason, who is paying attention to or caring about our country as a whole? The answer is no one. That is the saddest fact about America today. Lastly, I don't know if you are being sarcastic when you say we aren't having our faces rubbed in it, that "by and large we haven't lost anything that matters." From my perspective, we've lost plenty that matters. We've lost much of our freedom, we've lost much of our reason, we've lost trillions of dollars, we've lost a quality educational system, we've lost our job security and much of the power we used to have as workers, we've lost regulations of industries, which has produced toxic toys and food and drugs that kill, we've lost trust of our government and one another, we've lost any hope for self sufficiency, we've lost morality, which is evident when we think about most of our imported products being produced by slave labor, we've lost free speech, we've lost any semblance of togetherness or being united as a country…in short, we've lost the ideal of America as a democratic country that is concerned about all citizens, liberty and equality, and if we've lost that we've lost everything.

  5. Will,

    First off, it's hard to tell why people vote the way they do, but in the case of Shrub, he garnered a huge amount of the blue-collar vote and that was clearly not in the interests of blue-collar workers. Maybe they had deluded themselves about what would be in their personal best interest or maybe they all just think that some day we'll somehow all be millionaires, but those who voted for Bush did not vote in their own best interest.

    Secondly, when I say we haven't had our faces rubbed in it, I'm not talking about anything other than the fact that, on a person by person level, just what is it we can't do that we were able to do ten years ago? Fifteen? The day comes you go to the grocery and they tell you that you can't buy milk because there isn't any because of the national rationing, or you can't take a book out of the library because it's on a proscribed list, or you can't vote because your income fell below a certain level, or you won't be permitted into a town council meeting for security reasons, or…when the day to day private lives of people who are still trundling their children around to a round of junior sports events, still living and able to make payments on a house they think they'll own someday, still able to eat what they want, when they want it, read what they want when they want it, and can elect to change jobs for personal reasons, when those people are faced with costs and consequences that intrude on their distractions, then they will be having their face rubbed in it. You're talking about people who are already paying attention and count what to many other people are abstract freedoms as essential freedoms.

    When you can't walk out your front door and do what you could last year or five years ago, then you will see face rubbing. Till then, as I said, we're "adapting."

  6. Martin says:


    I'm sure that many people would agree with your comment that:

    we would be ill-advised to simply pull out until Iraq really does have a security base that works well enough.

    What intrigues me is by what criteria are you going to determine that it is working well enough?

    It seems to me that the last two thousand years of Middle East history would point to the region constantly teetering from one inherently unstable solution to another at random intervals. Whenever you pull out and however careful you are about your timing you will be well advised to retire to a safe distance and put fingers in both ears.

    This week I have been reading No God But God by Reza Aslan, a book about Islam written by a Muslim for the non-Muslim audience. In the introduction he talks about the current Islamophobic trends in many media reports and political speeches comparing them unfavourably with the Crusades; the Republican senator from Oklahoma comes in for some severe criticism in this regard. (I don't intend to get into a debate about whether this approach is justified, I am just setting the scene for the comment that follows). Then Mr Aslan asks us to: Add to this the perception, held by many in the Muslim world, that there is a collusion between the United States and Israel against Muslim interests in general and Palestinian rights in particular, and one can understand how Muslim's resentment and suspicion of the West has only increased, and with disastrous consequences.

    From this I would conclude that whatever the US agenda in Iraq, no matter how benevolent you try to be you will always be perceived as being duplicitous and working to some hidden agenda.

    If Barack Obama's Secretary of State manages to get one Iraqi to agree on what the day of the week she will have made big progress and I wish her the very best of luck. Yes. We. Can.

  7. Martin,

    If I could answer that question, I'd run for office. We are faced with bad options all around and no reliable basis for determining anything. I do not envy our next president. (Of course, I envy none of them.)

  8. Erika Price says:

    I have begun to wonder whether ISSUE voting is a good idea at all. We cannot predict what unforeseen crises will arise in a President's tenure; we can't have any assurance that they will face the issues they stood for during their campaign. We can't even count on an elected official to take the side of the issue he vowed to us- many Republicans were no doubt outraged when Bush pardoned Bill Clinton despite vowing not to do so on the campaign trail in 2000.

    All of this leaves me inclined to think that leadership style should carry much more weight. We should all ask ourselves: how does this candidate make decisions? With what kind of people does this person associate; on whom does he fall back when facing a hard choice? Can this person admit mistakes? Can this person do something unpopular with their party if they think it is the most sensible thing? Can they sift through facts and separate valid arguments from foolish ones? And so on.

    Such things, of course, prove much harder to glean than a knee-jerk, single-issue stance.

Leave a Reply