I must admit, I have been a political junkie since my youth. And despite being interested in local, provincial and national politics in Canada, I am constantly drawn to the drama, interest and hype of U.S. federal elections, especially during a presidential election year. I follow the debates, I read multiple newspapers, I’m addicted to CNN, and I drift off at night listening to news talk radio.
The current closeness of the upcoming American election between Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan has no shortages of interesting themes and stories. Off the heals of an historic win for the Democrats in the last election, the lack-luster U.S. economy and foreign policy challenges have coalesced to make this upcoming election to likely be as closely contested as three of the last four U.S. runoffs.
What concerns me about this election is the polarizing forces that are emanating from attempts to make social issues a driving force in the decision as to who will lead America. This past few months, especially during the republican nomination run-off, and now continuing in the presidential race, there has been an rising presence of social issues being dragged into the debate about who is best equipped to lead the nation. It amazes me that this fundamental decision will be in part predicated on the candidates’ views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and funding for planned parent-hood. These highly charged, personal, philosophical and religious issues are starting to trump the critical issues at hand, such as foreign policy, taxation, stimulating the economy, social security, immigration and health care.
The abortion debate has been a divisive force in American politics for decades. But after decades of “acceptance” of current U.S. legislation, the advent of the right wing “Tea Party” in the last few years has catapulted issues that resided in the personal domain of each citizen, onto a national debate stage.
For example, during this past week’s Biden-Ryan Vice-Presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz directly challenged the candidates on the abortion issue. “… We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country, please talk personally about this, if you could.”1 In my personal view, this kind of question detracts from the debate, and attempts to re-introduce religious divides into the ballot box.
What good will become of making a political decision based on a candidate’s views on abortion? Have we not got past the era where we challenging the personal and private nature of a union between two people? Do we really want the U.S. electorate to pick a President based on views about stem cell research?
Hopefully the remaining two debates between President Obama and Governor Romney will focus on the substantive issues that should be driving decision making, not emotion-laden, religion infused, personal philosophical issues.
If you have any views about this topic, comment on the blog, or better yet, please stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.