Jennifer Wagner

Taking on the wedge

Filed By Jennifer Wagner | May 31, 2006 10:46 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

Tiny little rant here.

Over the weekend, I was having dinner with my parents, and my mom -- completely sans malice -- asked me about the GOP argument that people should vote Republican because Democrats have no ideas and no message.

The angry Leo in me wanted to scream, but I explained that Democrats do have a message. It just gets subverted by wedge issues. Like what? I explained that abortion rights, Statehouse prayer, immigration and gay marriage are but a few of the hot-button issues our friends on the right like to use to divert attention away from so-called "kitchen table" issues such as the economy, education, health care and the war.

Then we walked through how and why the basic wedge argument works: The proponent says something that hits at a core emotion. The opponent has to respond by saying, "That's not true. We believe blah blah blah because blah blah blah [insert First Amendment, civil rights, decency, logic, fairness argument here]."

Typically, the opponent loses because the explanation takes longer and is more complicated than the simple, gut-level statement.

For example, I walked her through the gay marriage issue.

They say: "Gay marriage is wrong. Marriage should be between a man and a woman."

We say: "Marriage should be between two adults who care about each other and are committed to spending the rest of their lives together in a relationship. It should also incorporate basic legal rights like insurance, hospital visitation and tax benefits. Who are we to deny two people those rights and that legal status, let alone the symbolism that comes with vowing eternal love?"

They say: "Yeah, but people might want to marry dogs or something."

We throw up our hands and roll our eyes.

They do the same thing with abortion ("Abortion kills babies."), immigration ("English should be our national language.") and prayer ("Christians have First Amendment rights, too.")

Well, here's the thing. If we want to combat the wedge issues, we have to either come up with the first easy-to-understand statement or an equally easy-to-understand reply. Because like it or not, we live in a soundbyte world, and the simplest message most often wins.

For example, even though the Governor got his plan to lease the Indiana Toll Road through the General Assembly, most Hoosiers were against him. Why? Because opponents of the plan had a simple message: "Quit selling our state."

With respect to gay marriage, it's logical to explain the stance, the morality, the values. But it's pithier to say, "I thought Republicans were for privacy. Why do you want to be in everyone's bedroom?"

Anyway, just a few thoughts on message and ideas from the mouthpiece of a party that allegedly has none.

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Privacy? 'Privacy is all about keeping taboos in their place.'

What I want, demand, are the full benefits and rights our citizenship/tax dollars have been paying for!

I agree with you regarding the sound-bytes. However, I also agree with Kay. I don't believe privacy is the core issue here - discrimination is the issue. As the mother of a gay son, I will do everything I can to ensure that he has the same rights and benefits as his heterosexual counterparts. If you want a sound-byte regarding the FMA, just say that the Constitution should not be used to discriminate against a group of people.

I don't know, I think at its core, it is about rights, but Jen is right, the bedroom will win over the average listener.

I couldn't agree more Jen. I personally enjoyed the wedding. It is a joy to watch two amazing people, who love each other dearly, make a life long commitment to one another. Marriage is about just that, commitment. It's not about man and woman. Or about two men or two woman. It's about love. And sacrifice. As Shakespeare wrote, "love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. And is therefore winged cupid painted blind." We love who we love. Plain and simple. It's time this state, and nation, and world look beyond policies of division and start focusing on means of inclusion. I think that's what Jesus would do.