For decades now, the vicious attack weasels of the Republican party have successfully been able to exploit the hatred of their constituencies in order to make ideological driven "issues" into major campaign themes. These are called, of course, "wedge issues," meant to divide the electorate on pretty dogmatic issues. Or drive a sledgehammer a wedge in-between voters' prejudice and their good sense. A good wedge issue is something that has nothing to do with the day-to-day lives of most Americans, but can be argued about passionately, loudly, and with a good degree of potential violence.
The Rude Pundit's favorite wedge issue, the most irrelevant issue ever to make it to mainstream popularity, is the flag-burning amendment. In the "outrage" over a couple of dying-for-attention protesters burning the American flag and an "activist" Supreme Court in 1989 that essentially said, "You gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me?" and protected flag burning as free speech, members of Congress and President Bush I decided that the flag needed its own language to protect it in the Consitution. Never mind that every post-9/11 yahoo that has flown a shredded flag on his SUV, desecrating the flag vividly. But non-support of a flag-burning amendment meant you were not a patriot. In fact, you must hate America. Cooler heads prevailed, and even though flag-burning rears its viscous visage every time Republicans are looking down the barrel of the electoral cannon, most people in the country now realize that, really, and c'mon, who gives a fuck if someone burns a flag. (At the time, the Rude Pundit said that as long as companies that make flags earn a profit when he buys one, he's free to burn as many as he wants.)
From race-mixing to capital punishment to gay marriage, Republicans are so fuckin' good at shoving the wedge up the ass of the voters, doing an in-your-face endzone dance at their Democratic opponents. It goes back, at least, to red-baiting in the 1920s and beyond, when all you had to do was allude to the possible "Communist" or "socialist" connections of your opponent and then Upton Sinclair was as depraved as Lenin after a vodka binge (to be fair, Democrats were guilty red-baiters, too). Divde and you shall conquer, motherfuckers. Wedge issues are amazing because they appeal to our basest instincts.
Except now. Democrats have a barnburner of a wedge issue. A motherfucker so strong that they can destroy Bush with it because more than flag burning or gay marriage ever was, it's about life and death. Sure, stem cells may not be the miracle Ron Reagan and others believe it could be. Remember interferon? It was supposed to cure all kinds of cancers. It didn't, but now it is the most effective treatment for hepatitis C. Let us not get into the medical viability issue here. Instead, let us deal with the cut-and-dried, oh so giddily wedge-filled politics.
It's so simple: Bush says no new stem cells with federal money. Kerry says lots of federal money for it. Laura Bush stepped into the political cow shit yesterday by saying that her husband doesn't support a "ban" on the research. But if Kerry decides to make this a major issue in the campaign, it could be the mother of all wedge issues. Can you imagine the commercials? With quotes from Trent Lott and Orrin Hatch?
Now, imagine those mythical undecided voters in the booth, staring at the names, deciding between the promise of a better life of possible miracles and wonder or only the continued descent into the dark ages.