One of the more confusing, not to mention controversial, topics in politics might be the idea of “social issues.” It is interesting to examine the role of social issues in politics and government. One’s stance on societal issues is sometimes telling of his or her view on the role of government as a whole.
One key problem is the definition of terms. For example, phrases such as “social conservative” get thrown around quite a bit. The problem is, terms such as these do not always accurately reflect the full range of opinions that a person can have. In other words, people do not easily conform to certain categories.
To say that a certain politician is strong or weak on social issues does not in itself establish what that person will do once in office. For example, the same principles and beliefs that could lead a person to favor less gun control could also lead them to favor more lenient laws against drugs. One position is generally considered conservative, the other liberal. The typical categorizations tend to break down in cases like these.
The issue of gay marriage is of course a very hot button social topic. For what it is worth, opinions on gay marriage and homosexual relationships in general show a trend toward more acceptance, as per a recent Gallup Poll. However, what one personally believes about gay marriage is perhaps less important than what role they believe the government should take on the issue. One could reasonably question what legitimate role the government has in defining marriage in the first place. People will likely always have various conflicting beliefs, but perhaps issues such as gay marriage would be made simpler if the government was not involved, or at least only involved minimally.
When examining the role of social issues in politics, beliefs about the proper place of government are really at the heart of the matter. People often tend to hold on to their beliefs very strongly, which overall is probably a good thing. However, there is a great difference between believing something and believing it should be enforced by law.
This is a problem that the Republican Party in particular has been dealing with as of late. A recent article warned against Republican politicians alienating social conservatives. While offending potential voters is probably not a good idea from a strategic perspective, things are not quite that simple. There is a fairly large gap between how different conservative leaning groups view various social issues.
For example, many people who lean toward a libertarian viewpoint do not believe that governments should have any place in dictating a person’s private life. The basic idea is that people ought to be legally free to believe and behave however they wish, so long as they are not disrupting the rights of other people. It should be pointed out that this does not mean that all actions are moral or that all beliefs are equally valid. For example, one does not necessarily have to embrace another person’s belief system in order to have tolerance for them.
Social issues tend to very contentious and controversial, but it seems that many people believe that America faces bigger problems. For example, in one poll conducted from January 4 to 7, the top three issues were the economy, budget deficit, and health care.
The role of social issues in politics is a controversial topic. Rather than asking where politicians stand on various societal issues, maybe it would be better to ask where they stand on freedom.
Editorial By Zach Kirkman