“We’ve got about 30 kids in this county that I’m at that are homosexuals. And it is sickening,” cries 14-year-old radio talk show host Caiden Cowger to thousands of listeners. “I’m going to tell you this, guys: President Obama and Vice President Biden are making kids gay!”
Some of you may find this appalling; others may not think this statement is so far-fetched. Cowger’s rant soon went viral, sparking heated discussion everywhere on the issue of gay marriage. Those on the left scathingly criticized him using epithets such as “dick” and “little asshole,” while those on the social right quickly jumped to his defense.
Cowger’s case is not an isolated incident, either. Every four years, presidential elections bring out the worst in people. Otherwise normal citizens begin calling each other names like “baby killer,” “woman hater” and “fag enabler,” not realizing that whomever they elect as the leader of our country has little control over abortion, women’s rights or gay marriage.
Now, a cynic might argue that I singled out Cowger to attack the right wing, but such is not my intention at all. He is entitled to his opinion, and, thanks to the First Amendment, free to broadcast it to the masses. I’m not necessarily criticizing him or anyone else for their views on homosexuality.
I’m criticizing them because they base their condemnation of the President on something over which he has virtually no control. For those of you still convinced that my bias is showing through, let me give you another anecdote.
Last election, my mother asked me who I would vote for, were I eligible to vote, with the addendum that Romney would ruin this country if elected. As a political progressive, even I found this pretty grossly naive, so I asked her how exactly he would do so.
Her instantaneous response went something along the lines of, “Well, he doesn’t like gay people!” I don’t know Mitt Romney personally, but I highly doubt that he hates all homosexuals solely on the premise of their sexual orientation. Even if he did, I have plenty of friends in support of gay rights who would still vote for him because they agree with him on fiscal and foreign policy issues, among many other things.
I told my mom that, while I would vote for Obama, it would be because, at the time of the election, he had cut the federal deficit by $312 billion and increased government spending at a slower rate than any president since World War II, not because of his magical ability to instantly legalize gay marriage and abortion in all 50 states.
As much as I supported Obama in the 2012 election, I would rather people not vote at all than vote for him without an educated stance on his positions. I have infinitely more respect for someone who votes Republican and has a carefully thought-out position that they can readily defend than for someone who votes Democrat because “Republicans hate women and minorities.”
Making prejudices about our opponents has caused party polarization, which in turn has caused politicians to become overly dogmatic in order to appeal to their constituents. We saw it with Rick Santorum’s short-lived presidential run last year: the bread and butter of his platform was conservative social policy, which made up most of his talking points.
His extremely polarizing persona, which relied heavily on his Christian morals, took almost all of the media attention away from his grossly incomplete fiscal policy proposal, which economists hated with near unanimity.
Yet this man won the Republican primary in three states and finished second in five others, over Romney, Gingrich and Ron Paul, all of whose proposed fiscal policies made up a large chunk of their platform. This is just one example of how some Americans care much more about social issues than economic ones.
My intent here is not to undermine the importance of social issues, but to stress that social policy change usually happens in state legislatures and rarely rests upon the shoulders of the federal government. So please, when voting for the leader of our country, don’t relegate their role to that of a mere social policy advocate. Instead, consider the practical effects this candidate would have on our country before you cast your ballot.
If you want to call ZACH MOORE a “little asshole,” email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.