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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Selling stems as wedges

In recent years, Republicans in the United States have trundled out "wedge issues" every election as a way of inciting their base and swaying fence-sitters. Wedge issues are political topics people tend to feel very strongly about even if they have little impact on governing the nation as a whole. Gay marriage is a wedge issue. Religion is a wedge issue. Wedges get people riled up and take the focus off, say, Iraq.

Democrats have always sucked at wedge issues. Dems either are chronically disposed to take the high road and run on substantive issues, or they just aren't as good as their Republican adversaries at coming up with exploitable wedges. Or both.

Well, there's an election next week that will determine the composition of Congress for the next few years, and it looks like the Democrats have stumbled, almost literally, onto a wedge issue: stem cell research.

The vast majority of Americans support stem-cell research. Republicans oppose it on principle: because it "destroys life". Never mind that the "life" it destroys is in the form of embryos that fertility clinics would have thrown in the trash anyway. Republicans can appeal to their "pro-life" base by taking an absolutist stance.

When Michael J Fox recorded a commercial for a few Democratic congressional candidates, it set off a firestorm. Fox suffers from Parkinson's Disease, a hot candidate for an eventual cure from stem-cell research. But not only is Fox's ad moving on its own, it roiled into a fury when Fox was mocked by ultra-conservative talk-radio blow-hard Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh accused Fox of either faking his symptoms or going off his meds to shill for the Democrats.

Now the Republicans are having to fight uphill against looking heartlessly uncompassionate on two levels: first for opposing potentially life-saving research and, second, for mocking genuinely sick people.

Smelling blood, the Dems are trying to drive this wedge as far as they can. They've cut a new ad of their own. In general, I'm not a fan of emotionally manipulative attack ads, but I'm also not a fan of bending over and taking it from the Republican crap machine. And if you have to fight fire with fire, the Democrats new ad is damn hot flame.

Below is the Michael J Fox ad, and its follow-up.

And this link takes you to a good Salon article on the nascent phenomenon of this potential wedge.


Comments on "Selling stems as wedges"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:51 PM) : 

Somebody finally explained Rush's stance on this:




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