Reading some articles about this week's Senate election in Alabama, I was struck by one that pointed out the dilemma that many conservative voters faced: Roy Moore was an unacceptable candidate because he is a pedophile, but Doug Jones was also an unacceptable candidate because he supports a woman's right to have an abortion. I suspect that one of the reasons that Jones won is that many conservatives stayed home rather than having to make a choice that they could not accept. But among the people who did vote, after all of the campaigning and debates and attack ads, just about everyone voted based on their ideology. The same happens in nearly every election. I wondered if it has to be this way, or if there were a way for conservatives to accept Doug Jones as a real choice.
Perhaps there is, but it will require most of us to accept realities that we don't like and don't want to see. The reality is that the right to an abortion is not going away. Same-sex marriage is not going away. The Supreme Court has ruled on these issues, and there is enough popular support that legislation overturning them will not pass. Immigrants and globalization are also not going away; our world has become too intertwined and interdependent for us to shut our doors and withdraw from global markets and communities. On the other side of the aisle, maybe liberals need to accept that guns are not going away, and the massive U.S. military is not going away. They are too entrenched in American culture and identity for people to give them up.
What if we accepted these realities and stopped making them the cornerstones of election races, or even making them issues that distinguished one candidate from another? We would still be a nation deeply divided over many issues, but at least we could set these aside and consider candidates based on their plans for the economy, the environment, and on their character and integrity. It would mean that when lawmakers sat down to write a healthcare plan, they would accept that it is going to include coverage for abortion and birth control. When they discuss gun control, they would enter into the process understanding that whatever laws get passed, they will include the right of the majority of citizens to own guns.
This approach wouldn't solve all of our problems or end all of our conflict. But it just might remove some of the blocks to passing necessary and helpful legislation. It might enable a conservative to vote for a Democrat with a good energy policy that preserves parks and recreational land even if she supports strong gun control, because they accept that the right to own a gun won't disappear. It might enable a liberal to vote for a Republican with a sound fiscal plan even if he is pro-life, because they accept that the right to have an abortion won't disappear. We could accept candidates with opposing views to our own on these issues because we would know that, regardless of what they believe, they wouldn't cause useless contention by demanding changes that will not happen. Hopefully, this would prevent candidates with destructive, extreme views from getting elected because people wouldn't vote for them strictly based on a single issue or ideology. At a bare minimum, maybe making this kind of cross-ideology voting possible would ensure that we elect people who are decent, caring human beings.