One-Solution Issues and Political Bundling

After the discussion recently had on A Liberal Mormon concerning Social Justice, I've been thinking a lot about what I call "political bundling". "Political bundling" is the practice of making a particular issue or problem inseparable from one of its potential solutions to the exclusion of all other proposed solutions. It's occurred to me that we engage in this particular practice on a regular basis from anything from the environment to abortion and everything in-between. This often quashes completing proposals that could either supplement or supplant the "fix du jour" and goes against the logical approach of "best solution wins".

This bundling has come to define political leanings rather thoroughly. If you believe in strong help for the poor, you're a bleeding-heart liberal even if you don't support government programs to accomplish this goal. If you're upset about corporate monopolies, you're somehow a total socialist even if you're trying to increase market options. If you want to reduce the number of abortions performed, you're against a woman's right to choose even if you don't support any changes in the law. The common thread between these scenarios is that the solution has now become more important than the outcome.

When someone opposes our pet solution, we automatically castigate them for opposing the outcome we perceive it will have. What happens in these scenarios is that we not only shut out solutions that may very well be better than what we current propose but also alienate potential allies in the cause we were originally fighting for. We'll spend so much time casting aspersions at our foes that could very well be working with us for the same goal, albeit from a differing angle.

Party politics has firmly embraced the bundle. It's no longer enough to subscribe to a certain set of solutions, problem solving methods or pet issues to be considered a "good" Democrat or a "good" Republican. No, you now have to buy the whole enchilada or risk internal party persecution from those seeking to achieve ideological purity of the highest order. This shuts good men and women out of the process and makes political parties little more than an internal thought police.

What we should all strive to do is realize that we probably have more in common than we might think. We all care about health care, education and fiscal responsibility, but we'll have different proposals in mind for fixing or improving any of them. When we stop dogmatically presuming we know where the other person is coming from and start finding mutually agreeable solutions, we'll be on the track towards real problem solving. Being presumptuous, dismissive and immovable will not achieve this. Once we stop talking past each other, we'll be amazed at what we start accomplishing.

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6 Responses

  1. Jeremy says:



    I’m mostly libertarian and haven’t been able to find a super comfortable fit in any of the parties I’ve tried. Republicans were ok in Virginia but not in Utah. Big “L” Libertarians are too wacky everywhere I’ve seen them. Democrats are usually too socialist but not as much so in Utah where the party is so emaciated that they’ll welcome anyone with open arms.

    Right now I’m comfortable to call myself a Democrat in Utah (I’ll switch to independent so I can vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary).

    Your point that ideological purity in any party is stupid is one I’ve confronted every step of the way as I’ve developed politically.

    Great post.

  2. I agree with Jeremy, great post and very astute handling of what is probably the most important issue of the day…the complete, total polarization of the political process to the point where “moderation” and “compromise” are dirty words on both ends of the political spectrum. As an old Goldwater Republican driven to unaligning myself from either of the two mainstream parties, though, I am skeptical about the possibility of change anytime soon, given that the national Democratic party has proven itself to be nearly as corrupt and twice as ineffectual as the thoroughly discredited GOP.

    I lay the blame for the current morass on the Reagan/Gingrich era “Republican Revolution” which was driven in large part by the full body embrace the national GOP gave the Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson/James Dobson so-called “Religious Right” which is a misnomer if ever there was one. And until the GOP divorces itself from same and returns to the principles of individualism, small government, and balanced budgets and rejects the current enthusiasm for legislating morality while spending us into bankruptcy with the dual-edged sword of low taxes and out-of-control defense spending, there is little reason for moderates like me to have hope.

    Your use of the abortion issue is particularly apropros. I would imagine if it was possible to get an honest, unbiased, effective survey conducted in Utah, the results would show that at least 75% of Utah voters refuse to vote for any Democratic candidate, regardless of the office, simply because they associate Democrats with abortion. As long as Utahns refuse to think outside the abortion box, it will remain GOP dominant at every level, and the state Dems will remain irrelevant. And that’s sad.

  3. Reach Upward says:

    The level of vitriol in party politics has been growing for a long time. We are not far from all political dialogue devolving to something like:
    1: You suck.
    2: No, you suck.
    1: No, you suck.
    2: No, you suck.
    Repeat as necessary, only louder.

    PotP’s observations about the Republican Revolution can easily be answered with observations on the other side of the aisle beginning with the McGovern wing of the party.

    Along the way to where we are today have been many notable milestones, such as when decorum took a permanent holiday at the time the U.S. Senate created the new verb bork.

    To be sure, there have been times in the past when politics has been nasty, but probably not as bad as it is today. I don’t think it was even as bad when Republicans detested FDR so badly that they couldn’t even bring themselves to say his name, referring to him instead for years simply as, “that man” in a disgusted tone of voice.

    Interestingly, this detestable climate brings a different kind of person into political leadership than was common in the past, leaving many good men and women out of the running.

  4. I’ve discovered over on Simple Utah Mormon Politics regarding vouchers, that if we “When we stop dogmatically presuming we know where the other person is coming from” that it’s possible to have a very good conversation.

    It’s actually a lot more fun to learn something from the other side than it is to try and run them over with blog rage.

  5. Reach,

    I was talking about contemporary politics, not historical. Nobody today (besides you and me) even remember who McGovern was, much less what he stood for. Here in Utah today, however, Reagan is a paragon, an idol…why, Lavarr Christensen can’t sleep at night until Hill AFB is renamed for him!

    The point I tried to make was, today’s political morass is caused by the juxtaposition of religion (the far-right “Christian” fundamentalism variety, which does not even recognize your religion, Reach, as being legitimate, you recognize that, right Reach?) with politics…that’s when the train of reality and rationality jumped the tracks.


  6. Jesse says:

    PotP: That’s just a specific example of ideological purging within parties. The Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, Constitution Party, etc. have all engaged in their own purges over the years, each motivated by extreme factions within each party. The Democrats had the anti-war protestors of the 60’s. The Libertarians have the borderline anarchists. The Constitution Party has the people too wacky for the Republicans. In all cases, extremism is to blame, not a particular strain of it.

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