Single Issue Voter: To Be, or Not to Be?

This post is one that I hope will facilitate a bit of understanding among those who consider themselves single issue voters and those who question the wisdom of single issue voting. Politics is always a divisive issue, and certainly the current political climate is more divisive than I can ever remember. I’m not naive to think a blog post will help significantly, but over the past months I’ve hear a lot of “I just can’t understand people who _______.” Maybe this will help facilitate a tiny bit of understanding, at least among us brothers and sisters in Christ.

In this post, I want to defend those who vote based on one key issue that is important to them AND I want to challenge those who’d say “I’d never vote for a candidate who supported ‘_____’!”

I was going to write this in the abstract, but it got too tedious, so let’s just get this out of the way – a lot of evangelicals vote on the issue of abortion. They will always chose the pro-life candidate over the pro-choice candidate. No. Matter. What. They are often accused of being reductionistic, treating all the candidates’ positions as non-consequential save one, abortion. They are often chastised for being easily manipulated, not caring about other important issues, etc.

However, I believe we would all be single issue voters if the issue hit close enough to home. Consider there is a candidate who aligns with your views perfectly. It’s as if this imaginary candidate asked you to write their foreign policy, economic policy, and domestic policy for them. In addition, they have a winsome personality and you genuinely like them. But, they have one position you take exception with – they hate New York and think all New Yorkers are sub-human. The state, they suggest, is a drain on our nation economically and morally. They believe it should be nuked into oblivion and erased from the map.

Would this issue be big enough to turn you into a one-issue voter? It would me…most of my family lives in NY! I could not vote for this candidate because of this single issue.

I understand this is a ridiculous scenario, but it demonstrates that being a one issue voter is, giving certain parameters, perfectly logical and, I’d suggest, morally required.

Now, to those who say “I’d never vote for a pro-choice candidate, no matter what,” can you conceive of a scenario where you might change your mind? Say the pro-choice candidate aligned with you on every other issue and you liked them personally. The pro-life candidate was pro-life, but also, you guessed it, hated NY and wanted to drop FatBoy2 and LittleMan2 on NYC. Would you still vote for pro-life (and pro-nuke NYC) candidate? Would you write in? Or, would you consider the horror of nuking one of our own cities of 8 million people an evil so grand you would need to oppose it as strongly as possible, which means voting for the pro-choice candidate?

Obviously another ridiculous scenario. But, I do hope you’d consider breaking your ‘rule’ of never voting prochoice, or at least of always voting prolife.

The situation in 2020 was not so cut and dry. For many, the moral ugliness of President Trump’s personality, the damage he allegedly did to our democracy were evils, but the evil of abortion still outweighed them (like nuking NYC). (In reality, it wasn’t just the issue of abortion, but also the pro-gay agenda, perceived drift towards socialism among Democrats, etc., that also drove many evangelicals, reluctantly, to Trump’s camp, not just the single issue of abortion).

For many other evangelicals, the immorality, coarseness, and perceived bent towards totalitarianism became, as a package deal, their ‘single issue’ this cycle, outweighing for them the issue of abortion, much like a threat to nuke NYC would. (Again, in reality, it wasn’t just Trump’s personality, it was also his policies on immigration, health care, and perceived racism that drove many typical pro-life evangelicals to the Democratic candidate this cycle).

By way of trying to foster understanding, I simply want to make the case that we all could be, in fact should be, ‘single issue voters’ given the right set of circumstances. And, I think we could all conceive of breaking from the pro-life candidate if other issues presented themselves as more evil. Our calculus for making these decisions is different, even when filtered through a Christian worldview.