OPINION: Misunderstood? One-issue voters, misconceptions and what some of them may really care about

As someone who, for lack of a better term, enjoys thinking about the relationship between social issues and the law a fair amount, I often found myself analyzing the curiosity that was one-issue (or “single-issue”) voters. What are these people’s stories? What makes their issue so important to them that it becomes their purpose for activism? This was, of course, before I realized that I was — effectively, anyways — a one-issue voter.

Before I get too much into what I mean by being “effectively” a one-issue voter, first I want to make a couple of things clear. While this column is going to focus on how some “one-issue” voters may go deeper than truly caring about only one issue, I also think if you do find one issue to focus on, that’s fine too. I’m certainly not smart enough — and I don’t think anyone is, honestly — to determine what’s a valid way of thinking and what isn’t.

Sure, someone can be using a logical fallacy or a bad faith argument, but that doesn’t mean what they’re arguing for is bad or wrong. Regardless of what the most important issue is to any of you — as well as me — I’m sure a quick look would be all it would take to find an example of some sort of logical fallacy in support of any of them.

The point is, even if you are a truly one-issue voter, I think that’s totally fine. There are plenty of issues that are very important and worthy of a person’s attention. Crime and punishment, and the many innocent people put and kept in jail every year. The economy, which, if run incorrectly, can cause mass unemployment and people unable to buy food.

Environmental issues can be very important, depending upon the school of thought you subscribe to. I don’t think this, but I went to Tri-C with a girl who thought that earth wouldn’t last hers and my lifetime. If that’s your school of thought, then I definitely think being a one-issue environmental activist supporter makes a lot of sense.

In short, there’s a lot of issues that I could see becoming someone’s “one issue,” and the more columns I read, the more I realize there’s an infinite number of viewpoints, some that I never would have known existed. Even if a lot of them I don’t agree with (which makes sense, given there are so many different viewpoints) they’re all valid ways of thinking and valid schools of thought.

Anyways, back to what it means to “effectively” be a one-issue voter.

When I was a student at Tri-C, one of my favorite professors and I were discussing who we had supported in the various elections held the previous fall. He asked me why I supported the candidates I did.

My answer was pretty simple. I voted for the candidates I did because they were pro-life.

“So you’re a one-issue voter; that’s fine,” my professor said.

That response kind of threw me off, as, at the time, I had never thought of myself as a one-issue voter, but maybe that’s because I misunderstood what a one-issue voter was.

The more I got into it and asked around, most “one-issue voters” aren’t necessarily people who care about only one issue, but people who think, as one man I discussed social issues with said, “one issue outweighs all the others.”

For some people, a simpler way to look at this might be “deal-breakers.” For me, when choosing candidates, if they’re not pro-life, that’s a deal-breaker. I’m not telling you that’s how you have to do it, but I would like to walk you through a bit of my process so as to better understand how I come to the conclusions I do.

Let’s talk about what to me are the three most important issues:

1.) Abortion

2.) The death penalty (which I am also against)

3.) Innocent people being convicted of crimes

For the sake of the argument, let’s briefly accept my premise on abortion (that an unborn child is alive). I know a lot of you out there will probably have biologists or doctors who say I’m wrong, and a lot of you out there will have biologists who say I’m right. Even amongst experts, there’s a difference of opinion; there almost always is.

In 2017, there were 862,320 abortions performed in the United States and 20,630 in Ohio. Going all the way back to 1990, there have never been more than 98 executions in the United States in any given year. While in my eyes both of these are bad, one of them, in the United States anyways, is much more common.

And while wrongful convictions are more common than most people realize, the Innocence Project states that there are about 20,000 innocent people in prison right now.

While these are all important issues, candidates for office are not always going to believe all three of those things, which is where the job gets difficult for me. However, looking through my eyes (or, theoretically the eyes of any one-issue voter, who could make a similar case for any issue) you can see how I get to where I get. It doesn’t mean I or they don’t care about other issues, it just means we have certain deal-breakers that ultimately guide our choice.

The other argument I’ve heard from people is “if you let one issue be a deal-breaker, you’re going to eliminate candidates from some parties right out of the gate.”

While I understand that it is limiting, at the same time, nobody is forced to walk in lockstep with their political party, even if they’re running for office. Furthermore, there’s nothing that says a party cannot change its platform as party leadership changes throughout the years.

In short, people have issues that are important to them, and that’s a good thing. It means they stand for something and are willing to fight for it.  While perhaps “one-issue voting” isn’t always necessarily the best term for what it describes, it is a valid line of thinking that goes along the lines of forming your ideology, weighing the pros and cons and coming up with what, based on your principles, is the best course of action.

Ross McDonnell is an opinion writer. Contact him at [email protected].