What makes an issue political?
Here’s Reason magazine:
It was a little more than a year ago—right before Thanksgiving, as COVID-19 raged—that Jessica committed her crime: She let her 7-year-old son and his friend, age 5, play at the park while she went to buy a turkey.
For this, she faced criminal charges, as well as being listed for 25 years on Arizona’s Central Registry, a secret blacklist that functions similarly to the sex offender registry but is less publicly accessible.
I never knew that my parents were child abusers!
I’ve had many discussions with people about this issue, and heard numerous horror stories such as the one mentioned here. Parents who grew up in foreign countries (where kids are often still allowed our alone) are especially perturbed by our safety-obsessed culture. But even non-immigrant Americans seem to miss the old days when kids could roam free. Almost everyone I speak with believes we’ve become way too overprotective.
But that’s not what I wish to discuss today. Rather, I’m interested in another question. Why isn’t this a political issue? Lots of people have their lives damaged by this sort of overreaction. Yet I never see candidates in either party take sides on this issue, either pro or con.
Other restrictions on freedom quickly become political. When parks were closed due to Covid, lots of people (rightly) complained. Why isn’t there a big debate over whether parks should be closed to children playing alone?
One answer might be that the public is pretty content with the status quo. Based on numerous conversions I’ve had, however, just the opposite seems to be true. But people seem fatalistic, as if a cloud from outer space descended on our culture and changed our attitudes toward childhood. As if nothing can be done about it.
So what determines why some issues become political while others do not? Have you ever seen two candidates debate whether kidney donors should received monetary compensation? That regulation kills as many as 40,000 people a year. Maybe that’s because everyone is on one side. But not everyone is on the same side regarding pot legalization, and yet I almost never see two candidates argue over the issue in a political debate. Ditto for physician-assisted suicide. Other social issues pop up and quickly become political flash points, such as trans rights. But pot legalization remains mostly ignored by politicians on both sides. Gay rights were not an issue when gay sex was illegal (and why not?) Rather it become an issue when specific questions such as gays in the military and gay marriage became contentious.
I’m sure there’s a rational explanation for all of this. Presumably candidates do a cost/benefit calculation when considering which issues to discuss and which to ignore. I’m just not sure what that calculation involves.
PS. Note to commenters. This post is not about the best way to raise one’s children; it’s about what determines when an issue becomes political.
PPS. Photo from epSos.de