The other day, in a class on Ethics in Public Policy, I found myself saying something that felt extremely strange coming out of my mouth. I said "I agree with the Bush Administration." I know, right? Those aren't words I'm used to saying. Before I get calls to turn in my pinko leftist card, let me specify that I wasn't agreeing with their entire policy stance on the issue at hand (Affirmative Action) but I thought aspects of their approach—considering socioeconomic background as a factor in equalizing admissions instead of race—were unusually thoughtful and made sense. So let's do a thought experiment. Let's assume affirmative action is really important to me. It's important to me like abortion, LGBT rights, or taxes are important to some voters—a make-or-break issue. Do I support Bush in the 2004 election? Since affirmative action isn't that important to me as a voter, it's not a dilemma I have to confront. I oppose Bush on so many more significant grounds that the off-chance that my thinking aligned with his on one is pretty irrelevant.
But for some people, this becomes an extremely relevant dilemma. They are forced to make political friends out of political enemies, enemies out of friends, and to sort out the mess that that can create practically. One of the best historical examples of this kind of behavior is the women's suffrage movement pandering to racists by excluding black women from marches and protests. These awkward little collisions of interest are fascinating to watch play out in contemporary politics. Here are some examples.
#1—Wisconsin is a stew of interests, what with hippie haven Madison and union refuge Milwaukee butting heads with rural-family-values everywhere else. Typically, it's the state that gave the nation both Bob LaFollette and Joe McCarthy. We are currently represented by one of the most progressive senators out there, Russ Feingold, but he's got an almost-perfect record in opposing gun control. It's along the "guns" line that a pretty absurd political hot button came up a few years ago. The DNR introduced introduced a bill in the state legislature that would make it legal to hunt cats. Yes, that means exactly what you think it means. If Mittens doesn't have a collar on, she's fair game (literally).
Now this little bill's strange bedfellows stemmed mostly from the fact that the environmental lobby was behind the bill. Feral cats killed off local birds, making them a nuisance for conservation efforts. The gun lobby was way behind it, because it meant they got to shoot stuff more often, and farmers were fans, because they considered feral cats a pest. That meant that the environmental lobby was against the animal rights fans. (As it worked out, legislators didn't want to go on the record as being pro-kitten-hunting, so the bill didn't pass.)
#2—Then there's this story. The upshot is that assholes want first amendment protection for their assholery, and the ACLU is helping them out. Now the ACLU tends to be pretty anti-homophobia, but they also like to protect your right, in certain circumstances to be an asshole. They're also big fans of second-amendment rights ("you mean I can have a gun, but I can't use it to shoot the queers?"). In any event, they're defending a church's right to picket military funerals—the church thinks deaths in Iraq are due to our tolerance of gays. So apparently you get to carry a sign at someone's funeral that says "thank God for dead soldiers." (But seriously, the left hates the troops).
So what are the implications of that kind of odd behavior? Well, an upside is that it makes people cross partisan boundaries and cooperate on issues that matter to them, and may create some kind of horse trading and compromise that is probably good for politics. People stop disagreeing with each other as a knee-jerk reaction and start actually considering their positions carefully. In theory, at least.
The downside is that it makes life awfully confusing for those of us who like to dedicate our time, money, or other resources to organizations that usually do really nice things, but don't want that money to go to protect, say, homophobic speech (I reluctantly think you can be a homophobic asshole whenever you want, but probably not at someone's funeral, and I'm certainly not going to give money to perpetuate it).
What about y'all? Have you encountered any interesting cases of strange bedfellows in your political life? How did you traverse that political space?