How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Wedge issues such as immigration lure voters over the fence

Wedge issues such as abortion, stem-cell research and immigration are often used to lure party loyalists who disagree with their party on a particular issue. According to the authors of "The Persuadable Voters," D. Sunshine Hillygus and Todd G. Shields, by targeting incongruent issues, contemporary presidential campaigns contribute "to more fragmented and polarized political agendas, as candidates now micro-target different messages to different groups of voters in an effort to win over cross-pressured swing voters."

Traditionally, wedge issues are social or cultural and often divisive or controversial in nature that relate to such matters as crime, national security and sexuality (e.g. gay marriage). After their disastrous defeat in the last mid-term election, Democrats will more than likely try to use immigration as a wedge issue in 2016, in an attempt to appeal to Republican voters who may find themselves conflicted with regard to their partisan loyalties and policy preferences on immigration.

Democrats recognize that many loyal Republican supporters oppose any form of immigration amnesty for illegal immigrants and that this is an issue they have long relied upon to rally their conservative base. Witness Republican Scott Brown for Senate campaign in New Hampshire (a state of 1.3 million residents, of which only 3 percent are Hispanic), which ran TV advertisements showing footage of border agents patrolling a lonely, rocky landscape where tall grasses grow.

While opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants may help solidify their base in the short run, it will not ingratiate Republicans with Hispanic voters, who now constitute 17 percent of the electorate nationwide and 15 percent in Mercer County, and will grow to 40 percent nationwide by 2030. Conservative Republican activist Ralph Reed made this point about Republican shortsightedness: "the overwhelming desire to gain control of the Senate has ... so fixated the party's strategic brain trust that trying to get a hearing on long-term strategic issues doesn't seem to be possible at the moment."

In our own back yard, Republicans will have little chance of making inroads in county government unless they can attract greater support among the growing number of Hispanics in Trenton, which, since 2000, has grown by more than 55 percent (eclipsing the number of white residents in the city).

While immigration could be a significant wedge issue in 2016, another issue looming out there could trump it: whether government should play a more intrusive role in our lives and how much government oversight and regulation is enough. In New Jersey, we are seeing this play out over the implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, with some parents refusing to let their kids take the test, which they view as an example of over-testing and top-down involvement in what should be a local education decision.

An increasingly outspoken segment of the population believes our government has become much too invasive. These folks demonize elected officials such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for promoting the "nanny state." They want to see government extricated from our lives. They firmly believe citizens should be allowed to have guns to protect their families and that it is their decision whether to have health care coverage. They believe there are too many social programs and there is too much oversight of the private sector and private property.

On the other side, there are those who are adamant that growing income inequality is destroying the American dream and that this is in part a result of capitalism run amok. They point to the fact that even the former head of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, had to admit he "made a mistake in presuming" that financial firms would regulate themselves. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) continues to call for increased regulation of investment banking firms which, she contends, continue to leverage taxpayer-guaranteed deposits and use them to place reckless bets.

The pro-regulation vs. less-regulation government divide is played out in many ways. The right is exercised when it sees a family on food stamps using them to pay for crab legs and the left has little sympathy for the cattle rancher in Nevada who screamed government tyranny because the Bureau of Land Management requires him to pay grazing fees he's managed to avoid for 20 years.

Both sides, all too often, fail to recognize that government and capitalism can co-exist. In fact, much of our nation's success didn't come about because government got out of the way and let capitalism do its thing. It resulted from government-fostered growth.

Warren got it right: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there -- good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory."