Boyd Matheson on From Race Relations to Defunding the Police, Driving Wedges Doesn’t Build Bridges

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

If you want to bridge a divide, you cannot continue to drive the wedge of division deeper. You must remove the wedge.

Wedge issues have long been part of American politics. Over the past decade, wedges have been weaponized to a mind-boggling and deeply depressing level. Too many politicians, activist organizations, lobbyists, elected officials and influence-peddlers have decided they would rather drive lucrative wedges for fundraising than build bridges of understanding and improvement.

Raising money and winning elections on divisive wedges prevents good policy and real progress.

Divisive wedges are blocking the country from having real conversations about health care, immigration, education, poverty, addiction, national debt and mental health. Over the past few weeks, the wedges impacting race relations, prejudice, criminal justice, discrimination and law enforcement have been laid bare.

Pounding on these wedges only drives them deeper. Ignoring wedges allows them to burrow deeper where they will ultimately create devastating destruction and still deeper divides.

To the opportunists, wedges can represent a bonanza of media attention built from anger, angst and frustration. Combined with a boondoggle of money and a boatload of political leverage, wedges can become a winning formula — for the short-term.

Courtesy of Boyd Matheson

The wedge of false choice

No serious politician can be truly serious about the “defund police” slogan. Or can they? It depends. If they are using the slogan as a wedge to win votes and fundraising cash, they will deepen and widen the divide and prevent meaningful dialogue. If, on the other hand, they are part of a growing group that believes law enforcement can be reimagined and recreated by dismantling and then developing a new model, they can help bridge the divide.

Chants of “No law enforcement!” or “Anarchy will reign!” or “All cops must go!” or “Who will you call to save you?” are all easy wedge mantras from across the divided spectrum.

Wedges are almost always presented as a false choice. Wedges, even on difficult issues, must be removed for improvement to take place.

The city of Camden, New Jersey, makes an interesting case study in removing the wedge. Budgets constraints and a deep-rooted adversarial and abusive culture had contributed to a police force that needed to be dismantled — and rebuilt. You could call that “defunding.” But the purpose was not a reaction; it was a choice to reimagine “community-oriented policing,” focused on partnerships and good old American community problem-solving.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Boyd Matheson