The mutual assured destruction of single-issue voters at the polls

What's worse than an uninformed electorate?  Many political watchers would answer: the single-issue (S.I.) voter.  That goes double for pollsters, as those voters with S.I. tunnel vision have been extraordinarily difficult to measure with any accuracy.

Perhaps the most volatile single-issue rearing its ugly head this election year is one familiar to all of us: abortion.  Ever since SCOTUS's draft opinion was leaked on the Dobbs case, political strategists have been advising their candidates that the certain reversal of Roe v. Wade was their moment to cast their lines into the electoral waters, wait for the gavel to sound, and then message hot and heavy about why American women were "losing their right to choose."

The mobilization of White, suburban, college-educated, middle-aged women came swiftly, led by the DNCC and dozens of special interest groups like Planned Parenthood.  More than any other single-issue in recent history, abortion, has managed to galvanize support from across the country and is now struggling mightily to rise to one of the top five issues of the 2022 election campaign.  The fight is being fought at the local, state, and federal levels, aided by millions of dollars in contributions from wealthy donors and hundreds of hours of valuable free airtime by the mainstream media who are "covering" the event.

Despite the fact that Americans are suffering under 40-year high crushing inflation and a budget deficit of over $30 trillion, millions of women are choosing to bypass the bread-and-butter issues, a porous southern border, and an ideologically driven administration that is waging a war on the fossil fuel industry in favor of a woman's right to choose — whenever and wherever — to get an abortion.

I'm aware that many pollsters would disagree with that statement as recent polling shows the economy and crime ranking highest among Americans' worries with illegal immigration coming in third while abortion occupies a distant number five or six on the electorate's mind.  But something else is happening.  This year may be one of those rare times when a perfect storm of incompetent leadership, horrendous economic policies, and brutish power-grabs on the part of our government have come together and just might trump the power of the single-issue (abortion) voter.  However, nipping at the heels of the pro-abortion crowd is another powerful single-issue voter: the "social justice anti-racism voter," who views a pro-abortion stance as just a part of a larger quest to upend the evil White-dominated status quo by painting everything as being racist — from highways to schoolbooks.

This voter is predominantly young and Black and/or young and White and from an upper-middle-class family and probably enrolled in college.  They suffer from an acute case of idealism, the flames of which have been steadily fanned by "woke" propaganda and social media.  They are anti-establishment and anti–status quo and anti–Big Business and most assuredly anti-one-percenters.  Their single issue is rooted in the belief that no amount of talking will solve America's problems (which they contend are systemic), and certainly no amount of talking with conservative Republicans will inch them or the country closer to a rapprochement with the power structure, which they view as totally corrupt.  The issue is the way America lives, thinks, and works.

Pollsters are perplexed by this demographic and have more questions than answers, but the two principal questions are these: will this segment vote, and if so, for whom?  Because our economy is in tatters, political analysts feel that the economy will be the principal reason voters will show up at the polls. Given that the average American's personal economies are under such relentless pressure, they may be right.  However, America may have changed, radically, since the last time the economy was front and center, and this time, voting outcomes might not track with elections past.

There is a school of thought that believes that Americans have become so partisan and so filled with anger and hatred for the "other side" (anti-Trumpers, for example) that they will vote against their own best interest just to be able to deliver a blow to the opposition.  That may be the 2022 wild card and could very well decide a few key races in states like Pennsylvania (Senate seat between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz), Georgia (the governorship between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp and the Senate race between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker), and Arizona (Senate race between Mark Kelly and Blake Masters and governor's race between Kari Lake and Katie Hobbs).  Then there is the all-important New York gubernatorial race between Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin.  

Will the single-issue voters ignore the opportunities to turn these states around and instead vote for the same politicians who got them in trouble in the first place only to "get back at" the Republicans?  That is the $64,000 question, and the answer may prove that we have become our own worst enemy — and that, even when faced with an obvious vote for survival, we are prepared to go down with the ship as long as we can take our enemies with us.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in 30 countries for 25 years during the Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush administrations.  He is the author of twelve books, six of which are on American politics, and has written over 1,200 articles on politics, economics, and social trends.  He operates a political news story aggregator website, He can be reached at

Image: cadesign via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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