The Return of the Hot-Button Issues

Debates over abortion and affirmative action remain dominated by extremists. But sensible positions exist

Susan Walsh / AP

President Barack Obama and his Supreme Court choice Sonia Sotomayor

In the good old days of the last century, the years before the collapse of the economy and the World Trade Center towers, political discourse in the U.S. was, too often, rutted in issues that didn't affect the lives of most people. They were important moral and symbolic issues, to be sure. And they were difficult issues, although their subtleties were obscured by extremists, who tended to dominate the debate. Still, the people directly affected by the so-called social issues — abortion, gay marriage, racial preferences — pale in comparison with the tens of millions who have lost their jobs and...

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