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King: Pain from a few hard-liners

POSTED: November 5, 2013 1:00 a.m.

You’ve heard of the “pain factor.” It’s a political term, the pressure a relatively small but impassioned group of individuals can inflict on a politician, especially around election time.

It’s how ideological differences distort the political process, and it’s why politicians absolutely hate single-issue voters.

Most Americans don’t care who runs the Cuban government as long as they aren’t pointing nuclear weapons at us. But the Cubans in exile are a powerful, well-funded and ideologically driven group. Mention dropping sanctions against this socialist nation and anyone running for office is up against an aroused voting block. Thus we continue an outdated, misdirected vendetta against the Cuban people because they were once supported by a now defunct Soviet regime.

I enjoy watching old “West Wing” TV shows on my computer. It depicts life in the White House during eight years of a fictitious administration. With no advertising, the episodes run under 45 minutes, just right before I go to bed.

Recently I’ve been introduced to what happens when two basically good men run for the presidency. Both men are plagued by a powerful anti-abortion church figure. Vinick, the Republican candidate, is a decent man who would make a good president, but so is Santos, his opponent.

As a Democrat, Santos can avoid the clergyman; Vinick tries but can’t. He and the fundamentalist preacher finally come face to face. The churchman wants Vinick’s promise to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. If he doesn’t, the man threatens to make his displeasure felt in the voting booth.

Vinick dodges and squirms. He insists there should be no litmus test for the position but finally gives in to the man’s demands. The churchman goes public with the agreement. Vinick’s closest advisors are appalled because they know Vinick is pro-choice. They confront him. “How could you promise that you would to this?” they ask.

“I lied,” Vinick responds.

Poll after poll indicate that the majority of Americans want to keep abortion legal until somewhere in the second trimester when the fetus becomes viable. Only after that does the issue becomes dicey. So why is abortion such a hot-button issue? Because of the “pain factor.”

American is the only developed nation that doesn’t have some form of universal health coverage, but every time a plan is proposed special interest groups come out of the woodwork to oppose it. The Democratic-sponsored Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, is basically the same at the Republican-backed plan proposed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and known in that state as Romneycare.

Here we have a different form of the “pain factor.” Barack Obama was the nation’s choice for president, not once but twice. No one sprang Obamacare on the American public. People knew what they were getting. People who voted for Obama voted for his health care plan.

But the right wing of the Republican Party simply refused to accept any of it. They set out to destroy the president, and with him, his national health care plan. They failed, but once again a relatively small group of ideologues has inflicted pain on those with whom they disagree, only this time everyone was damaged, including their own party.

There seems little way to tell people to stand up for their value systems and at the same time not to participate in political groups that share their beliefs, except to say that personal value systems should not be politicized.
At the top of the list is religion. This is why the signers of the U.S Constitution tried to separate church and state in the very first amendment.

Unfortunately, an individual’s right to free speech is also in the First Amendment, and the concept of free speech has been twisted into a corporation’s right to spend unlimited funds to influence elections. Now corporations have joined those who use “the pain factor” by funding emotional issues when it suits their purpose.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.


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