Editorial | Hot-button issues get votes | Rich Elfers

Same-sex marriage. This is the most recent, commonly used hot button that is rallying the troops on either side of the political spectrum. The topic raises people’s blood pressure, cause the veins in their necks to pop out and reddens their faces.

Some people make this and other issues so important they become the sole criteria for voting for or against a candidate. That’s why they’re being rolled out now during an election year. Political parties do not want people to think. They want people to react emotionally. Pushing these political hot buttons does exactly that.

My four-year city council experience taught me a great deal about how politicians think. Their goal is to get elected and, once elected, they do everything in their power to keep from being unseated. Fear of failure is probably the biggest motivator of incumbents.

Every decision, every word, must be carefully thought through before uttering. An off-hand candid remark can end a candidacy. Because of this, candidates must become very calculating, weighing their words to set the right tone or elicit just the right response with the right group. Knowing this, I listen to what both parties are saying and doing, trying to understand their strategies and their appeals to different parts of the electorate.

Even the Supreme Court, with its landmark decision a little more than three years ago called Citizens United vs. The Federal Election Commission, was playing politics with campaign financing by allowing corporations to be considered as individuals. This put corporations under the protection of the First Amendment to the Constitution allowing them to pour millions of dollars into the 2012 political race and compete with President Obama’s money-making Internet machine. At least, that’s my cynical view of the Supreme Court position.

What does this mean for you, the voter? I’ll tell you what it means to me. It tells me I must become more aware of my emotions, and not let politicians manipulate me by using political hot buttons. I must not get tunnel vision over one of these hot button issues. I must decide with the question in mind: “Who is the best person for the job?” Spelling out my voting criteria is really important in accomplishing this.

So the next time you see or hear the hot button issues, think of this article and don’t let the politicians highjack your emotions. The decision needs to be yours, not some political machine’s.

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