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Why politicians spin the truth

02/06/2013

Last Wednesday, the JSU College Democrats welcomed Representative Craig Ford of the Alabama State Legislature as guest speaker at their meeting.

I was there representing the Chanticleer and I wrote about what he had to say to the student organization.

I’d like to use this week’s column to highlight something Ford touched on during his time with the College Democrats: issue-framing.

Issue-framing as used in a political context refers to the presentation of an issue in a way designed to appeal to the most people.

Alternatively, an issue can be framed in a negative light, generating public distaste for that issue.

When Rep. Ford talked about issue-framing, it was in relation to the Affordable Care Act, which many Republicans still can’t seem to get over.

“We allow them to spin it to sound bad—I love President Obama, but ‘Obamacare’ sounds terrible,” he said, speaking of the Republican Party’s efforts to demonize attempts at health care reform.

Those efforts have proven effective—even though many Republicans in Alabama stand to gain from the passage of Obama’s reform, they still view it with derision.

Rep. Ford gave an example of this, as politicians are want to do.

Recently, he said, a Republican with college-aged children approached him with financial problems stemming from not having health insurance to cover health care costs incurred by her children.

Ford said he sympathized with her, and then asked her how she felt about the Affordable Care Act. Her reply, according to Ford: “Oh my gosh, it’s just going to bankrupt us.”

Even though this unnamed conservative will now be able to provide health insurance for her children in college up until the day they turn 26 years old thanks to the ACA, she’s still not sold on reform.

I have to think that’s due in large part to Republican propaganda. But make no mistake, the Democratic Party engages in issue-framing as well.

It’s just that when they do it, they tend to frame issues more specifically than the GOP.

Conservative politicians like to refer to the broad dangers of “big government,” and how “government spending” needs to be cut, because the demographic they appeal to identifies strongly with those statements.

On the other hand, liberal politicians call for specific action to be taken to safeguard a group seen as being particularly vulnerable—such as the elderly—because other liberals eat that stuff up.

“There’s a lot of good in the Affordable Care Act,” Ford said. And while he conceded that there may be some bad too, he feels the president’s intentions with the act were good.

According to him, if the state entered into the Medicaid compact that has been designed as part of the ACA, it would “provide 250,000 Alabamians with healthcare today.”

There’s that specificity Democrats are so fond of.

Thing is, I’d rather have numbers and diagrams and plans that I can check out for myself from my politicians than broad appeals to paranoid delusions that big brother wants to take my assault weapons away.

No matter what your political views may be, remember that both Democrats and Republicans have a vested interest in spinning the truth to appeal to their constituency.

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