By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant
Hello again, everybody! A few weeks ago, I wrote of a “poison” being injected into the body politic.
This poison is spreading, and, if left unchecked, this venom could threaten the ability of elected officials to find real solutions to the challenges we face. Threats, fear and intimidation are beginning to take the place of reasoned discussion, honest debate and good-faith efforts to find common ground on important issues.
My positions on a pair of important though divisive issues have attracted anger from both extremes of the political spectrum. The two issues are the difficult and complex issues of tort reform and abortion.
Anyone I represent – or anyone in Oklahoma, for that matter – certainly has the right to disagree with me on any issue. That responsibility goes with serving in elective office; and, it is fair to say I could have avoided the anger directed at me had I taken the easy way out on both the issues.
That is not what you sent me to the Capitol to do. Votes on both those issues were borne of conscience and my deeply held desire to fight for the people I represent.
The tort reform vote was the subject of a statewide news story after one of the doctors in my district sent a letter expressing his strong disagreement with me to news outlets across the state. In addition to suggesting my vote was motivated by partisan politics, this doctor also stated in the press he would “never again accept anyone as a patient who has voted against lawsuit reform.”
What was missing from his letter was the reasoned discussion of the specific bill in question. A couple of weeks ago in this column I wrote about just one of the problems with that bill; there are many others.
Having voted a number of times in favor of strong tort reform measures – and even introduced a few myself – this measure was so skewed against people who may have been hurt that I could not in good conscience support it. I believe my vote was correct and I am proud to stand by it. Having said that, I look forward to a tort bill that truly will do what supporters say it will and I will vote for a fair and balanced bill.
Abortion was the other issue on which my position of conscience caused great anger, and to some degree disproves any suggestion that I make votes based partisan politics. I supported, and then helped resurrect, a bill that would prevent abortions from being performed with taxpayer resources.
That position caused activists in the Democratic Party to become very angry at me, even attempting to reprimand me at the state Democratic Convention. That effort failed because cooler heads prevailed. Again, however, what was missing was a reasoned discussion of the issue.
Certainly, while reasonable people can have honest disagreements on both these contentious issues, we should be able to discuss the real issues without resorting to threats, fear and intimidation. Sadly, however, the desire to punish individuals or members of their family based on what they believe has replaced the discussions we should have on these issues.
I will keep fighting against the venom being injected into the process. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with me, please rest assured my stands on issues are borne from the dictates of my conscience and the concerns of my constituents. I owe each of you nothing less.