Saturday, October 25, 2014

Election Week - 5 Things That Will Make A Difference

For many, this week is the week they pay attention to who represents us in government and what kind of job they are doing. The future is determined to a great extent by the decisions we make, not only at the voting booth, but if we take time to challenge, encourage and educate those representatives. Here are five things you can do now to help create a better future for our children and grandchildren.

1)     Understand the Principles. When we understand correct principles, we make good decisions. Without them we tend to do what “feels good” or we wait until we have to make decisions in an emergency, which usually leads to very bad decisions. I recommend reading the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, “The Proper Role of Government” by former secretary of agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson, and a new book just out – “We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident” by Oliver Demille.
2)     Get informed about the ballot initiatives and the candidates before each election. I can guarantee you that voting for someone just because they belong to a specific party will lend your support to at least one or two people that do not support what you think they do. At the very least, go to, put in your address and look at the short statements from each candidate and the commentary on the ballot initiatives.  The arguments for and against these issues are critical in noticing unintended consequences of the legislation and in being truly informed. You should also go to to get evaluations of judges. There are only a few and you can be better informed in just a few minutes. As to candidates, please do not rely on television and radio ads for your information, either pro or con. Many of these ads are heavily slanted and sometimes outright incorrect on the facts. Viewing the debates helps some as does finding and reviewing the candidate websites. If they are incumbents (already serving and running for re-election), the best thing you can do is check their voting record. This takes a little time and effort, but yields surprising results. The page links to an evaluation of all federal congress members and their votes as they pertain to sustaining the US Constitution. In my study of those votes, I found that some of our Utah congressional members vote much differently than they talk. For our state legislatures, check out where they provide a similar and instructive scorecard.
3)     Vote! You will notice that this comes after #1 and #2. Voting uninformed leads us to support ideals and people that may not reflect what we believe and unnecessary or even destructive changes to our State Constitution and Tax Rules. Don’t assume anything based on party relationships. Refusing to vote is not rebellion, it is surrender. Not casting informed votes is to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. If you don’t vote, you have no right to gripe. If you don’t vote to change the course we are on, you shouldn’t complain about where we are going.
4)     Write and call your representatives. Annoy them. Teach them. Persuade them. They do listen, especially when large numbers of people contact them. It is true that often they don’t see your letter, but their staff tells them when 70% or more of the letters they get are for or against something and that matters. Concepts presented with thought and appropriate passion often find their way into campaign speeches and debates that form policies. Take the time. Make the difference.
5)     Encourage others to do all the above. Be someone that cares enough to be involved. Find candidates you can support and help them. Take flyers door to door. Contribute. Host cottage meetings in your home with candidates. Put up yard signs and stickers on your car. Listen, learn and be civil. People see and take notice. Make it acceptable to have opinions by making your opinions known. Some might disagree, but most will respect that you care. 

Don't Vote! - Unless... (Principles of Freedom)

As the election approaches, I am going to consciously offend a few of my readers. I apologize in advance for doing so, but this needs to be said. Please DON’T VOTE --- UNLESS…

Please don’t vote unless you care about the direction our country is going and you care enough to inform yourself about all sides of the issues we face.

Please don’t vote unless you take the time to research ALL the candidates and what they actually believe and stand for. In the case of those who have been in office, research what they actually voted for and against more than what they say. Sadly, the two sometimes don’t match up.

Please don’t vote unless you care about the good of the nation and the future as it pertains to our children and grand-children and not just about your own well-being and situation.

Please don’t vote a straight party ticket with no variation. It is a lazy and uninformed way to do things. Every party has people that are not worthy of your vote and most if not all have at least one candidate that is worthy of your thoughtful consideration though perhaps not your vote. Independents that choose not to be connected to any party can also have good ideas and character.

Please don’t vote for the “lesser of two evils”. Voting for any “evil” is a choice to support something or someone that is wrong. If you can’t honestly find one candidate (or more) that stands up for what you believe is good and right, with-hold your vote in that race or write in someone you do believe in. In most elections, write-ins are not counted unless they have registered with the state or local government, but they can’t throw out the rest of your votes if you choose to write in someone you wish would run but didn’t. That way, you can at least have integrity in who and what you vote “for” instead of leaving the voting booth with a bad taste in your mouth after voting “against” the worst candidate but for someone you don’t believe in.

Utah puts out a voter information packet that you can either look at online or have sent to your home. It is a starting point, but each candidate only gets 200 words to tell you what they think and will do. That is not enough. Check their websites, campaign literature and especially voting records. Check out voter pages at KUED where they have videos of each major candidate (more than 200 words, but still not enough info). Check out report card sites like that keep track of important votes by our national congress people. That one is considered conservative and constitutionally oriented, but others track votes on the environment, social issues and special interests such as aging, health care, etc.

Informed voters can have a real impact on our government and our future. In Utah, approximately 40% of those of voting age don’t even register to vote. Of those who register, only about half vote. That means that about 30% of possible voters make the decisions that affect us all. I actually want every one of you to vote. But, I want you to care enough to be informed before you do it. If even 10% of those of voting age were well informed, they could make a difference in our future, our state, our communities and our country. 

The "Other" Gardener - Principles of Freedom

There is a story of two gardeners. Both were asked to consult for a golf resort that had a couple of problems. The grass on part of the course had turned brown and watering it more seemed to make the problem worse. There were also a number of trees that were not thriving and were in danger of dying. The two were both asked for their advice. The first said, “Well obviously, the person in charge doesn’t know what they are doing. They are applying the wrong solutions to these problems”. When told that they had replaced the greenskeeper just a few months ago, he said, “Well, he doesn’t know what he’s doing either.”

They then turned to the other gardener and asked his advice. He said, “Let me spend a day with your greenskeeper. The grass needs a little less water and some ammonium nitrate and the trees could use a bit of bug spray to get rid of the borer beetles that are afflicting them. I can show him how to take care of the problem.”

Can you see the application in our current political situation? Most of our politicians want us to believe that all the problems we face are either the fault of those who were in charge or those who are in charge. When we change politicians, the new ones continue to blame the old ones and the old ones blame the new ones. Meanwhile the problems get worse.

A very wise man when confronted with a similar argument, said, “It’s not who’s right, it is what is right!” That is what the other gardener believed and lived by. That is what we need to require of our elected officials. We need to insist that they quit blaming each other and do what is right and effective and helpful.

I happened upon a recent debate about thousands of young people coming into our country illegally. One group argued vehemently that we need to close the borders and send them all back where they came. The other group insisted that they are only children and we must in good conscience let them all come and stay here. I was asked my opinion and so I asked them the following question. “Where are their parents?” I then said, “Where their parents are, that is where they should be. If their parents are here, they should be with their parents. If their parents must go back to their home country, they should go with them. If their parents are back in their home country, that is where they should also be.”

I was surprised at the reaction. Silence. Then it was followed by mumbled agreement from both sides of the argument and the debate basically died away. When we allow politics to determine the answers instead of just looking at and solving the problems, we not only do a disservice to our nation, but we compromise our future. Please take the time, as the election approaches, to find out which type of representative you are voting for, what they stand for and if they are people of integrity and vision. And don’t just look at the two major parties. Some of the best ideas are coming from the newer parties that are not stuck in the blame game. We should all be supporting and asking for the help of “the other gardener,” whoever that is.