Perspectives: Advice for the coming election year

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION – The swiftness with which Christmas came and went made it feel as though we just plowed right through it and kept going.

Now our momentum is carrying us just as quickly into the approaching election year. I’m certain I’m not the only person who’s less than enthused for the political circus to ramp back up to full volume.

Given how much hype and effort have so far been expended on polls, debates and positioning, it’s a safe bet that the hysteria will only intensify from now until election day.

Reason and insight tend to go out the window whenever the public is encouraged to separate into artificial tribes and speak and think in bumper sticker slogans.

It would be one thing if all that effort produced any kind of meaningful accountability on the part of the elected and the bureaucracies they create. Unfortunately, most of the politicking simply keeps us divided and provides faux legitimacy to those already in power.

Those who are deeply engrossed in the election year drama are not necessarily foolish or misled. Most of us have been trained to view the spectacle as evidence of democracy at work rather than a passion play for power-seekers and opportunists.

My own cynicism for political theater stems less from 30 years of covering it as a media personality and more from the time I’ve expended learning the underlying principles at stake. I’m especially grateful for all those who walked this path before me and the illumination they’ve shared.

The goal of this type of individual contemplation is to stimulate our ability to think clearly and independently. Occasionally, we have the opportunity to provoke others into thinking for themselves.

Sometimes, it works.

It’s not so much about having all the answers but rather becoming better at knowing the right questions to ask.

Remembering a handful of simple principles can make us more effective as citizens and as leaders if we choose to participate in the political process.

The first principle to remember is that it is human nature to abuse whatever power we are given.

Abraham Lincoln said it perfectly:

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

This means that regardless of a person’s party affiliation or whether they are running for local, state or federal office, they may be tempted to abuse the power they are given.

Good government relies upon the separation and limiting of power to prevent abuse. The best candidates are those who understand these safeguards and who don’t seek to remove them.

The next principle is that people who run for political office often become very comfortable with lying. Part of this stems from the desire to be elected which means a politician must become skilled at telling people what they want to hear.

Many good candidates have learned the hard way that honesty is considered a handicap when running for office. Truth is concise while deception knows no boundaries.

It’s telling that even when a politician is caught lying about something – whether big or small – he or she seldom faces any kind of real consequences. Our system of self government cannot survive if the American people are not allowed to make decisions based upon truth.

The only way to keep politicians from deceiving us about important matters is to insist that they define their terms. This is upsetting to those candidates and politicians who seek to mislead and keep the truth from their constituents.

That’s why it’s essential that good citizens be willing to ask the questions that the formerly watchdog press used to ask before it became a lapdog to those in power.

One final principle to keep in mind is that politics is just one small facet of our lives. We needn’t give so much undeserved stature to politicians and parties just because they are demanding it. They don’t have as much influence as they’d like us to believe.

There’s a lot of good that can be accomplished outside of the political arena starting with creating a stable home.

Like Confucius noted long ago, true stability starts with the individual who learns to bring stability to his thoughts by rectifying his own heart. Having put his heart in order, it becomes easier to create stability in his home.

When our homes are stable, the effect spreads to our community, our culture and our economy.

None of these solutions requires that a politician be involved or sign off on them in any way.

Keep these simple principles in mind as the Category 5 hurricane of Election Year 2016 comes roaring over the horizon.

Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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