I was about 15. My Dad was running for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The hot bill of the time was abortion. You can imagine the 100’s of ‘gifts’ left in our mailbox and on our doorstep. Totally inappropriate gifts for a family with 4 young kids. Dad was elected. I remember walking the halls of the State Capitol building. I would see the huge stacks of bills and meeting notes lining everyone’s office. I would ask him in awe “Do you really read all of these?”. “I do”.
Tip from Dad #1: Read everything you vote for.
If you don’t care enough about the topic to review the actual text of the proposal, don’t vote. Don’t depend on your friends or your party to tell you how to vote. Your vote, your insight and your decision is important.
A Little Background
My Mom was a die hard Democrat. My Dad ran as a Republican, but he was pretty moderate. Dad probably wasn’t the best politician. As an extreme introvert and retired Air Force Colonel, he is the strong, silent type. Definitely not your typical politician. Nor was our family into politics. Dad is the type that will do what is right for our country.
Growing up, I remember gathering before dinner and discussing the world issues. There were always at least 2 sides to every issue and multiple solutions. That is how I learned to think critically through issues. I would hear my Dad argue in favor of a side, not because that side was his viewpoint but because it was viewpoint that we needed to hear. I find myself doing the same thing.
Fast forward to Dad in office. Dad looked at each bill as solving a problem. Each proposed bill was drafted with intent to solve a problem.
Tip from Dad #2: Make sure you understand what problem is trying to be solved.
The media hype and the misrepresentation from passionate people on opposite sides often guide you down the wrong path. If the problem being solved is a piece of vegie pizza, the propaganda leads you to think it is the whole pizza with drinks and a salad and maybe even some dessert. One side may be telling you about ingredients that go into making the pizza while the other serves you a picture of a steaming, hot, delicious pepperoni pizza. Someone may tell you what the pizza does to you as it passes through your body. Another may tell you all about the personal history of the pizza company. It is all distorted from the real intent and problem being solved. Stay focused on the problem.
Tip from Dad #3: When you read the bill and you can’t easily state the problem, the bill is flawed.
What solution is the bill proposing? Critical thinking is a must here. Maybe you would never eat any pizza. Maybe you think pizza should be banned. Maybe pizza is you favorite. Those things don’t matter. You know the problem trying that is to be solved and you have a proposed solution. Is it the right solution? Is the solution ambiguous? What impact will the solution have on our society? Is the solution enforceable? What will be the resulting cost of enforcement? We never like to think about worse case scenarios; we like to imagine that everyone will play by the rules. Are the rules clear? If not, is there a period defined for defining the rules. If the bill is put in place, what will the major players do? (I think back to Act 48 on mortgage foreclosures requiring lenders to go through mediation with homeowners on non-judicial foreclosures. All the lenders just switched over to judicial foreclosures; not a single homeowner went through the undefined mediation process. Only the lawyers got richer). Will the proposed solution lead to the problem being solved? Is it a step in the right direction for a better world? Or will it cost thousands of taxpayer dollars while the opponents continue to disagree. Is the proposed solution the best answer to move forward with?
Tip from Dad #4: Small steps forward are often the most effective. Undefined steps rarely work.
For special initiatives, ask yourselves, why was this initiative not brought up through normal bill processes? Would no current lawmakers endorse the idea? Why? Is the bill written at the appropriate level? Should it really require a public vote? There are times when a special initiative is needed. With some measures a public vote is the fastest way to get balanced input. That assumes the bill clearly defines a problem and a solution. Can the public understand the bill and solution enough to see long term consequences?
Tip from Dad #5: Most special initiatives are flawed.
Many special initiatives have good intent and do work to educate the public. Getting a significant number of votes does tell lawmakers that this is important. But if it’s a flawed bill and it passes, every taxpayer may pay dearly for defining or redefining the problem and solution. Which leads me to my final tip from Dad.
Tip from Dad #6: If in doubt, vote no.
Voting no doesn’t mean you are supporting the people/groups that want you to vote no. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t in agreement that something needs to be done. It simply means that you don’t think the problem and/or solution are the right things to move forward with at this time and with this venue.
If you learned something in evaluating the bill and care enough about the topic or have a proposed better solution, take a moment to write or talk to the people in office serving you. They do like to hear from you as long as you treat them respectfully.
Here’s one more BONUS tip to share. This one didn’t come from Dad but did come from an officemate and I’ve used it many times. When you are selecting someone to vote into office and no one is a clear favorite, this tip makes the decision much easier for me.
Extra Tip: When choosing a candidate, who would I feel most comfortable leaving my child with?
In a way, you are leaving your child’s future in this person’s care.
Mahalo for voting!