Op-ed: The political process and the marketplace of ideas

Stock Photo | St. George News

OP-ED / TO THE EDITOR  – I attended the Washington County Democratic Convention on Saturday. I did not get to hear all of the candidates speak, but of the half dozen I did hear, I heard something I liked from all of them. Of course I will have to hear the Republican candidates before I decide who will get my vote, but it was a great start to the 2012 political season.

While I heard some interesting comments from the candidates, the most astounding and memorable comment came from Dorothy Engelman, the Democratic Chair. She said that only 7 percent of the LDS population identifies themselves as Democrats. I know that Utah is the reddest state in the Union but this statistic still shocks me. This means that the majority of the population here in Utah thinks the same way and votes the same way. I couldn’t help thinking that this level of imbalance cannot be good for Utah, whether Democrat or Republican.

I thought of the political wrangling that so many lament, but that wrangling has a purpose and it is that the best idea will rise to the top and gain acceptance by those listening and voting. The concept of the marketplace of ideas has its roots in John Milton’s argument for freedom of expression where he argued that people are capable of using reason to make the best decision and that the best decisions come about through debate or argument of differing views. In other words, in the marketplace of ideas the best ideas arise out of the competition of widely held and various ideas in a free and transparent public discourse and that this is vital to a liberal democracy.

Given the above mentioned statistic I can’t help wondering if Utah is getting short-changed politically; that the best ideas are not rising to the top for lack of an electorate looking for them. Dorothy Engelman quoted the documentary “Miss Representation” by saying, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Perhaps we, the electorate, are giving up our power by voting on candidates based on whether or not they have a (D) or an (R) behind their names rather than if they are the best candidate. Our voices and our votes matter, it is time to listen to the arguments put out in the marketplace and make reasoned decisions for who we want representing us rather than toting the party line.

I heard candidates last week talk of quality of life issues important to Washington County, family values, and education among other things, all of which are issues that most of us care about. Instead of voting along party lines this year, let’s vote the person. We have a say in the policies and decisions that affect us, and the most basic way to have that say is at the ballot box. Get out and learn about these candidates, all of them, so that we get the best representation. We owe it to ourselves to listen to all arguments and options and to vote according to our own reason, values, and beliefs, and even, to allow ourselves to be swayed to a new way of thinking by persuasive counter arguments. If nothing else our views will be strengthened as a result of hearing opposing and challenging views and make us better informed voters. Above all, enjoy and participate in the process, it is our duty and our right as American citizens.

Submitted by:  Greta Hyland

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1 Comment

  • Len April 1, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Glad to hear the chair of the Democrat party votes for a Republican from time to time (and admits it). Probably wouldn’t get that from the other side. Nice to hear of some moderation..

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