Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

7 steps to better government

We are a group of citizens living in Grand Junction, Colo. We are Republicans, Democrats and those unaffiliated with a party. We are conservatives, moderates, and liberals. Many of us have long been active in politics while some of us have been uninvolved – until now. But today, we agree we must speak out about a serious threat facing western Colorado and many other communities, including Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico.

Political extremism is that threat. It has fueled hatred. It has promoted false conspiracies and lies. It has turned family, friends and neighbors against each other. And it must stop.

We want to be clear. We are not against principled partisanship from any political party or interest group. We are against any extremism whether from the left or right.

Yes, this is political, but it’s not only about politics. Fundamentally, it’s about how we treat each other. Call it civility, respect or plain good manners. Democracy cannot survive without it. Speaking up publicly against extremism right now is essential. Silence emboldens extremists. The last few years have shown it will not go away just by hoping it will. We must do more.

Extremism is an issue facing the entire country. But our best chance of influencing change is by focusing on the local level. If more of us become involved, we can rebuild politics in our local communities. It is possible to return to a sane and functional government.

We must do more than simply be against extremism. We must embrace an alternative set of political principles. We, the undersigned, agree these seven beliefs should guide us:

1. We believe political parties should vigorously compete over values, principles, and ideas but also find common ground to solve problems and pass needed legislation. Grid lock is not an option.

2. We believe facts, supported by irrefutable evidence, are the basis for what to believe and how to act. No civilization can endure when its citizens believe there is no such thing as objective facts or truths.

3. We believe no one has a monopoly on the best public policy proposals. That means the ability to listen to and understand both sides of a debate are a prerequisite to finding practical solutions.

4. We believe public interest must come before party interest. This means putting what is right ahead of loyalty to a party or an individual party leader.

5. We believe problem-solving is more important than fund-raising. Extremists line their pockets then use the funds to amplify division instead of producing solutions.

6. We believe citizens should be free to run for office or volunteer to support the candidate of their choice without being threatened or harassed. Extremism uses intimidation because it cannot stand up to independent, open-minded thinking. Instead, it relies on the mentality of the mob.

7. We believe it is time to expect citizens to embrace individual responsibility. Extremists always talk about “freedom,” but never mention the responsibility to the community that comes with it.

We, the undersigned, pledge:

• To support candidates who best embody these beliefs – regardless of political party.

• To urge family and friends to oppose political extremism as if the well-being of the nation depends on it.

• To speak up and speak out publicly, with friends over coffee or more publicly in media.

• To get involved, vote and volunteer.

Endorse the pledge and have your voice heard. Go to restorethebalance.org to endorse the pledge.

George Orbanek is the former editor and publisher of The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (1985-2008). He is a center-right independent. Tim Sarmo is a former regional manager for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. He was a longtime Democrat but is now unaffiliated. Both authors are founding members of Restorethebalance.org.

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