Who Should I Vote For?

I have found myself being asked this question frequently from friends, family and people throughout my social media.  It’s a tough question. It’s a personal question. In all reality, it’s a question that only the person asking knows. Every vote that is cast should be based on the values of the voter.  Values can be vastly different for every person. The Trump presidency highlights that fact for us everyday. So, who do you vote for? Follow these 5 steps to figure it out.     

Step 1:  Determine your values

This seems like a very simple task.  It’s easy to think of things like ‘be a good person’ or ‘do the right thing’.  Take some time to think about it just a little deeper. What makes a person good?   How do you decide the right thing? All of us have guiding principles swimming around inside of us that help govern our decision making.  It’s not always easy to pin down what they are specifically. Here are mine:

  • Integrity – be honest and trustworthy
  • Inclusiveness – people’s differences don’t disqualify them from being loved, experiencing friendship, receiving respect and living a dignified life
  • Empathy/Compassion – understand everyone isn’t dealt the same hand, see from others perspectives
  • Team-oriented – other people’s successes matter as much as your own
  • Justice – everyone deserves fair and thoughtful treatment, be willing to stand for what is right

Write them down.  Not only will this help guide your voting choices, it may help you make decisions more confidently in general.

Step 2:  Prioritize which issues are most important to you 

There isn’t going to be a magic candidate that agrees with you on every single issue. (Lucky you if there is!)  Take some time to figure out what issues have the greatest impact on your life and put them in order of importance.  Remember to think about what is important to you.  It’s very easy to let yourself become swayed by what you think other people’s important issues are.  This list is about you and your family. Here’s mine:

  1. Access to healthcare 
  2. Robust public education system that addresses all areas of learning – academic, emotional, physical, social and cognitive development – regardless of the ability, social class, income, zip code of every student

Mine looks like a short list, but I believe these two issues touch every aspect of society.  Investing heavily in these two areas would alleviate much of the human suffering that Americans experience.  It could have a huge positive impact on the trajectory of people’s lives. I also believe deeply that when everyone does better, everyone does better.  It’s such a redundant phrase , but it makes perfect sense!


As some of you may have noticed, I did not include ‘capable of beating Donald Trump’ on my list.  Obviously, beating Donald Trump is very important. The truth of the matter is we don’t know who can beat Donald Trump.  We don’t even know if we are going to have an election that is free of interference. I have found for myself that if I dwell too much on these subjects I find myself considering my values less and less.  It isn’t a citizen’s job to be a political pundit, a pollster or a fortune teller. Worrying about fundraising, media coverage, organization on the ground, how to debate Trump and how to navigate the political winds are jobs for the candidates and their staff.  We, the people, are supposed to cling to our values, use our best judgment and cast our vote. The more we give in to the notion that the most important thing is to beat Trump, the more we are succumbing to fear. If everyone votes on the values they stand for, I believe we will beat Trump.


 

Step 3:  Take your issues of importance and apply your values

Ok, access to healthcare is my number one issue, but how do I decide what I think the ideal healthcare system would be?  This is where the application of your personal values come into play. This process is something I call ‘running it through the value filter.’  (I know, I know, my autism is showing!)

  • Integrity – not necessarily applicable in this case
  • Inclusiveness – Should people’s differences disqualify them from receiving the healthcare they need? It shouldn’t.  Does a dignified life include receiving the healthcare that you need? Yes.
  • Empathy/Compassion – Should a child born with [insert illness here] be denied the care they need to be successful because of the circumstances of their parents? No.  Is there any situation in which a person’s life circumstances should disqualify them from receiving the healthcare they need? No. I believe that you can never know someone else’s situation fully.  Every person has the inalienable right to life and denying access to healthcare for any reason infringes on that right.
  • Team-oriented – Does society function better if we have a population that is as healthy as possible? Yes.
  • Justice – Can a healthcare system function in a fair and thoughtful manner if income, job status, quality of insurance and profits are taken into consideration when delivering services? Absolutely not.

After my own personal analysis, I can determine that a healthcare system that fits into the parameters of my values would be nonprofit industry that grants access to all people regardless of income, job status, personal history or any other factor.  

Step 4:  Compare your vision to that of every candidate

Remember, it’s not your job as a citizen to work out how to implement policy, deal with the federal budget or manhandle members of Congress.  It’s your job to understand what you believe the best path forward for your family is. That’s it. It’s the candidate’s job to take the vision and make it a reality. 

Take your vision and compare it to those of the candidates. Go to each of their websites and look at their positions. Most of them have really user friendly, easy to read policy sections.  When you are clear about what you’re looking for it doesn’t take long to make a decision about who is best for you.  

Step 5:  Cast your vote

This is by far the most important step!  Voting blue in a red state can feel intimidating.  Living in a household that is split politically can make it especially stressful.  Remember, your vote is personal. You don’t have to tell anybody about your choice if you don’t want to.  You can do this!  

 This election is going to have incredible consequences.  All of us are going to have different ideas about the best path forward or the best strategy to defeat Donald Trump.  We are all going to support our candidates passionately throughout this primary season. My hope is that we can all remember what we all have in common.  Donald Trump is the antithesis of the values that we share. My hope is that whoever emerges as the nominee that we will continue to make our voices heard, continue to work together and rally strongly behind the person that is tasked with defeating him.   

Does Your Vote Really Matter?

 

Utah voters passed 3 progressive policies last November.

  • Prop 2 – legalizing the use of medical marijuana
  • Prop 3 – Expanding Medicaid health insurance
  • Prop 4 – an anti-gerrymandering measure

Utah voters also elected Republicans that are openly against legal marijuana, Medicaid and are pro-gerrymandering. Now, Utah voters are outraged that the newly elected Congressman are dismantling the Props that the people approved coming to the conclusion that your vote doesn’t matter. Is that actually true?

Nationalism: Words Matter

Recently, the president called himself a nationalist at a rally before the election to the thunderous applause of the attendees. This has sparked a fierce debate on social media and at news organizations about whether or not the term is appropriate for an American president to use. I’ve been watching people go back and forth talking about patriotism vs. nationalism, calling each other racists and many other things. It’s been festering among the public for a few weeks now. It seemed to come to a head when the White House held a press conference after the midterm elections. There was a lot that happened at that press conference, but the thing that stood out to me was when a journalist stood to ask the president about his calling himself a nationalist. She began asking whether or not using the term emboldens white nationalism throughout the country. He interrupted her by saying it was a racist question. (Of course I am not able to capture the extraordinary exchange between the two so I highly encourage those who haven’t seen it to watch the clip below)

After this insane press conference I heard my husband on the phone talking with a friend about nationalism and what it means. While they were talking, I found myself chewing on the subject. I got on Merriam-Webster dictionary and searched nationalism. The definition that comes up reads loyalty and devotion to nation.

Reading a literal definition of the word makes it seem totally harmless. The problem with literal definitions is that history, society and cultural movements can change the meaning or interpretation of a word. Take the word gay for example. The literal definition listed in this dictionary is happily excited, keenly alive and exuberant, bright, lively, brilliant in color and given to social pleasures. There’s nothing mentioned about sexuality until the fourth entry yet the cultural definition of gay is sexually attracted to the same sex. English teachers didn’t change the definition. Society did. If someone stands in front of a crowd and says ‘I’m gay,’ not a single listener would interpret that as the speaker feeling happy. There are many words that the cultural meaning is different than the literal one. Here are a few obvious ones:

  • Faggot – a bundle of sticks or twigs bound together as fuel
  • Bitch – female dog, wolf, fox or otter
  • Ass – a hoofed mammal of the horse family with a braying call, typically smaller than a horse and with longer ears

Even typing those puts a pit in my stomach because they mean something offensive. Nationalism is similar in that the literal meaning isn’t quite in touch with what it means to people. Dictators, namely Hitler and Mussolini, used the term to manipulate the masses into believing that their nation was superior to others. It has been used historically as a way to create a hierarchy of human worth. Our nation is superior so we must keep inferior people out, that sort of thing. Hitler was able to define what a superior German was down to the eye color by exploiting people’s fears about the economy, vilifying Jews and other immigrants while fostering a sense of pride in being part of his nation. His speeches were riddled with language about how nation means everything, protecting the culture’s “founding race,” and many other phrases which instilled a belief among the people that unless you possessed all the qualities that made a person German, you were inferior. And, of course, the Holocaust followed.

So, what’s the responsibility of an American president when it comes to words? The president’s words have the power to unite us, to divide us, and to move an entire nation in a certain direction. The words of the president have shaped history for better or for worse. I’m not here to be the word police, but I do think the words he speaks hold more weight than any person on the planet. They must be chosen carefully and thoughtfully. The fact that this president chose to use nationalism means one of two things. The president is either unaware of the history of the words usage or he knows full well what it means and used it anyway. I would argue that the latter is more true. Before he announced himself as a nationalist he said, ‘I know I’m not supposed to say this, but…’ implying that he knows exactly what impact the word would have on people. If he really believes nationalism really just means patriotism then why would he call the journalist’s question racist? Patriotism has nothing to do with race or superiority, but nationalism sure does. He knows the weight of the word and used it purposefully. He talks of revoking birthright citizenship which would start a conversation about what makes a person American. What qualities does a person have to possess to be superior enough to be called an American? This vision of America betrays the very principle that this country was founded on, that all men are created equal. This is the muddy water that he wants. We, the people, rejected this way of thinking on November 6th, 2018 and I hope that the firm rebuke of nationalism continues on through 2020.

What is Democracy?

 

What is democracy? How does a modern democracy function? Learn about the United States democratic government with this short educational video. I explain the different theories of democracy using real life examples you can see everyday!

 


3 Types of Democracy

  • Direct democracy – Utah ballot initiatives
  • Pluralism – NRA, NAACP and many other groups
  • Elite theory – dark money and ultra wealthy using many lever to impact the United States government

 

Election 2018 is coming up soon so brush up on your basic knowledge with this political science crash course!

I started Blue Mom Red State, my political blog, in response to the election on Donald Trump. The values that I hold dear are deteriorating right before my eyes and I want to do something about it. It’s important that all citizens reeducate themselves about all things government. By staying informed and voting in every single election going forward we can work together to save democracy!

4 Things to Know About Prosecuting Border Crossers

The problem with prosecuting every person crossing the border is that we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it. It is a long and complicated process for refugees and asylum seekers to get through the system. It’s a system that needs comprehensive reform to get it working better. Here’s a few things to know about the current immigration system

There aren’t enough immigration judges to handle the current workload.

There is a 700,000 case backlog in immigration courts as it stands right now. Because of this, many people spend many years waiting for their right to prove their asylum case in court. If the government decides to prosecute every person that crosses the border without hiring more judges than the system that is already stressed will be under more pressure. Instead of allocating $25 billion for a border wall, which wouldn’t stop the asylum process, we could focus on hiring more judges to get people through the system. Every human, regardless of status, enjoys the protection of the Constitution. Sending people back without judges or court cases, as the president suggests here in this tweet, is a violation of a human’s basic inalienable rights.

  • The cost of detaining people ranges from $134-$775 per person per night.

The detention system is extraordinarily expensive. Detaining people until they have an answer on their case can take months or years and the taxpayer foots the bill. We should only be detaining people that have a criminal background or are repeat offenders of crossing illegally. There are many other solutions that can be explored to keep track of asylum applicants. Ankle bracelets, something similar to parole officers that can check in with the people or American families that can sponsor the applicants are all solutions that are much cheaper, and more humane, than detention.

  • Crossing the border between ports of entry is a misdemeanor offense.

Is it really worth all the trouble to detain and separate people at the border for a misdemeanor? Is it worth destroying a child’s life? First time entries can be considered misdemeanors or a civil violation depending on what the current administration’s policies are. A civil violation isn’t even considered criminal. Seeking asylum is also not criminal. Treating each person as a criminal isn’t only immoral, it’s also illogical due to the fact that our system can’t handle it. Comprehensive reform of the whole system would have to happen before a policy of this magnitude could even be possible.

  • There is a major humanitarian crises happening in Central America.

El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are experiencing such high rates of violence and organized crime that it is the main ‘push factor’ for people to decide to come the US. Many of the people understand the risks of the treacherous journey and the risk of deportation once arriving in the US and they choose to come anyway. I feel like this would suggest that the risks of traveling to the US outweigh the costs of staying home. We can debate all day long about whether or not these claims of asylum are in done in good faith, but that won’t change the fact that the movement north isn’t stopping anytime soon. The solution isn’t to deter the migration, but to reform the system to make it more efficient in deciphering who gets to stay.

Immigration is such a hot, complicated issue. I believe we must create laws and policies that reflect American ideals. We are a country for refuge, the land of opportunity, the land of the free. Turning our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors isn’t the answer. We must elect leaders that are willing to look at all the solutions rather than jumping to inhumane acts of injustice against children.

Here’s more info:

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/20/cost-us-immigrant-detention-trump-zero-tolerance-tents-cages.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/06/23/fix-readers-most-common-immigration-questions-answered/?utm_term=.6574f02eebce

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/05/theres-a-700000-case-backlog-in-immigration-courts-jeff-sessions-just-decided-to-pile-on-more/

https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/crime-and-violence-drive-migration-from-central-america-reports/

https://www.nytimes.com/podcasts/the-daily – What Migrants are Fleeing

What is an Inspector General?

The high profile IG report about the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email situation is due to come out today around noon. It will lay out the inspector general’s findings about a host of different things including the conduct of James Comey and Andrew McCabe. But what is an inspector general? Here’s a few things to know:

  • The IG Office is an independent internal watchdog that functions very similar to that of an internal affairs department at a police department or an auditor.

This office is charged with overseeing government agencies’ spending of taxpayer dollars and overall management of the agency. A lot of their time is devoted to pouring over spreadsheets. They ensure that the money goes where it is supposed to go and laws are followed correctly. The office functions independently from the agency and is also apolitical in theory. The interpretation of the reports issued are often when political spin enters the situation. Investigations can be conducted when waste fraud or mismanagement is suspected. They have clearly defined jurisdictions. They are only allowed to investigate current employees, only items within their own department and have no subpoena power.

  • There are a total of 72 IG Offices throughout the federal government.

Each department has its own IG. Bigger departments, like the Department of Defense, will have an overall IG with additional IG’s in different areas within the department. Each are housed within the same building as the department they oversee. They report to Congress and the Department of Justice.

  • Last year, the office issued 2,200 reports and made 8,800 recommendations.

At the end of an audit or investigation the office issues a report with it’s findings. It will also include a recommendation on how to remedy whatever problem has happened. For every $1 spent in the IG office $17 of potential savings are found. It’s just potential savings because they have no power to compel an agency to enforce the recommendations. It is left to the department head or Congress to take action on any report issued.

  • There has been a 40% increase in investigations since the Trump administration took office.

This isn’t a surprise I guess since the EPA director alone has 12 open investigations into his conduct and spending. Some cabinet members have already been let go due to extravagant spending exposed by the IG.

  • The IG Office is the mechanism that would ‘drain the swamp.’

Many vacancies remain within the office yet the investigations have gone up! IG’s get nominated by a president and have to go through a Senate confirmation process. They have no term requirements are limits. They serve at the pleasure of the president. So, in theory, if you were a person that wanted to ‘drain the swamp,’ your first priority would be to get these positions filled.

The Office of Inspectors General usually is a really under the radar office. It’s making news lately because of the accusations of the FBI’s mishandling of the Clinton investigation, EPA directors misconduct and the firing of Andrew McCabe. Congressional Republicans have also called for an IG investigation into the Mueller investigation as well. The revelations of the text messages between the FBI agents working on the Mueller probe were revealed through and IG investigation as well. So, be watching for the bombshell release this afternoon! Both sides will devour it I’m sure.

3 Things to Know About the G7

There’s been so much news about President Trump causing trouble at the G7 Summit this weekend. He made some passing remarks to reporters about Russia being invited and some other stuff. But what is the G7 exactly? Here’s 3 things to know:

  • The Group of Seven (G7) are the countries with the most advanced economies and strongest democracies.

They include the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. The G7 makes up 62% of the total global economy.

  • The G7 countries are America’s closest friends and allies.

Operating with similar guiding principles creates strong relationships between these countries especially over time. These summits are essentially rubbing shoulders with your dear friends for 70 or so years.

  • The point of the G7 Summit is to strategize on how to work together on global issues.

HIstorically, the meeting is about getting on the same page on current issues like climate change, refugee crises, national security issues and addressing human rights abuses throughout the globe. It’s generally smooth sailing due to the like-mindedness of the leaders. Issues are easier to iron out among each other because the basic fundamental values are quite similar between them all. So, they meet and release a statement, also called a communique, laying out an agreed upon path forward on whatever issues were discussed and how they are going to work together.

The G7 Summit in 2018 didn’t go quite as it does normally. The leaders butt heads with President Trump. They talked about trade due to the new tariffs placed on them by him. The US cited national security issues as the reason for the new tariffs which, as you can imagine, rubbed the Canadian president, Justin Trudeau, the wrong way. So, long story short, Trump didn’t sign the statement and called Trudeau weak and dishonest on Twitter.

On top of it all, he said Russia should be allowed into the summit in his Trumpian way, repetitive language, no logical reasons why randomly to reporters. He didn’t mention it when he was face to face with the other leaders which is also just like Trump. He talks loud and carries a small stick. He left the summit early to go to Singapore for his meeting with Kim Jong Un. I can’t barely wait to see what happens.

3 Misconceptions About Refugees

Build a wall! They’re taking our jobs! Go back to your own country! We’ve all heard the mantras. What’s really going on with our immigration system? I’ve decided I’m gonna find out. In my effort to learn more, I attended a Refugee Foster Parent Orientation hosted by Catholic Community Services. They are 1 of 24 resettlement agencies nationwide. After the two hours session, I realized there are a lot of common misconceptions or little known facts about immigration. Here are a few:

  • There’s a big difference between refugees and asylum seekers.

Refugee status is an internationally recognized status. A person must flee their country, due to war or some other approved reason, and go to a refugee camp. While in the camp they are interviewed by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and given a number. The resettlement process begins. The designated resettlement countries begin their own selection process.

Asylum seekers are people that cross the border, often from South America, and present themselves at the border. They can tell a border agent that they are fleeing violence, political oppression, etc. US Department of Health and Human Services take custody of the person. It is then the responsibility of the person to prove to a US Court that they will be in danger upon returning to the country of origin.

  • Refugees go through years of vetting.

There’s always talk of needing more extreme vetting of people coming from war torn areas. A child, on average, goes through 3 years of US vetting. The process for adults takes 17.5 years. After the US accepts a refugee they must go through psychological and physical exams before they arrive as well. I don’t know how to get more extreme than that.

  • The US is often not the country of choice for refugees.

This was a shock to me. One of the things that has become a talking point is that these people are taking advantage of the system! They lie so they can come to the United States! Turns out many of the people aren’t happy about getting resettled here and they don’t have a choice in where to go. Often they want to stay where they are, get sent to a country with a warmer climate or go somewhere that resembles their home.

These are 3 that stick out in my mind right now, but I have pages and pages of notes that include many more interesting facts that aren’t widely known. As I continue my own research into the subject I look forward to spreading more awareness about what the immigration system is like. I hope that I can help change the narrative about immigrants. It seems to me these people need our empathy, not our hate.