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.   

Racism or Ignorance?

I was at dinner last night with a couple friends when the politics conversation happened. You know the one. The one in which all controversial subjects come up and there is someone that is living on a different planet than you. We’ve all been there. Abortion, guns, welfare, society’s morals, racial issues you name it. This friend I care for has views that couldn’t be further from mine so I was confusing myself about why I was enjoying myself. I took a listening approach and really searched my mind to find common ground. I think I did. The main subject from last night that has been on my mind is the racial issues. She had brought up a situation with H & M that I hadn’t heard of. Apparently they dressed a black kid in a monkey shirt and she didn’t understand why that would upset anybody. It was an oversight with no harm done, she said. We talked more about other issues relating to race like affirmative action, whether or not black people are still oppressed today, etc. This was really the only subject that I pushed back on. I tried to throw some stats out there, but I quickly saw it was fruitless and gave up. Well, I slept on it. I started jotting down my thoughts and began wondering, can a community that is predominantly white understand or acknowledge a black person’s experience with racism? I think many people around here believe that racism is dead and gone. I’m not racist therefore anyone who feels discriminated against is whining or is lazy or what have you. That logic seems totally wrong to me. It was weighing on my mind while I was waiting for my son to be done with his speech appointment when a FedEx guy came in to the office. I looked up and he was black. In that moment I just decided I would ask him about racism in Utah. So, as you can imagine when I asked him if I could talk to him he seemed annoyed. I mean, he works for FedEx. He’s really busy. I told him I didn’t know how to start. Then I asked, ‘Are people in Utah racist?’ I think he was shocked that I asked, but oddly his demeanor turned really positive. I told him a bit about the conversation I had last night and asked him what his thoughts were. I’ve gotta say it was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in awhile. He told me yes the H & M thing was offensive. He told me racist was a strong word, but he said he experiences a lot of ignorance from people. He said even his friends will say things that are bad. He tells them I’m not offended because I get what your trying to say, but you shouldn’t say that to people. He talked about living in Georgia and how he could be himself there. He described that in Utah he has to walk a fine line between being black and acting the way people expect around here. I asked him what someone like me, a white girl, could do in conversations like the one I had to help people understand more. He said he didn’t know because he feels like either people are uncomfortable with the subject or the just don’t care to know more about it. We didn’t get to talk long. I ended the conversation by asking him if this was somehow offensive to him that I asked. He said he actually appreciated me being interested about it. We said goodbye and that was it. I left the conversation really energized to learn more on the topic. So something really nice happened to me and it all started with hearing someone out that I don’t agree with. There’s gotta be a lesson there, right?

For more information:

We Were 8 Years in Power by Ta-Nahisi Coates

Pod Save America April 3rd episode

The Daily March 23rd episode (podcast)

Meeting Shireen

I just got home from a Meet Your Candidate event for Shireen Ghorbani. I’ve got to say I am impressed. She’s genuine, she has real life experience with many of the issues. She understands the reality of politics in Utah. She’s running a common ground campaign so far which really speaks to me. She doesn’t criticize the other side. She’s showing what she stands for, not what the other side’s blemishes are. She has so much in common with the people that I am around that I feel very hopeful that she has a chance at winning. She’s smart for keeping the issues local. She’s truly a grassroots candidate which gives me a lot of hope for the future. She shares my same concerns about getting big money out of politics which I find encouraging. When she spoke, she spoke from the heart. She’s got the pulse of the state I think. At this point it is about engagement. How much of the public feels compelled to vote or to follow the issues? I feel inspired to help because one of her main platforms is expanded medicaid/medicare coverage with the ultimate goal of universal healthcare. Healthcare hasn’t always been an issue that is important to me, but since my son’s diagnosis I have truly realized for myself how important healthcare is. ABA therapy for an autistic child costs anywhere from $65,000-100,000 a year depending on the frequency of therapy. This doesn’t include weekly speech therapy and occupational therapy. Of course there are the regular medical costs as well. I have seen with my own eyes how critical this therapy is for the kids as well as the parents. When I think about my own life and my child I can’t imagine what it would feel like to know the right path for your child and not be able to provide it because of insurance issues. The prevalence of autism is much higher in Utah than it is nationally. It’s really important to have someone in there fighting for better healthcare for Utahns. And autism is just one of many health issues. It’s just the one that affects me personally and why I feel passionate about it. Shireen shares that same passion through personal experience albeit a different illness. That is why she has my vote.

Non-consensual Immorality

Wow, it is absurd to use these two words together. I was reading an article about the Mormon churches conference this past weekend wondering if they were going to address the recent allegations against a former MTC president. This is where I ran into the phrase ‘non-consensual immorality.’ This phrase was used in a talk by Quentin L. Cook, one of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This was one of the only references to sexual misconduct in the whole conference.

Using that phrase implies that the victim, you know the one that isn’t consenting to said act, in that moment is not being moral. So, to put it in more frank terms, the woman that gets raped committed a non-consensual immorality implying that she is no longer moral. Non-consensual immorality was condemned, yet he reminded the crowd that consensual immorality must also be condemned. In doing this, he lumped all participants, rapist/victim and consensual sexual partners, into the same sinful pile. This makes no sense.

I’m flabbergasted that a leader of such an influential institution would say something like that. It is the obligation of a moral leader to explicitly state that sexual assault has no moral bearing on the victim and that perpetrators must suffer the consequences of their actions through the legal system. They should encourage victims to come forward. They should make clear that the church is committed to investigating any and all accusations in order to keep their members safe from sexual assault. Instead, they made an unclear statement that is open to interpretation. They should have chosen to clear it up that following Sunday through a church wide statement read aloud by the bishop. But they chose to continue to muddy the water.

It seems incredibly tone deaf for the moment right now. It seems like saying this further ingrains the cultural impulse to blame the victim in assault cases. What does a woman have to do to have a credible allegation in the eyes of the public? How do we make a shift away from this when moral leaders are preaching to do the opposite?

The Power of Empathy

Today we had a visit from my husband’s parents so I didn’t get a chance to watch the normal lineup of Sunday shows. Instead of executing my usual Sunday routine, I was engulfed in a predictable feeling of anxiety about the upcoming visit. I love my in-laws. It isn’t about them. It’s about explaining what my life has become since my son’s diagnosis of autism. For about a year now we have been doing in-home ABA therapy for about 20-30 hours a week. Therapists arrive at 830am, my son goes to school for 3 hours in the afternoon and we have therapy until 630 at night. It’s really hard to explain how difficult the daily grind is for me. It’s hard to explain why another visit to the house on a day that I usually get to be alone gives me anxiety. It’s hard to explain why I need a break. I feel on display at all times. I feel pressure to be a good daughter-in-law when the truth is I just feel tired. So, I wasn’t feeling super fired up for the visit today when my mother-in-law caught me by total surprise. She said she has been doing some reading about autism and ABA therapy. She said she knew I was going through a lot, but had no idea how much until she was reading a forum where other parents and grandparents were talking about the struggles. She apologized for not understanding for so long. She apologized for her gestures that were supposed to be supportive, but fell flat. She said all this time she was trying to understand his point of view while totally disregarding mine. I have to say I was shocked. I started sharing with her more than I ever have. I told her about times in the past when I knew I was being judged. I knew I was being ostracised and I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it. I thanked her for reading about it and how it made me feel good to hear that. And it was true. It’s funny how a bit of empathy can mend burned bridges and strained relationships. The power of empathy is what is going to ultimately heal the divide that has happened among us. I believe that even more having experienced the rebuilding for myself today.

Finding Common Ground

How do you find common ground on guns in an environment that is so polarized? On one side you’ve got the students of Parkland holding down the left and you have the NRA holding down the right. Both sides are equally passionate about the issue. Here’s some ideas being floated out there that I believe both sides can find footing together.

  1. Universal background checks on all gun purchases, trade show and online. Recent polls have shown that 97% of the public agree on this.
  2. Repeal Dickey Amendment. This law prevents the CDC from studying guns with respect to public safety. The studies that the CDC conducts are done scientifically and are not swayed by one side or the other. It is pure data collection. They would then be able to give real recommend solutions based on facts.

I think these are great steps to take initially. The first step to solving a problem is understanding the problem. The repeal of the Dickey amendment is absolutely critical in understanding the gun violence problem. What we are doing now is throwing anecdotal examples at one another to prove our own point. Studies that are conducted right now can be deeply partisan. The credibility of partisan studies are questionable because there is motive behind the findings. You can find countless studies, articles and examples ‘proving’ both sides rendering our debates fruitless. The CDC’s primary function and motive is to create a society that is as safe as possible. The results would have no talking points or emotions, just scientifically backed data. Only then would we be able to have a meaningful solution. In the meantime, I think states should look at their local laws and adjust them according to their constituents and patiently wait for the CDC’s results. At that point we can have a truly productive conversation about what can be done nationally about guns. There is always something we can find in common. It’s just about how we talk to each other.

Better Care Reconciliation Act

My son has been diagnosed with autism this year. The treatment he is receiving is extremely expensive. There’s been a lot of talk about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare whatever you want to call it, and honestly I’m worried about it. I’ve read a lot of articles, listened to podcasts and watched a lot of debate about the new healthcare bill. I find it frustrating because I’m still not sure how the changes will affect my family. It can get hard and confusing to apply what I hear in the news to my situation so, I decided I’m going to read the new healthcare bill from the Senate to figure out exactly how my family is going to be affected by its passage. So far it’s been long tedious work. It took me about 2 ½ hours to get through seven pages of the bill. The biggest take away for me so far in the first 7 pages is:

  • The actuarial value of the benchmark insurance plan drops from 70% to 58%

So, what does that mean? Well, actuarial value is the amount your insurance covers on your health care expenses. It means when a medical issue happens like pregnancy, ER visit or autism you pay more out of pocket when it happens. For example, Oliver’s therapy for autism costs about $80,000 a year. Under the current system, insurance would cover 70% of the total expense, while I would be responsible for 30%. That means insurance pays 56K and I pay $24k through some combination of deductibles, copays and coinsurance. Under the proposed plan in this bill, the insurance coverage would drop to 58%, leaving me responsible for 42%. That means insurance covers 46K, which leaves me with 34K. That’s about $10,000 more my family would have to pay a year. Also, i would assume that over time the federal guidelines would affect the entire market. If the federal guideline for actuarial value is 58%, private insurance companies and employers could offer remarkably lower coverage and still compete. A company would be able to attract employees with a 65/35 ratio rather than an 80/20 which would affect every person, not just the enrollees the government exchange. I hear constant talk about the price of premiums when it seems the cost of the actual medical procedures are much more likely to sink families when life happens.

So I guess the fundamental difference between the two bills is whether or not you want a rise in premiums or a rise in out of pocket medical costs. Under the Affordable Care Act, the monthly payment for a premium may rise, but the insurance covers the bulk of the medical expenses. Under the Better Care Reconciliation Act, premium prices remain similar to the current system, but the total out of pocket cost rises when a medical issue happens. The answer seems pretty clear to me when I think of it in those terms. It is much more affordable to pay incremental increases monthly than having to come up with thousands after a medical incident.

Another takeaway is that legislation is way too hard to read.

What’s Happening

I was reading 1984 and I got to thinking about how in the world I am going to help my sons navigate information in today’s society. It seems like we live in a time that facts are up for debate. There are totally different realities one can live in and it seems very correlated to what kind of media one consumes. Do these different realities affect our day to day lives or does it just spray out in politics? I hate the idea of my boys growing up with the idea that all establishments are corrupt and anyone that holds any type of power has some other selfish agenda at play. I believe that the majority of people are good people trying their best. Isn’t this true of people that hold public office? Have things become so complicated that we cannot address real problems about society because of the political backlash one suffers from one side or another? It seems to me like an ever growing problem. It is weighing on my mind a bit more lately.

Save the ACA

I am afraid that the Senate Healthcare bill is going to pass. I have a son with autism. His treatment costs about $80,000 a year. Under the new bill, insurance companies would no longer be required to cover mental health issues. I’m afraid that cutting ABA therapy for autistic kids would be a no brainer for companies because the cost for treatment is so expensive and can go on for years. I’m afraid that Oliver, and other kids like him, would no longer receive the care and early intervention therapies needed to set them up for success due to the overwhelming cost of the necessary treatment. I’ve seen huge improvements in Oliver’s coping skills since starting the treatment. It is undeniable that the ABA therapy is handing him the tools that he needs to be as high functioning as he can possibly be. The Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance plans must offer coverage for autism, all autism screenings, testing and ongoing therapies. The danger of removing this requirement poses is just monumental. If we allow these requirements to be eliminated, we are ripping away hope from the many mothers of special needs children that fight day in and day out for their children. We force families to make tough decisions about whether or not to pay for the therapies or pay the mortgage. That is not a choice any mother to have to grapple with. I want to continue to focus on the mental health of both my children and in order to do that I must retain adequate health insurance. The best thing we can to do to ensure adequate insurance is available to all is to call your Senator to oppose the healthcare bill. They can do better than this and we must hold the government accountable.