My book Accountability Citizenship is a non-partisan toolkit for citizenship in the information age. One of the tools I present in the book is the scorecard for elected officials. In particular, I recommend that readers consider a scorecard for their congressional representatives as they prepare for November’s general election. The scorecard can help focus each voter on the issues she or he considers most important. In turn, this "focus tool" can help voters avoid being overwhelmed by the flood of distracting issues the media throws at us each day.
The scorecard itself is quite simple and flexible. Here it is as it appears in my book. Note that the last elements of the scorecard are left to the individual reader. Not all of us have the same set of top priorities for our elected officials, and this tool is designed to allow you to evaluate your current representative based on your top priorities.
It is important to distinguish between focusing on your top priorities and focusing on news sources with which you agree. In order to have a balanced opinion on any issue, you have to understand the perspective of those who think differently than you do. If you listen only to Fox News, you are likely to form the impression that people who listen to CNN are either evil or stupid. Likewise, if you listen only to CNN, you will at best form a cartoonish impression of the Fox News perspective. In order to form a balanced opinion of any issue, you must strive to understand the reasoning behind opposing viewpoints as that reasoning is presented by the thought leaders who champion those viewpoints.
While this may seem a daunting task, it is quite manageable if you focus on only your top priority issues. Sticking with your issue focus will also keep you from being distracted by the large volume of irrelevant information presented to you each day. Much of this information is designed to hit your emotional hot buttons—a combination of consumer psychology and marketing techniques create stories that coalesce around a series of myths that discourage effective citizenship.
And since it is 2014—a congressional election year—resist the temptation to get too upset over stories about the president. Your congressional representatives would love to distract you with all the president’s shortcomings and faults. But this year is about Congress—what your congressional representative has done or failed to do. Remember, Article I of the Constitution is about Congress. Over 50 percent of the words in the Constitution are about Congress. And in the Constitution, the founders gave us the power to replace 87 percent of Congress every two years. They gave us that power for a reason.
With all of this power, how can it be that 90 percent of us are dissatisfied with the job that Congress is doing? My view is we generally fail to measure our members of Congress by the most important criterion—whether or not the member puts the good of the country in front of what is good for their political party or for themselves. Instead, we elect people who want to be successful as Democrats or successful as Republicans. These people confuse being good representatives of their party with being good representatives of the people in their district. We wind up with the delegation that voted to shut down the government because that is what the party wanted them to do, even though most of the people back home did not agree that shutting down the government was the right course.
Now—this November—is the time we must replace those representatives with new people who aspire to be successful as representatives of their district, not as representatives of their party. We must replace the current representatives, not because they are bad people, but because they are motivated by the wrong goals. If you want to be a committee chairman, you have to play ball with the party first, even when it means putting your district second. As a result, we here in Utah have suffered through another 12 months without effective federal land management reforms, without the resources that could already have alleviated the crisis on our borders, and without leaders capable of restoring the faith and trust of Utahns in their federal government. It is time for Utahns to stop playing politics as usual, and start fresh with representatives who can think and act independently of our dysfunctional national parties. Our Constitution gives us the power to replace 87 percent of Congress every two years. It is time for us to use that power.
Steve is an unaffiliated candidate running in Utah’s third Congressional district. He believes we have to change the culture of Congress so members once again put the good of the country in front of their political party. Steve has had extensive leadership experience in business and government, having served as an executive at internet retailer Overstock.com from 2004-2014, a Soldier in the United States Army from 1983-2004, and as a senate fellow and legislative liaison for the Army’s Senior General. He holds degrees from the United States Military Academy and Stanford University, and he is the author of Accountability Citizenship (2013). Find Steve at http://www.tryonforcongress.com/ or follow him on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StephenPTryonforCongress
This article is paid for by Stephen P Tryon for Congress.
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