George Pyle: Strike three blows for liberty. Vote for Props 2, 3 and 4

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune A voter drops her ballot at an official ballot drop box that doesn't need a post date at the Salt Lake County complex on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.

If Harry Truman were to invite you to have a shot of bourbon with him — an example of good Missouri hospitality that might happen first thing in the morning or late at night — he had a special expression for it.

It was an expression he may have picked up in the U.S. Capitol, specifically in the private office of House Speaker John Nance Garner, in the years when consuming alcohol was illegal, so all the public officials who did it might favor a winking euphemism.

Gentlemen, they would say, it’s time to strike a blow for liberty.

It was a saying that stuck around long after the end of Prohibition in the minds and mouths of many who had lived through that Very Bad Idea, as they continued to take pride in what had once been an act of resistance.

There are three blows for liberty offered to all Utah voters this year. If you haven’t already cast your ballot, you should raise a glass to all three.

The most obvious example is Proposition 2, the one that would demand that official Utah drop decades of denial and obstruction and make some forms of marijuana available as a legal treatment for a list of maladies for which it has been shown to be helpful.

Some folks object, both to the proposal and to the term “medical marijuana,” given that the plant and its various derivatives haven’t been through the rigorous corporate and government testing and review process that gave us, oh, say, OxyContin. Or is that a bad example?

There have been some studies, and generations of unregulated trial and error, supporting marijuana’s healing potential. Still, cannabis generally lacks FDA approval. Because the FDA, as commanded by Congress, has steadfastly refused to even consider the possibility that a natural thing that can be cultivated in a garden apartment’s window box could possibly rival substances made in stainless steel, pressure-washed factories by multi-national corporations.

Follow the money.

The point of Prop 2 is openly less scientific than it is democratic. We are tired of waiting. We don’t know all we’d like to know. But we know enough to know this stuff can help suffering people suffer significantly less.

And we know that benefit far outweighs the likelihood — the certainty — that some people will misuse the stuff. As they have for generations, with the greatest risk being not effects, side-effects or overdoses, but falling victim to the misbegotten war on drugs, itself an addiction and an abuse of power.

Proposition 3 is just as much a blow for liberty, though perhaps not as obviously so. That’s the one that would, again, brush aside years of Utah government inertia and insist that — billions of dollars too late — the state accept the expansion of the federal Medicaid program as laid out in the original Affordable Care Act.

For many thousands of Utahns, those who now have too much income to qualify for Medicaid under the old regime and too little to afford employer-provided or federally subsidized plans, gaining coverage for themselves and their families would be very much a grant of freedom. Freedom from want and freedom from fear. Which the man both Truman and Garner served as vice president, Franklin Roosevelt, rightly said were essential to a decent life.

The essential freedom that health care coverage gives people allows them to reach their potential, raise their children, start new businesses, survive bouts of unemployment and make their way in a 21st century freelance gig economy. Without it, a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes or kidney failure can be just as terrifying as any middle-of-the-night knock on the door in a totalitarian state.

All the arguments against Prop 3 start and end with dollar signs. There is no humanity in them at all. Yes, full Medicaid expansion will cost money. Nobody is calling it “free health care.” But, if we pass the proposition, we will be telling our elected representatives that joining the civilized world is something we are more than willing to spend our money on, and they should be about figuring out how to do it. Or standing aside and allowing someone else to do the job.

Proposition 4 is also about increasing personal liberty. It would create an independent commission to draw new districts for the Utah Legislature and our delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. The current system gives whoever runs the Legislature at any given time — always Republicans around here — too much power to draw districts designed to empower incumbents, not voters.

Normally, three blows for liberty is over my limit. But, on this ballot, every voting Utahn should happily imbibe.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, obviously likes to write about Harry Truman. He’s not that old. But he was born 13 miles from Truman’s home. gpyle@sltrib.com @debatestate

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