I'm sure there were political considerations in how he did it -- right after the GOP party caucuses is pretty obvious -- but one reason Gov. Gary Herbert found the courage to veto that odious sex ed bill at all was that a lot of people wrote him really good letters asking him to do so.
Educators, parents, child professionals, even grandparents, flooded the Capitol. Deputy Chief of Staff Ally Isom told me more than 8,000 letters, emails and phone calls came in. It wasn't the number of contacts that carried the day, she said, but the fact that so many were well-argued, polite and heartfelt.
Herbert couldn't physically read them all, but "I did select a number of letters that I felt were well-reasoned and representative of the tone of the letters, and did provide those to the governor."
Being prepared, thoughtful and polite works. With that in mind, I thought I'd use this incident to go over some advice for writing to your political leaders.
Why should you follow this advice? Everyone says the nation is too polarized. Let the change start with you.
- Write a real letter. When a politician's in-tray fills up, or her receptionist complains about the phone ringing off the hook, she knows something's going on.
Email is modern, but there's the real chance it will get lost in a spam filter or deleted.
Signing a pre-written petition, or hitting "like" on social media, takes no time and means little. Sending someone a real letter, or making a direct contact by phone, carries more weight.
When someone takes time to find paper and pen, write or type their thoughts and invest 45 cents in a stamp, they really mean it.
- Be real. If the issue hurts you personally, say how.
"What was striking this time was the tone," Isom said. "These letters were reasonable, although impassioned, but very thoughtful."
Grandparents talked about their children and grandchildren. People who work with local school boards discussed curriculum. A lot of people showed how the bill would hurt Utah's children.
That sort of argument is very hard to refute.
- Do your homework.
Before I wrote my column against the bill I read it online, pondered news accounts and talked to people who would be directly impacted by it.
Knowledge is power. It also makes the next step easier.
- Write well.
It's tempting to fire off an angry rant, but writing that changes minds takes time. You need to state your idea, list your reasons, then say what you want the letter recipient to do.
Rewrite many times. Check spelling and punctuation. Then fold the letter (or save the file) and let it sit for a day.
When you come back, you will be amazed how much work it still needs. Do that, then send it off.
- Follow up.
Those who opposed HB 363 may think their job is done because Herbert vetoed the bill.
Guess what? Gayle Ruzicka, whose Eagle Forum loved that bill, isn't finished. She's revving her lobbying machine to attack Herbert for his veto and laying the groundwork for a future campaign.
You need to do the same.
So write again. Let Herbert know he did a good thing and that he has your support when he defends his decision. Ruzicka isn't going away. Neither should you.
Thanks does not go unnoticed.
"I have to tell you," Isom told me, "we've received 1,650 thank-yous, and that's been a pleasant delight."
The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.