Elections

"I voted stickers" sit atop of a ballot box Tuesday Nov. 8, 2016, in the Samuel H. and Marian K. Barker Family Health Technology Building at the Ogden-Weber Technology College.

“Donald Trump is the worst president in U.S. history. He ought to be impeached.”

— Voter A

“Donald Trump is our nation’s greatest president. His image ought to be permanently enshrined on Mount Rushmore.”

— Voter B

* * *

Tuesday is Election Day, and I realize that as a highly trained professional journalist I’m supposed to be encouraging all Americans to fulfill their patriotic duty and vote. Why? Because now — more than ever — is a critical crossroads in our nation’s history. (Although, really, when ISN’T it?) And it’s important at this critical crossroads that we make the correct voting decisions.

And do you know precisely how we ended up at such a “critical crossroads”? Because of people like Voter A and Voter B.

Somehow, our hyper-polarized society has become completely binary-based. Everything has to be one or the other. All or nothing. True or false. Good or bad. Right or wrong. Virtuous or evil. Republican or Democrat.

Us vs. Them.

Well, speaking as Voter C, I’m fed up with it.

This was going to be my stirring “Eat your vegetables” speech, in which I attempt to shame every eligible American into studying the issues and candidates and voting for what they thought was best for America. But I’ve come to realize those vegetables have been tainted with the political equivalent of E. coli. And frankly, I’m beginning to think we’d be better off if some folks simply didn’t vote.

So instead, this column has morphed into my only-slightly-less-stirring “Certain people shouldn’t vote” speech, in which I — again — implore all Americans to quit being so darned cocksure and try a little thing called compromise.

I write one of these things every year or two. See, the problem with this country isn’t that Republicans are misogynist racists who only want to rape the planet and make a quick buck. And it isn’t that Democrats are America-hating socialists who want to enslave everyone and hand over the country to Hispanics/Muslims/terrorists/other scary non-old-white-male groups.

The real problem with this country is that there are Democrats who think Republicans are all those things, and vice-versa. It’s fear-mongering at its worst, and it’s what’s gotten us into this predicament.

Our real enemy continues to be the intransigent extremists on both sides of the aisle.

An inherent danger in our free and fair election system is that it’s often such extremists who have the greatest impact on the process. They’re the ones with the biggest axes to grind, and so they make the time to become involved. Meanwhile, the rest of us — the moderate middle — are preoccupied with everything else in life and can’t be bothered to pay attention to something we don’t feel as strongly about. As a result, extremists are often able to foist their agendas on everyone else.

The perfect example of this occurred back in 2010, when Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, seeking re-election, didn’t even make it out of the Republican caucus.

In a general election, the more moderate Bennett would have wiped the floor with Mike Lee, the eventual winner. But because the vast majority of Utahns ignored the nominating process, a small group of highly motivated extremists from the Tea Party were able to hijack the system, circumvent the fuzzy will of the majority, and kick the incumbent Republican off the ticket.

And what was Bennett’s primary crime? He wasn't extreme enough in his conservative views.

Two years later, with Sen. Orrin Hatch up for re-election and these same extremists rattling sabers that maybe Hatch wasn't the right kind of conservative, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints finally put its black-leather-oxford-clad foot down.

In 2012, the church made an aggressive push from the pulpit, admonishing all of its members to become involved in the political caucus process — even going so far as to instruct congregations not to hold any church meetings on caucus nights. Why? Because church leader were worried that Utah’s political process was careening a little too far to the right.

Think about THAT one for a moment: You’ve got the LDS Church — the 800-pound gorilla of conservative Utah politics — wringing its hands over fears that the state is becoming too conservative.

Talk about your canary in a coal mine …

So, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but here’s the deal:

If you’ve ever implied that conservatives — as a group — are racists, or hate women, or don’t care about the environment, you probably shouldn’t vote.

If you’ve ever called liberals snowflakes, or “libtards,” or un-American, you shouldn’t vote, either.

If you’ve chanted either “Lock her up” or “Not my president,” I encourage you to tear up your ballot.

And finally, when it comes to Tuesday’s midterm elections, if you’re a voter who simply can’t bring yourself to respect and work alongside your fellow Americans based solely on their political affiliation?

Maybe you should just sit this one out.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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