Turn down the political temperature and ‘Disagree Better’


December 5, 2023

Every July, we celebrate our nation’s independence with respect for our past and an eye for the future. Too often, we fail to remember a key lesson from our founders. They disagreed vigorously about how to govern our nation in the chambers of Independence Hall. Even as they shared the cost of standing shoulder- to-shoulder on the battlefield, they embraced the challenge of building a country free of unelected kings with citizens empowered to pursue self-governance.

But they did not reach agreement overnight, and no single individual who participated in the process received 100% of what they wanted. Our modern-day politics need a refresher on this reality.

We disagree daily on a multitude of issues. This disagreement can provide an avenue for finding ways to reach consensus and improve our state. Unfortunately, we see outsiders attempting to disrupt our healthy disagreement in Idaho with a toxic brand of violence and intimidation. There are too many examples recently of individuals who reject the due process promised by our constitution in favor of school yard bullying and veiled threats.There is a better way. When we lose campaigns, we work harder next time. When we disagree on policy, we shouldn’t stoop to personal attacks.This approach requires us to stay in the arena and engage on the issues.

Utah’s Governor Spencer Cox, the current chair of the National Governors’ Association, introduced a new initiative earlier this month called “Disagree Better.” His proposal isn’t about avoiding the hard issues or conflict. Of course, being nicer to each other is needed, but the primary purpose of “Disagree Better” focuses on how we can make disagreement into something useful that helps us as elected leaders do a better job of solving our problems.

Rather than checking out or refusing to engage on policy when we disagree, we step up and embrace healthy conflict to find a solution to the issues our constituents need solved. We believe that healthy conflict and different perspectives can produce meaningful change for Idahoans. Our founding fathers set the example of leading through disagreement and conflict. It’s what the vast majority of Idahoans expect and want from their elected leaders, too!

We can deliver this kind of leadership in Idaho, but it will require us to engage more with those who may not see issues the way we see them. No longer can we retreat to the safety of our political tribes. Our doors need to be open, and we can all do better.

This nation was built by people who showed up and stayed in the room until the job was done. We owe it to the heroes who risked everything to make this a more perfect union by turning down the political temperature and engaging in difficult conversations.

This submission is from the Main Street Idaho Caucus, “a group of dedicated Idaho legislators committed to fostering economic growth, championing free markets, and expanding Idaho’s economy. The following legislators co-signed this commentary. Senators: Van Burtenshaw, Chuck Winder, Todd Lakey, Linda Wright-Hartgen, Abby Lee, Dave Lent, Treg Bernt, Geoff Schroeder, Julie Van Orden, Jim Guthrie, Doug Ricks. Representatives: Stephanie Mickelsen, Chenele Dixon, Jerald Raymond, Britt Raybould, Julie Yamamoto, Dan Garner, Lori McCann, Greg Lanting, Josh Wheeler, Rick Cheatum, Rod Furniss, Jack Nelsen, Jon Weber, Mark Sauter 

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