Educated participation is key to democracy

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Let me begin by wishing you all Happy Resurrection Day! This is the most important historical holiday that we have, and without it the world would be in a dreadful state.

2018 was a very productive, and well managed legislative session with 799 bills being proposed 639 voted on, and 406 passing in both chambers, which includes 78 proclamations or memorials. While these totals are not a record amount, it seemed like a very busy session. This may be due to the fact that this is an election year, and many changes are to be expected in both the legislative and executive branches after the general election in November. The session finished at an average length of 80 days, including an extra five-day signing period at the end in order to ensure that we were able to address any possible gubernatorial vetoes, which was realized in two education bills. The first veto came to the House floor for reconsideration, but the veto was upheld. The second bill was asked to be returned to the Education Committee, where it remained until our final adjournment, which effectively upheld the second veto. There was a much more collegiate atmosphere within the Legislature than last year, and most legislators are hopeful that we will be able to maintain this air as many new members enter the Legislature, as well as the advent of a new governor, next year.

Having written on the importance of knowledge in the political realm for the past two months, it seems pertinent to wrap up my final “Notes from Boise” column by addressing the same topic in relation to our impending elections. Elections are the time when the importance of knowledge and self-edification are at a premium. Elections are also the time when most parties involved are attempting to limit or direct information to affect specific results, hoping that the constituency is either too busy, or simply disinterested.

“Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.”

-Thomas Jefferson

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”

-John Adams

I would posit that inattentiveness to public affairs Jefferson speaks of involves not only general disinterest, but also seeking out only one source of information, or only one side of an issue. There is an inherent direction we are all inclined to be drawn to, and it is natural that we seek information that accommodates our inclinations. The result of this, often, is the repetition of sound bites with little depth behind them. This approach further limits our knowledge, and produces a jaundiced opinion that expresses itself through public policy that is often one-sided. The Adams quote is the solution to the growing problem of an uniformed and hyper-partisan electorate. Informed, rational debate is profitable to the pollical process and produces a benefit all can appreciate.

Multiple columns could be written about the difficulty of most people to find time to educate themselves about issues and candidates, but it is critical to the future of our state and nation.

Educated participation is the only way to stem the various forms of tyranny that arise from the complacency of an electorate. Please take the time to educate yourself on all the candidates running in the various races, and then make time to vote.

Sage Dixon represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho House of Representatives, District 1A.

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