Politics in Utah needs more integrity, less emotion – Mero Moment, 3/4/14

Speaking of my role as president of Sutherland Institute, a very dear friend of mine has told me more than once that I will be the life or death of the organization. What he means is that my professional experience in politics and policy, along with my leadership abilities, are what will carry Sutherland to consistently achieve its vision and mission in defense of faith, family and freedom, or my candor and my hubris will sink the ship ultimately.

He and I are the same creatures. We are big, red, testosterone-driven personalities. We hate to lose more than we like to win. We aren’t gentle people. We have to work at being Christ-like. It doesn’t just come naturally for us. Here’s one example from my life: Our oldest boy was playing a high school basketball game when he stepped on the foot of an opposing player and twisted his ankle. He thought he broke it. He was on the floor writhing in pain. We have it on videotape. You can hear my wife in the video shouting, “Stop the game! Stop the game!” and then you can hear me saying “Get up! Get up!”

Personalities like mine are clearly not a fan favorite. Inside Sutherland, whether they know it or not, nearly every one of my great colleagues is assigned some part of my personality to guard against and protect. I refer to one colleague as our “Department of State” while typically I am the “Department of Defense.” Everyone on staff has become my editor. We have a love/hate relationship – depending on the circumstances, they either love what I say, write, blog, tweet and post, or they hate it.

So why do organizations, like Sutherland, and businesses, like my dear friend’s, put us in charge? It’s really simple – we win much more than we lose. Furthermore, we’re faithful to mission. We’re not just good at what we do – lots of people are good at things and many are better than us. If there is any integrity in warfare, we have it. Surely our egos benefit from what we do, but our cause is never sacrificed to ego. We know our weaknesses better than anyone. For instance, I didn’t need to be told by two little old ladies after one contentious debate over immigration that I am “the most repugnant, arrogant and condescending” man they had ever met. I get it. People like me know those perceptions are not far from the truth. And, yet, we don’t care because we’re on a mission and that focus alone means that, while we have more enemies than friends, our friends are deeply loyal. More importantly, every one of us is loyal to the cause.

I daresay Utah politics needs more people like us. Utah is too passive-aggressive. We’re too concerned about what other people think about us. Admittedly, all sorts of political personalities have their role and function. Some are the peacemakers. Some are the extreme. Some are behind-the-scenes. Some are grandstanders. Many see politics as a game, much like sports, and don’t mind using gaming ethics to get what they want while violating every principle they say they hold dear.

Utah politics needs more candor, more honesty, more integrity, more reason, more principled action and less pandering, less feigned concerns, less emotion, less electioneering, less self-promotion and less elitism. Politics should return to yesteryear – a time of noble causes pushed by noble people willing to fight, bleed and die, willing to set aside wealth and fame, for the common good in the name of freedom. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

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