Originally published in the Deseret News.
At times, this election season has seemed like an exercise in how to most effectively undermine our national motto of e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”). Caustic rhetoric has alienated and divided voters nationwide, creating an environment that has made finding agreement on important issues like energy, the environment and public land management unnecessarily difficult.
But with the passing of Election Day comes the opportunity to move beyond failed politics and divisive mudslinging, toward elevated dialogue grounded in American principles and values, shared around dinner tables, across the fence with neighbors and in town meetings with locally elected officials. In these critical issue areas, that dialogue — and the practical solutions it generates — can be found by achieving community-driven solutions.
Community-driven solutions require a federal government that recognizes the harm that one-size-fits-all bureaucratic mandates do to people. Standardized mandates from Washington, D.C., crush cultural, social and economic diversity in local communities by elevating the interests of one group over another. Community-driven solutions embrace that diversity through balanced solutions that recognize the value and contributions of everyone in the community.
One-size-fits-all mandates stifle innovation by forcing all members of a community to conform to a rule determined by decision-makers thousands of miles away. Community-driven solutions recognize that innovative thinking, informed by people on the ground who understand local conditions and circumstances, is the best way to find solutions that both protect the environment and strengthen the economy.
Federal bureaucratic mandates demand that communities bow to the will of government. Community-driven solutions empower communities so that their government reflects the people’s will.
In energy, community-driven solutions means policies like the Re-empowerment of the States Amendment — giving states authority to block economic regulations that would be harmful to the men and women that they represent. It means devolving full authority over energy rules — such as the Clean Power Plan — from federal to state and local governments, trusting in the American principle that government closest to the people governs best.
In the environmental realm, community-driven solutions mean recognizing that local residents and decision-makers are best situated to know how to protect wildlife, conserve natural resources and encourage clean air and water. It means embracing the principle that no one has a stronger economic, environmental or cultural interest in protecting the beauty of natural landscapes and wilderness than the people who must live with the consequences of those decisions.
In public land management, community-driven solutions mean transferring the ability and authority to manage public lands to those whose livelihoods, communities and cultural heritage are rooted in the health and well-being of those lands. It means reforming laws like the Antiquities Act — which enables a single federal executive to restrict access and use of huge swaths of public land — so that local individuals representing a diversity of interests in public lands play the primary role in approving and managing national monuments.
In other words, community-driven solutions mean self-government — the foundational principle of the American model of government. This principle is the foundation of an elevated dialogue and practical solutions in the areas of energy production, environmental conservation and public land management. By applying the principle of self-government, we can move beyond a politics of Pyrrhic victories and ideological extremes to a system that actually protects the cultural diversity, economic prosperity and the natural beauty in our communities.
Those are outcomes we can all agree on.