Media

Where is the voice of reason?

By Eddie A. Jones, AAC County Consultant

Where is the voice of reason! I looked up the definition of “voice of reason” and found the most prevalent definition to be: a person who influences others to act sensibly. I really liked the Cambridge Dictionary definition: the ability of a healthy mind to think and make judgments, especially based on practical facts.

Today’s political climate seems to have the innate ability to muzzle the voice of reason. Or at least make the issue or contested race so confusing that reason is reduced to a whisper or unable to be heard at all above the deafening roar generated by outside individuals or groups trying to sway an election with half-truths, quotes taken out of context, innuendo and out-right lies.

Why would any proud Arkansan listen to the ploys of outside groups that have no interest in the well being of our state but are interested only in their self-interests? Those interests are not usually honorable either. These outside “noisemakers” offend what little intelligence I have. I hope you find it offensive, too.

All the “loud noise” — malarkey, hooey and poppycock, as I call it — in many of today’s political races and ballot issues is paid for with dark money. Dark money is a term for funds given to nonprofit organizations, primarily 50(c)(4) [social welfare] and 501(c)(6) [trade association] groups, that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals, and unions, and spend funds to influence elections. They are not required to disclose their donors. Something should be done about it — as much as is legally possible.

I fully understand that most people are busy — busy making a living and raising a family, busy getting the kids or grandkids to various activities, cooking and cleaning, taking care of the house and yard, attending church activities, local sports contests and civic meetings. But all of us — every last one of us — have the responsibility as citizens of our city, county, state and country to expend a little energy to get properly informed on the issues and candidates so we can cast an informed ballot on Election Day.

I am appalled at the lack of knowledge concerning ballot issues and candidates — sometimes even among those elected to serve.

The “outside” pro/con noisemakers tend to be small, very vocal groups in comparison to the populace, but they are well funded. In our busy world it may be easier to listen to the loudest voice. But does that serve us well? Simply remember that these outside groups spending dark money — millions and millions of dollars in Arkansas every election cycle are doing so for their own benefit, not ours.

All of us have disagreed with some decisions of government or government leaders at various levels over the years. That does not mean we should “cut off our nose to spite our face.” Not “everything” is wrong as some would try to make us believe.

Mardy Grothe, the North Carolina psychologist, marriage counselor, public speaker and writer — who wrote that whimsically illustrated example of chiasmus in “Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You” — said, “The voice of reason is inaudible to irrational people.” I want to be counted among the rational.

Many times the silent majority ends up feeling either threatened or adversely impacted by some government decisions, real or imagined. Then everyone seems to react, properly informed or not, to the loud voices planting emotional buzz words, half-truths and un-truths calculated to stir up our basest feelings. They want to make us feel so afraid, angry or threatened that we will rush out to cast a knee-jerk vote.

I respectfully submit to you that we should all block out the loud noise of the outsiders. Don’t listen to the loudest voice. The ignoramus crow of “love it or leave it” or “the sky is falling” omits other viable options, such as “staying and changing it.” Get the facts, listen to the candidates themselves, and listen to your own voice of reason. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

All across the state of Arkansas — in every county — we will have candidates on the ballot for city, county, state and national office. Get out and meet the candidates. Ask them the hard questions. They will be glad to take your phone calls and answer your questions. Anyone running for public office, worth their salt, will want to address your questions and concerns because a person who is running for the right reason is a “public servant” at heart — interested in serving their constituents and in working to make a good government better.

Statewide there will be five ballot issues to consider. The Arkansas Legislature placed on the ballot two issues, both Constitutional Amendments. Three issues successfully made the ballot as the result of citizen initiative campaigns. Two of these are constitutional amendments and the other an initiated act. Spend some time to get informed on these issues.

The two constitutional amendments referred by the state legislature are:

Issue 1 — An amendment concerning civil lawsuits [commonly referred to as tort reform which will cap jury awards] and the powers of the General Assembly and Supreme Court to adopt court rules [giving the legislature the power to enact and adopt rules for the courts]; and

Issue 2 — A constitutional amendment adding as a qualification to vote that a voter present certain valid photographic identification when casting a ballot in person or casting an absentee ballot.

The three issues making the ballot by petition are:

Issue 3 — A constitutional amendment establishing term limits for the General Assembly.

Issue 4 — A constitutional amendment to require four licenses to be issued for casino gaming.

Issue 5 — An initiated act to increase the Arkansas Minimum Wage.

At press time all of these ballot issues, except Issue 2, are facing legal challenges in the state’s court system.

As they have done each election cycle since 2004, The Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, has developed unbiased, nonpartisan information on each ballot issue. The information is not pro or con but simply information laying out specifically what each proposal will do if enacted by the electorate. This information is available online at http://www.uaex.edu/ppc. If you do not have the availability of the Internet, copies of this information are available at the County Extension Service Offices around the state. My County Agent, Mike Andrews, emails this information to me on a regular basis. Your county agent would probably do the same for you.

Another way to be informed is to talk with someone you trust in these type matters — someone you know keeps apprised of candidate platforms [regardless of party affiliation] and issues. The bottom line is this: Get the facts, not the buzz; insist on clear answers, listen to the voice of reason and vote.

There is no reason why “reason” must be muzzled, no cause for “reason” to have laryngitis just because of the noise makers. I hope you will join me in ignoring the outside screamers who want nothing except to increase their wealth or advance their cause at our expense.

John F. Kennedy said, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” I don’t want to be that one voter President Kennedy was talking about — and I’m not going to be. I will be informed on the candidates and the issues when I cast my vote.

Democracy works best when the American electorate is engaged and informed, but not by outside special interest groups.

Those outside noisemakers can shout and scream and holler to their heart’s content, but I’m not paying any attention to them. I’m smart enough — and so are you — to make up my own mind based “on the voice of reason.” I aspire to be that voice of reason.

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