Op-ed: The conservative alignment problem

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Homeless men walk near the Community Connection Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Utahns know what our culture looks like when we match our values to our public policies, especially on highly contentious issues. We saw this “alignment effect” when the state debated immigration policy a few years ago. Once we aligned our commensurate values with our legal and legislative behaviors toward undocumented immigrants, contention dissipated and marginalized communities were more welcomed. Many social barriers were overcome. People began to work together constructively and productively, united behind the desire to share opportunity, peace and prosperity.

Whether the contentious issue is immigration or homelessness or LGBT-related matters, the alignment effect will ensure that our governments reflect our better selves. A politicized “culture war” need not incite divisive posturing about whose values. The real culture war is always the struggle to match our commensurate values to legal and legislative behaviors.

What values do Utahns widely share? One value seems obvious: The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule requires us to see people as people, not as objects or in any objectifying way. It means wanting for others what we want for ourselves. Do you want the best education for your child? What are your feelings about wanting the best education for your neighbor’s child? In a social contract, your desires for your child would be selfish if not wrapped in empathy for other children.

Flip the script. What would you want from a public safety net if you found yourself on the needy end of the welfare equation? Would you desire processes that felt empathic and dignified? Would you desire those services and assistance that you really need at that moment? Would you want to feel needed, not just needy? If you would feel all of those things for yourself, why wouldn’t you desire the same for your neighbors?

Unfortunately, too many conservatives use their “sacred principles” to trample their neighbors instead of using needed principles to lift the human spirit and promote human happiness. In fact, those…

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