The former is always better than the latter. When you react, you’re allowing someone else to dictate the terms of engagement to you. Anticipation gives you more more options while reaction limits choice.
That’s why lawmakers are in such a pickle over the pollution plaguing the state this year.
It’s a tough trap. Doing something substantive on air quality would be a long and arduous process. But the public wants something done before lawmakers leave the hill in March.
Any fix this session would be cosmetic at best. Long-term solutions with lasting impact are not the kind of legislation that emerges with less than 30 days before adjournment. 45 days is barely enough time to get through the important issues every year, let alone bring up something as meaty as pollution control.
Here’s where messaging matters.
Legislators should have talked about the air quality from day one. They should have at least given the impression they were aware of the problem and public concern. But, they allowed the media - particularly social media - to set the terms of debate. Now they’re stuck having to cobble together something that looks good, but really doesn’t address the problem.
Even Gov. Gary Herbert only made passing mention to the poor air quality in his State of the State address.
Talk about completely misreading the mood of the public.
Many of Utah’s lawmakers simply don’t understand how the public views them. Think about the casual news consumer. Their main news consumption is primarily those goofy morning television segments smattered with a little bit of news. One of the top stories for the past few weeks (if you don’t count the crime and car crash stories) was the horrible air quality. I remember seeing one reporter doing a live shot from in front of the capitol where the building was completely obscured by pollution hanging in the air. That has an impact. It reaffirms to the average citizen what their own eyes are already telling them - that the air quality sucks.
Setting the narrative is crucial in politics. Ask Al Gore, John Kerry or Mitt Romney.
All most people remember is Gore invented the internet, Kerry was a flip flopper and Romney didn’t care about poor people. If the constant drumbeat from the media and their friends is about the poor air quality, guess what? Utah has poor air quality - and there’s no amount of data that will change that perception.
It’s emotion vs. logic. Logic says this is an issue that requires careful and thoughtful study. Emotion says legislators should do something to address the problem now.
Now is easy. Careful and thoughtful leaves the problem in place until the proper solution is found.
Emotion is hard to argue against. It’s frustrating.
Who would you rather be, Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock? Kirk is emotion and bravado. Spock is logic. Kirk is cool. Spock is not. Kirk is exciting. Spock is boring.
We need our lawmakers to be Spock. We want our lawmakers to be Kirk.
Clear skies this week will help reduce the pressure to do something now.
But the problem is not going to go away anytime soon. And the quicker legislators shift from reacting to anticipation, the more options they’ll have.
There are whispers Democratic Sen. Pat Jones is considering running for Mayor of Holladay later this year.
That’s news to Jones.
She says she’s heard the same thing, but has absolutely no plans to run for another office.
“I’m not sure where this is coming from,” she tells Utah Policy.
Gotta love the political rumor mill.
“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP all sitting members of congress are ineligible for reelection.” ~ Warren Buffett