common ground

BEN OLSEN | Scroll Illustration

April 22, the Senate passed an anti-human-trafficking bill that had been held in committee for six weeks.

The bill largely was considered uncontroversial and had been expected to pass through both houses of Congress with little debate, before being stalled in the Senate, according to The Wall Street Journal.

For many observers, the fact that Congress could not agree for more than six weeks on a bi-partisan bill against human trafficking represented extreme congressional dysfunction.

However, the 114th United States Congress has already surpassed the previous Congress for a number of bills passed in just a fraction of the two-year period of this current congressional term, according to the Senate website.

Holding a bill in committee does not represent dysfunction in Congress.

It represents the give and take of how democracy works.

because neither party holds a super majority, lawmakers from both sides have to work together to focus and refine bills to meet viewpoints from both sides.

With the human-trafficking bill, a fund for victims was split in two parts, one that would fund health care for victims of rape and another that would be used for other purposes.

This allowed both sides to avoid a debate about how much government money potentially could be used to fund abortions.

Instead of shaking our head whenever Congress seems to be dysfunctional, we should remember that part of politics is being willing to at least listen to the other side of the argument.

We might not agree with others’ views about marriage, minimum wage or any of the other hot topic issues of today, but instead of shouting down the other side, which leads to real dysfunction, we can strive to listen to what other people have to say and find compromise.

The Utah State Legislature recently did this when, after meeting with local leaders from the LGBT community, the state passed a law that reaffirmed religious freedoms while also expanding legal protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

This approach was met with little media attention because it represented a give-and-take approach to democracy.

Contrast that with Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was met with media furor and condemnation from business and political leaders.

Instead of working with the LGBT community on how to expand their protections while also expanding the protections of those seeking to exercise their religious conscience, Indiana chose only to focus on protecting religious rights.

While there are issues Latter-day Saints largely believe we should not compromise our stance on, trying to reach out to those who are struggling has always been the Christlike way of acting.

Taking our belief in outreach to others and applying it to political conversations, even and perhaps especially when they’re with people who disagree with our views, will lead to greater tolerance and compromise than would otherwise be possible.

The Utah State Legislature has shown that even groups with strong beliefs on issues like marriage can find common ground with the opposition. As we being the 2016 presidential-election process, we need to keep in mind that, for the next two years, there will be a lot of political hate, partisan bickering and other negative media coverage that only talks about the bad things that happen, but we can choose to “rise to the call,” reach out to others, hear both sides of the issue and behave in a Christlike manner.

Working together for the better world is possible, even in politics.