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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Despite the gloom and doom, here are things to be thankful for

Published: Sunday, Nov. 24 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

So as we gather with family and friends over Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, what do we have to be grateful for?

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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Politics has been gloomy and doomy lately: Obamacare is in disarray, Congress is dysfunctional, the government shutdown for weeks, the NSA is spying on everyone, we're trillions of dollars in debt — and it's growing. Plus, the economy is still floundering, jobs are hard to find and holiday budgets are tight. So as we gather with family and friends over Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, what do we have to be grateful for? Here are some thoughts:

  • While it’s easy to be cynical and negative about politics and government, we need to maintain perspective. Most political leaders are good people, trying to do their best. Our nation is still the greatest on earth, still the “shining city on a hill” — the only nation able or willing, within reason, to protect the weak and fight for global peace and justice. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “The Americans will always do the right thing ... after they have exhausted all the alternatives.” Unfortunately, we’re still working on a lot of alternatives.
  • In many ways, life is better than any time in history. We are healthier, and living longer lives. Crime has declined substantially. We have more opportunities for education. We travel more, have nicer cars, bigger TVs, more discretionary income. We have cleaner air and water. The social safety net is wider than ever (sometimes too wide).
  • At press time, it appeared Atty. Gen. John Swallow would resign. Utahns of all political persuasions can all be grateful this saga is over. This is a cautionary tale for all elected officials: Don’t cut corners. Reject questionable campaign contributions. Stay away from shady characters who love to cozy up to politicians. Don’t mix money-making with elective office. Thankfully, such scandals are relatively rare in our history, demonstrating a strong ethic among our officials ... and our voters.
  • We can all be grateful for good people in our lives who make a difference, those we too often take for granted: loving spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents and grandparents, good friends and neighbors. These are the most important relationships of all, providing true security and joy.
  • At this time when we share and help those in need, we can be thankful that Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has generated positive national attention to our state with his compelling and articulate proposals to eradicate poverty. Lee is emerging as a uniter, not a divider. He can be thankful he has enough time before 2016 to convince Utah voters that he’s a thoughtful problem-solver, not a tea-party-government-shutdown advocate.
  • Republicans are thankful (even gleeful) that Obamacare is blowing up, providing boundless opportunities for "I told you so." Democrats are grateful that Republicans still have not constructed a health care reform alternative of their own, allowing for accusations of "heartless and cruel".
  • At the risk of committing the sin of abundant pride, we must remember Utah is an exceptional place with exceptional people. Our "exceptionalism" is providing leadership to our fellow Americans in a number of areas including health care, economic development, technology, budgetary responsibility, financial services, family-oriented perspectives, healthy lifestyles and a reverence for our Constitution. Utah is a place where government works and a collaborative culture provides a terrific competitive advantage.
  • Scientific and technological breakthroughs occur at ever-accelerating rates, improving health, making transportation more efficient, ensuring energy security, creating exciting new communications channels, and providing myriad opportunities in every area of life.
  • A strong and healthy debate is occurring regarding Utah’s political party nomination process — the fate of the caucus/convention system. This is driving emotional and heated discussions, but irrespective of the strong opinions, this is a debate worth having, demonstrating a vibrant political process.
  • The beauty and wonder of our outdoor resources, including our national and state parks, were highlighted in a weird way through the government shutdown. We are thankful for the attention and the honor of hosting these treasures — beautiful mountains, red rock canyons and marshes, hiking, camping, hunting and fishing, gorgeous sunsets.
  • In all the controversy surrounding Washington dysfunction, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has reaffirmed his statesmanlike approach to governance, which reflects well on all of us.
  • A growing perception exists (such things are hard to quantify) that the religious divide in our community is narrowing. We are thankful for the determined efforts of leaders of all denominations, and their congregations, for reaching out to others of different religions.
  • LaVarr and Frank are again grateful that we have readers other than our mothers (and we wonder about their loyalty), but are especially thankful that politicians — despite their best efforts — remain interesting creatures who generate enough news and controversy to keep us busy every week.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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