My husband and I come from very different backgrounds. When we talk about being kids, we shake our heads a lot. It's like visiting a foreign country. Our childhoods could not have been more different.

But when it comes to raising our own kids together, we're a team, although we've had some heated debates before we reached some kind of compromise.

The point is, we eventually arrive at some important common ground, simply because there's nothing more important to us than our kids. We're absolutely committed to making our family a strong, healthy one.

Along the way, we've been forced to listen to each other and to speak honestly about our own feelings and beliefs. And we've each had to acknowledge, at times, that the other one was right.

We show each other respect, which is a key ingredient to successfully running anything, whether you're talking about a family, a company, a country.

Elections and politics in general always remind me of a dysfunctional family. And I think a lot of it could be resolved if politics could be approached like healthy family dynamics.

The presidential wannabes this year strike me as one of the more interesting and, for the most part, likable groups of candidates I've seen in a long time — until they start trying to score points off each other. Then they become brats on the playground, the conversational tenor flat-out mean and pretty much unhelpful.

Here's the thing: I have no doubt that the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates — who couldn't appear to be less like each other — do, in fact, have one very important thing in common. I'm willing to bet that each one genuinely loves this country. And each thinks he or she has a better idea of how to run it.

I don't agree with any of them on everything. At the same time, I find I have some common ground with each of them. And if I were ranking them to my liking at this moment in the drawn-out election cycle, my top two hail from different parties. Apparently I'm not strong on toeing party lines.

I also genuinely believe that how you behave yourself is as important as any one of your political positions, because in the back and forth of the inevitable upcoming compromises, it will be the ability to persuade people who don't agree with you that will matter and get things done. So being rude or arrogant or merely dismissive is apt to bite you later.

I wish they were a task force, instead of candidates, because they are bright and engaged, and, working together, they could probably pick a topic and come up with some pretty solid programs and policies. Instead, they'll burn their energy picking apart each other's ideas, often dismissing something good and workable because it came from the competition.

We see that happen at all levels of politics, clear down to the just-discussing-politics level. If you agree with one radio talk show host, you're a "great American." Disagree, and you're venal and stupid and uncaring. Many other hosts, of different political persuasions, are just as bad.

On both sides of the political aisle at every level of government, there are individuals who would rather die than give the opposing party a point that could later translate into political advantage.

It's the dynamic of a dysfunctional family, where keeping score becomes more important than solving a problem.

But at the end of the day, we share the results, regardless of party affiliation. If the economy's bad, Republicans don't get a waiver. Neither do Democrats.

If Medicare is broken or millions have no access to health care, party membership doesn't get you past it. Inflation and high fuel costs and terrorist threats and impending Social Security woes could not care less which party you registered with.

Deseret Morning News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]