Back in 1980, a certain presidential candidate asked a simple question of the people watching him and his opponent debate. It’s a pretty good question. There is a certain simplicity in asking yourself that good question that can be used over and over to shape your decision making for whom to vote for in the upcoming elections.

“Next Tuesday is Election Day. Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision,” Ronald Reagan said.

“I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Reagan asked other questions, too. They still fit today.

“Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago?” Reagan asked. “Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago?”

I would expand that four years ago type of thinking to include your thoughts about the future.

Do you think it will get easier for you to make a living a year from now if we operate under the same Congress? Do you think the path the state and federal governments are on will make my life better five years from now and my children and grandchildren’s lives better a generation from now?

Will this path make it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it is now? Will America be as respected throughout the world? Do you feel that our security will be as safe and as strong?

Other questions to ask include does this path enable my children and grandchildren the opportunity to live and work in rural America? Will I hear my spouse complain that we’ll have to fly somewhere distant each summer to see our grandkids?

Reagan had the answer, at least in my mind to all those questions, the ones he posed in 1980 and the ones I pose today.

“If you answer all of those questions yes, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for,” Reagan said. “If you don’t agree, if you don’t think that this course that we’ve been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.”

Reagan had such a great attitude about the future. Compared to the attitude that seems to permeate today’s White House, perhaps we should go back to the days when America was a shining city on a hill rather than a place where funding for rural jobs, housing, infrastructure, health care and economic development is slashed.

Now we have a place where farmers are losing markets to sell their goods and thus lose as much as half of their income in four years—something already forecast to be losing an additional 13 percent next year. It’s a place where conservation funding is uncertain since some members of Congress hang onto a failing notion to cutting back on nutrition services to the poor and not understanding how a farm bill is supposed to work.

Perhaps we could reexamine the current path as America votes and perhaps try another choice, any choice among a group of imperfect but decent people. Perhaps, if we give them an opportunity, as the nation did Reagan, we might turn out OK in the long run.

A look at the past and the future might do us some good.

And, as always, expect the unexpected.

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or ldreiling@hpj.com.

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