By Joe Smyth

Joe Smyth of Scottsdale, Arizona, is the author of “Fixing America’s Broken Politics: Common Sense Solutions to the Issues That Divide Us.” A former editor of the Daily State News, he’s now retired, and the opinions expressed here are his own.

Too many Americans have given up on politics, and who can blame them?

Let’s think about what needs to be done to restore their confidence and get them engaged. The following are some ideas. Which ones do you like or dislike and what would you add to the list?

  1. Restore civility. Discuss public issues calmly. Listen to and try to understand — and perhaps even learn from — those who disagree with your opinions. Never engage in personal attacks, name calling or profanity and hold others — including politicians and the media — to the same standards. Consider reading the Civility Checklist, taking the pledge and telling others about it.
  2. Check your sources. Be careful about what you listen to, read, watch and share with others. There’s a lot of propaganda out there, and some of it is entertaining and addictive, especially if your opinions are being catered to. Make sure you’re not being misled and enflamed by partisan websites, social media and TV channels posing as legitimate news sources. Find balanced and nonpartisan information sources that earn your trust.
  3. Vote intelligently. Have a basic knowledge of American history, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, branches of government and economics. Understand that there’s no such thing as “government funds” — that’s your money they’re spending.
  4. Open primaries. Independent voters outnumber Democrats and Republicans, but most of them are not allowed to — or choose not to — vote in party primaries. Work to bring open, nonpartisan primaries to your state, in which all voters can vote regardless of their party affiliation — with the top vote-getters advancing to the general election regardless of their party affiliation.
  5. Rein in career politicians. Elected officials are supposed to make temporary sacrifices to serve the public, not to make it a lifelong, get-rich career. Eliminate all pensions and benefits for elected officials, impose term limits and adopt and enforce stronger conflict-of-interest rules. Insist that they stop burying the country — and future generations — in government debt.
  6. Rein in special interests. Ban campaign contributions by corporations, unions, political action committees, trade associations and other special interest groups. Cap the amounts that individuals (including the candidate) can donate to a political campaign. Require lobbyists to submit their arguments in writing, disclose in writing all gifts to politicians and bureaucrats, and post them on the internet for public access.
  7. Control big government. Limit the role of government in order to protect individual liberty, provide more choices and avoid political corruption. Hold the federal government accountable for doing a few things well — the roles specified in the Constitution. Return power to state and local governments or to the people themselves, by enforcing the 10th Amendment. Phase out government bailouts, loans, guarantees and subsidies, and make all government contracts open to free-market competition.
  8. Defend national security. Keep a strong but efficient, tactical and defense-oriented military. Set a good example for the rest of the world with our freedoms and economic success, not with bribes and military dominance. Stop funding terrorism through our dependence on foreign oil. Tighten border security, remove incentives for illegal immigration and expand legal immigration to strengthen our economy.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at

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