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As, once again, black storm clouds build over the mountains and wind whips the trees while brilliant sunlight shines on the green hills and vibrant blossoms fill the valley, I can’t help but liken this summer’s weather to our current political climate of extremes.

The rhetoric of both the political left and the political right has risen to levels not heard in many years. While the expression of extreme viewpoints might gain the attention of voters at this early stage of the election cycle by playing to their fears and raising their anger, there is also the ever-present danger of having intelligent, thoughtful voters tune out early in the election cycle.

I believe, and it is certainly borne out by my conversations with constituents, most voters want and expect their representatives to do much more than spout extremist rhetoric. Voters expect their elected representatives to stay informed on the issues facing their constituency. They expect their legislators to study all sides of the issues and work with the parties involved to find solutions that can be implemented into law.

If, as I have expressed, voters do want solutions to the problems that face our state, then they must pay close attention to the candidates they choose to support. The "red meat" of ideology can fuel rhetoric and help inform decisions but it cannot, on its own, create solutions. Solutions always require a "how."

How will you reduce spending by 10%? What programs go by the wayside if you do? How will rural healthcare be constituted in the upcoming decades? How do we ensure our state’s infrastructure is in good repair for our children and grandchildren? How do we keep the drug crisis from our entering our borders? How do we ensure that our students are properly prepared for tomorrow’s workforce challenges? How do we continue to add jobs in a changing economy? These are but a few of the most salient issues that must be addressed by those who aspire to actually govern.

Listen closely to the candidates and ask them how they intend to implement their policy goals. The good ones will have an answer. The remainder will not. It is not sufficient to simply bellow and posture and then complain loudly of treachery when nothing gets done. This is a staid and tired formula employed to hide the fact that a candidate never had a solution or a plan.

The vast majority of voters have grown weary of the constant extremist “thundering” voices that threaten in the background. The voters are ready for a “summer” of thoughtful solutions, not another “winter” of discontent punctuated only by whining and wailing.

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Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, represents House District 87 in the Montana Legislature. She is chair of the House Appropriations Committee. 

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