Reaching Out & Being Better Neighbors

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14 mins read

Our campaign made a deliberate decision to reach out to people with different political views and party affiliations from the outset. Since then, I sometimes hear a variation of: why try? These voters do not share Democrats’ priorities or values. Too many of them do not believe in facts. They are simply hopeless (…two ways to read that word…) and, besides, they will not vote for you anyway.
 
Politics at its best, however, is not only about helping people and working toward the common good. Politics is also about mathematics. Winning elections is about addition, not subtraction.
 
Below are Utah voices that help frame why our state and country are so divided. Our team and volunteers (100+) and I are doing tough and sometimes uncomfortable political due diligence along our winding campaign trail, almost half of Utah geographically. As the candidate, I have dozens of pages of handwritten notes in yellow legal pads spread across my desk, a role not that different from what I did while with the U.S. State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hours and hours of unscripted conversations, using my ears more than my mouth.
 
I never planned to run a safe campaign—scripted and bunkered, like my lackadaisical opponent’s intention seems to be. One that hides from voters and an anxious people’s unpredictable and pointed questions. I am seeking to represent all residents in Utah’s vast 2nd Congressional District, not just those who identify with my own party.
 
Below are some of my notes highlighting three distinct political points of view from two libertarians (one of whom has my campaign yard sign in front of his house in Tooele), Ryan Bundy (who helped lead the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, and the 2016 Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon—where Bundy was shot and another man killed), and Mike Noel, a vocal Trump supporter and former Utah state legislator.
 
Their comments reflect long conversations and are based on an intentional strategy. My seven consecutive years in the wars as a government official charged with peacebuilding—as much as possible between warring Iraqi and Afghan factions—taught me how fast civic unraveling can happen and how hard it is to reverse. Olive branches should be held tight, and used. Listening goes a long way in helping deescalate situations. Dismissing different viewpoints is explosive.

Libertarian podcast

Two libertarians / Tooele County, Utah

  • The civil war in the U.S. has already started
  • Salt Lake and Tooele counties have nothing in common
  • States in the western U.S. should work together because people have things in common, unlike with other parts of the country
  • Without the Electoral College, the coasts will control everything
  • We recently had a podcast with two Black Lives Matter guests and found some things in common
  • Trump lost us when he banned bump stocks
  • The political right is more to be afraid of than the left [with a lot of power]
  • The government should buy blocks of time on media and give it to all candidates
  • With a monarchy, at least the people get to use a guillotine if the monarch falls

Ryan Bundy / Iron County, Utah

[Note: Ryan Bundy received a bulk outreach text from our campaign and expressed an interest in speaking with me. A scheduled twenty-minute conversation turned into two hours.]

  • People matter more than party
  • Countries are about “land”… nations are about “people” so the U.S. is 50 “countries”… not one country
  • State legislatures should still choose Senators [17th amendment]
  • Government has only one legitimate function: aid individuals to defend/protect their rights; government is not our ruler
  • Federal government has a role in foreign policy but not inside U.S.
  • State parks are okay but no national parks
  • There needs to be criminal justice reform. There are many innocent men in prison
  • I look at things biblically
  • Let’s embrace the term “militia” and make it our own—right to keep and bear arms is absolute
  • All money toward elections has got to stop. Elections should be open to all. People should vote for best candidates, not parties
  • Liberty is more important than security
  • People want simply to have liberty and live in peace
  • COVID is a crock, false; there should never be a mask mandate, ever
  • Some of Black Lives Matter is socialism, but I agree on some things—police role should be smaller; only legitimate law enforcement is county sheriff
  • My property is my property, my jurisdiction

Mike Noel / Kanab, Utah

  • People I talk with are saying that bad things could happen, but I have my sons and my guns; I hunt and know how to shoot; I’m going to be ready if they come after me
  • A civil war could happen
  • Some of this civil unrest will get into other countries
  • My experience in politics tells me to be prepared
  • I listen to all networks, CNN, too
  • We had a soft coup against the president [Trump]… FISA court went after Carter Page
  • BLM is a terrorist organization, those who started it
  • Workers in Kanab get paid 10 bucks an hour to change beds, and I can only pay 7 dollars to hire a farm hand
  • re rural mental health: we need to get people treatment, better than warehousing them
  • Term limits are necessary
  • Neither side will accept the election results… Hillary Clinton has already told Joe Biden not to concede

Fears about Election Day—and after

Residents across CD2 have conveyed to me directly growing fears about Election Day and the weeks that will follow. Below is an email I recently received from a supporter in a county low in population but high in tension—a place I have visited numerous times and will continue to do so.

Hi Kael,
 
Keep up the good fight! Your message is heartfelt during these
precarious times. You are the beacon of hope for those of us living in
proximity to a newly formed armed militia in XXXXX. Yup, you heard
me correctly. Reports of 60 – 100 armed residents gathered at the
park in town last Sunday…
 
Cheers.

In the caffeinated and leafy part of Salt Lake City where I live, urban residents have been active on a neighborhood app debating whether municipal police reforms are going to lead to an exodus of cops from the city. The exchanges have been heated at times. A friend who works in construction said a retired couple are hoping their home remodel in the Avenues is completed before Election Day, because they do not feel safe living in a high-rise rental in the central part of the city. A key member of our campaign staff, who also lives downtown, has spoken about signs of more homelessness and desperation on Salt Lake streets. Some Utahns have begun to talk of relocating to Canada. Tensions clearly are on the rise in more than a few Utah ZIP codes, in communities surrounded by alfalfa fields and red rock as well as those bounded by asphalt and steel.
 
And there is good reason to be anxious, even if the precipice edge is still a few steps away. Those of us who choose to be better neighbors can start to work toward more hopeful days—starting on November 3rd. No easy task. An impossible one without better elected leaders and sustained vigilance. “Hopeless” remains a real place that is dangerous terrain for a great country under great strain, and in our cities too.
 
I continue to believe, however, and this is important, that a majority of Utahns and Americans want more unity, not more division. Justice for all. And a nation that proves itself to be indivisible… despite any constitutional or civic order challenge posed by Trump and his complicit followers. Clear accountability on Election Day is crucial in this regard—along with reaching out sooner, not later, to others who might be dismissed as too extreme. Not all are. We remain neighbors, after all, no matter the campaign season signs placed in front of homes or on apartment windows.

Weston sign with Cottam

Please stay in touch in these challenging times. I am running to help get us to a more stable place locally and nationally. It just so happens I have a lot of experience doing just that. Diplomatic skills developed and tested in a big way overseas in two warzones but are now very much needed here at home—in CD2, in Utah, and in Washington, D.C.

Thank you for your support.

Kael Weston
kael@westonforcongress.com


In TWO weeks: Tuesday, October 6th

Policy Lunch with Kael Weston

Kael invites you to participate in a series of weekly lunchtime conversations with him about urgent policy issues that require serious leadership and personally impact the people who live and work in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.

When you RSVP, you will receive login information and a method for submitting your questions prior to these virtual events.

Policy Lunch with Kael Weston: Government Ethics & Accountability
Tuesday, October 6th, 12:30 pm

America’s system of checks and balances requires public servants of conscience and wisdom, not allegiance to partisanship and division. We must insist on high standards of conduct and judgment in our politicians—or fire them and hire those willing to listen and lead. The magnitude of the public health and economic crises we are facing are a direct result of the lack of accountability and ethics in the current Administration, along with public servants who have forgotten that their job is to put people first — not their party. When elected officials speak the language of partisanship and division, their rhetoric forms the landscape of our public discourse, lowering the bar for all of us. Politicians should always remember that they work for us, for the common good—and that public service is an honor and not a platform for self-absorption, pettiness, or division.

Join Kael for the last in the series of Policy Lunches, focusing this time on Government Accountability & Ethics on Tuesday, October 6th, at 12:30 pm, for a lively, one-hour discussion of the issues.

Wednesday, August 12 – Healthcare/COVID
Wednesday, August 19 – Education 
Thursday, September 3 – Public Lands
Wednesday, September 9 – Foreign Affairs 
Wednesday, September 16 – Civil Rights
Wednesday, September 23 – Jobs & the Economy
Tuesday, October 6 – Accountability & Ethics in Government – NEXT EVENT

Watch videos of past events on YouTube


This campaign is only possible through donations. Thank you for your support.

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, the total amount an individual can contribute to a candidate for the general election is $2,800.


Weston 2020
PO Box 522288
Salt Lake City, UT 84152


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A native Utahn, Kael Weston served for over a decade in the U.S. State Department, including seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his government career, specific assignments included: U.S. representative on the UN Security Council’s Al Qaeda/Taliban Sanctions Committee in New York; Iraq team, Political Section, U.S. Mission to the United Nations; State Department Political Adviser to a dozen Marine commanding generals, including during and after the biggest battle of the Iraq War (Fallujah, 2004-2007). In this role, he and Marine leaders were responsible for rebuilding the city’s infrastructure, facilitating the return of hundreds of thousands of Fallujans back into the city, establishing a new city council despite numerous assassinations of local politicians, and working closely with Iraqi governors in Ramadi and central Iraqi government representatives in Baghdad. Several nation-wide elections and a constitutional referendum were held across Iraq during this time.

In eastern Afghanistan’s Khost Province, Kael helped prioritize over $50 million dollars in U.S. reconstruction funds and worked to reintegrate former Taliban fighters in coordination with U.S. military leaders and Khost’s Afghan governor. He also met with a group of former Guantanamo Prison detainees and helped lead U.S. government political engagement with Afghan tribal and religious leaders. In Helmand Province, he worked directly with a Marine commanding general during the 2008-2009 U.S. troop surge that doubled Marine forces in the area from just under 11,000 to almost 20,000.

Kael is the author of the book, The Mirror Test (Knopf, 2016) a New York Times Editors’ Choice (NYT Book Review) and Military Times’ Best Book of the Year. He has taught at the college level in Utah and in Quantico, Virginia, at Marine Corps University, as well as leading seminars at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Kael writes monthly for the Salt Lake Tribune and has contributed to NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, The Hill, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Daily Beast, and other publications.

For Kael Weston’s multi-year service in Fallujah, Iraq, the State Department awarded him the Secretary of State’s Medal for Heroism.

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