Republicans and Democrats agree. Even if the caucus system (neighborhood meeting) is not perfect, changing it too much according to many Republicans, and even the Chair of the Utah Democrats, will not be a good thing. Jim Debakis said,
“Maybe the Utah caucus system needs to be changed or revised. Maybe not. But the recently announced initiative proposal to reconfigure the way Utah’s political parties pick candidates, is certainly NOT a good idea.”
Ask yourself the question, who benefits from the primary? We can answer that later.
Sure, we need to streamline credentialing and check in. Knocking an hour or more off the time-frame for the night is seen by a positive for all. But many of the so-called proposals have not been well-thought out for their long-term consequences. Gutting the system will be the same as eliminating it.
Why exactly do we have a neighborhood meeting? Let’s answer the first question, by quoting the LDS Church on this meeting for their answer. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/first-presidency-issues-letter-utah-precinct-caucus-meetings
“Precinct caucuses are the most fundamental grassroots level of political involvement. They are best served by a broad representation of Utah citizens. Those who attend play a critical role in selecting candidates for public office.”
Are many of Utah’s Republican and Democratic voices being heard? The answer can be seen by the enormous growth of caucus attendance over the last (four) 4 years. Let’s look at one precinct in one tiny place, mine, in Wanship. For years when I first moved here, the big secret was the caucus night. A select few individuals showed up. They held all of the positions for that precinct; Precinct Chair, Vice Chair, County Delegate and State Delegate were all voted on, or assigned. You see, only three (3) people ever showed up. But in 2010 things changed in American politics. Americans began to wake up, and began to re-energize their ideas of liberty from the days of our founders and beyond. They started studying the votes of their Senators and Congressman; they started watching their State Legislators with more vigor. Therefore, in 2010, the people of Utah, came forward, and attended their meetings. My little precinct had 68 people in attendance. It mattered, and so, people showed up. Then in 2012, they did it again. 48 people showed up. Two years of record-breaking attendance. And yet, the naysayers of the caucus system cried that no one was participating.
In Utah, many showed up to their caucus meetings without a full understanding of the process. They had a strong agenda to see Orrin Hatch re-elected, since the last time it was to see Bob Bennett ousted. The job of a delegate is bigger than just one office. There were many good candidates running in a variety of offices, from Auditor, to Governor, to State Legislator and Utah State Senator, as well as the Senate and Congressional candidates.
The delegates should only choose to run, if indeed they are going to participate. This is what sets Utah apart from every other state – the caucus system. Even when a no name, like me, ran for Congress against the well-liked Congressman Rob Bishop, I had a chance. (Not a big chance, but a chance.) The caucus system is the only place in the world that can happen. And winning or losing isn’t always what makes it so great. It is the fact that the delegates become very educated in the issues of the day. Let’s look at the issue in my race, specifically.
The NDAA 2012 was a virtual unknown to many delegates until there was a challenge in the Rob Bishop campaign. Once the dangers of this bill were made public, many people began to understand our liberty is more important than our safety. This is a basic tenet set out by Benjamin Franklin when he said,
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
This wasn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, but an issue of civil liberty.
The delegates received letters from Rob Bishop explaining his vote. I explained why he was mistaken. This became a national issue, and was even the source of the 13-hour filibuster with Rand Paul. You see, the little clause known as 1022, and 1023 in the NDAA 2012 language gives the president too much power over our citizens. Rand Paul’s stance was to get clarification from our president that non-combatants who may be deemed by this language as terrorists could not be fired upon on American soil. These are our liberties and they are at stake. Thank you Rand Paul, and our own Senator Mike Lee for standing up for our liberty on this day. It was nice to have this threat under NDAA 2012 and the Patriot Act brought to the forefront of the American people’s minds again.
Other debates began to emerge as campaigns announced. School trust lands became a hot topic of the Governor’s race in Utah. Morgan Philpot and Ken Sumsion each giving their ideas on how best to handle our land.
We heard about social security reform, debt ceilings, the war on drugs, the wars overseas, ending of federal departments, etc. This is what makes the caucus system work. People that have very little knowledge of government and the “great debate” begin to be involved in that great debate. They begin to see that the media (the ones that make the money) aren’t always truthful. They realize that just being a voter at the end of the day isn’t where the real decisions get made. They also realize that being a delegate (especially a state delegate) requires a lot of focused time, consideration, and effort on their parts to do their precinct justice in being represented. Not everyone can do this job. Not everyone has the time to give to it. Not everyone wants to do it. Not everyone is educated in government enough to do the job. But at your neighborhood caucus you can talk to your friends and neighbors and find out who in your neighborhood is qualified, has the time, and will be fair to all the candidates for office. Each candidate deserves to be taken seriously and treated with real respect. Even if you love your representative, the ideas that are brought forward for discussion make the system work that much better. Citizens become informed directly from their representatives as they vie for votes.
Do not water-down the caucus system with proposals that make it possible for coercion at any level. The votes need to take place in person. The votes need to be by secret paper ballot. The only thing that needs to change is check in. It should be electronic and quick.
So let’s go back to our original question, who benefits from a water-down or elimination of the caucus system? The media, and the wealthy. They win, and you lose. The people that make radio ads, TV commercials, and newspaper ads win. They want you, the people, to be persuaded by sound bites. There is big money in campaigns. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars before it ever gets to a primary and then millions at the primary level. Follow the money. The primary election does not create a more informed voter, just a voter that has been marketed to the most.
In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, it was hours of discussion on a topic to be rebutted for hours. We must stop asking our society to make important decisions about the future of our state or country, based on sound bites. If we are in a primary mentality only, that is all we have left, and the guy with the most money, most of the time, will always come out on top, principles be damned. This will end our Republic, and we will become a straight democracy. Ask anyone who has studied history, a democracy is the first step toward socialism.
Save our caucus system, and maintain our republic.