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My view: Caucus was designed for republics

By Daniel Conder

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Nov. 15 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

A republic is the model for the current caucus system. The republic process is designed to allow a closer look at the prospective candidates.

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What could be more American than getting ones vote counted? This initiative with the catchy name, "Count My Vote," is being bankrolled by deep pockets. According to filings in September of this year, the average donation to this group is in the tens of thousands. Some donations are as high as $100,000. Why is big money so interested in this? Let us step back and dig deeper.

Our forefathers knew the value of a republic. On the day the Constitution of this United States was ratified, a woman on the streets of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin what was accomplished. His reply was “We have got a republic if you can keep it.”

A republic is the model for the current caucus system. The republic process is designed to allow a closer look at the prospective candidates. The neighborhood caucus meetings create thousands of discussions with you and your neighbors to share information. Without a convention to go to these meetings would be meaningless.

It’s un-American to not allow a party to pick their candidate. Parties ought to have a say in which candidates will represent them along side independents and other parties candidates in the general election. A direct primary removes that say.

Primaries are not run-off elections. They are part of the process parties use to determine their candidates. Equally important is the neighborhood caucus system. If we lose the convention process, you won’t ever see a common person have a shot at representing us. It will only be the rich that will get their message out.

Jason Chaffetz is an example of a non-affluent person getting on the stage of a general election because of a convention. It is doubtful he would have had the resources to do so with a direct primary. Interesting to note here that Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, did not win at a convention. He was beaten by a more mainstream Tim Bridgewater. Bridgewater also beat John Swallow in two other conventions. Both Lee and Swallow got their names on the general election ballot because of a primary.

I hope being upset about the candidates motivates more involvement in whatever party or candidate people choose. However, removing one of the key vetting components makes it easier for big money and a catchy phrase to game the system. The current campaign to remove this grassroots process should be called “Buy My Vote.”

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Daniel Conder studied political science at the University of Utah and is a former Senate District 9 Chair for the Salt Lake County GOP Executive Committee.

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