Remember that bar scene in "Star Wars"? They could have filmed it at the recent county and state Republican conventions. Clearly, aliens in human disguise infiltrated the delegations. You could tell by looking closely and noticing their eyeballs spinning counterclockwise.

Democrats don't really need the LDS Church to bail them out. All they need to do is play back some of the proceedings of those GOP conventions over the past few weeks.Moderate, mainstream Utahns would be so embarrassed by the far-right, extremist behavior that they might be driven to the Democratic Party.

That is, until they saw how the Democratic Party has been controlled by arch-liberals who have alienated members of the LDS Church and pushed causes opposed by moderate, mainstream Utahns.

Both parties seem to want to self-destruct. Both parties have allowed extremists to dominate party politics, including conventions and low-turnout primaries, to the point that average citizens are disgusted with politics in general and just don't want to participate.

Republican state delegates found 3rd District Rep. Chris Cannon, one of the most conservative congressmen in the country, too liberal for their tastes. So they nominated a fellow whose eyeballs spin counterclockwise to run against him. Delegates voted to impeach the president and vice president. They condemned their own governor for wanting to keep guns out of the state mental hospital. Some said there is "wickedness" at the top of the Republican Party. And they demanded that candidates sign a loyalty pledge.

The party of the big tent? More like the party of the pup tent.

The Democratic Party doesn't do much better. Its whiny and self-righteous wine-and-cheese crowd is so out-of-touch with mainstream Utah that it just can't bear to nominate anyone but liberals who bomb big-time in general elections.

So maybe it's time for a new political party.

After all, moderate Republicans and Democrats in Utah have much more in common with each other than they do with the fringes of their own parties. Republicans Mike Leavitt and Bob Bennett, for example, have much more in common with Democrats Ted Wilson and Kem Gardner than they do with the far-right Eagle Forum and Utah Republican Assembly. And Wilson and Gardner have much more in common with Leav-itt and Bennett than they do with the far-left fringe of their party pushing unrestricted abortion on demand and various socialistic causes.

So why not just create a new political party that carves out the broad middle? After all, noted national pundits have been predicting the decline and fall of the two major parties for a number of years. Some have suggested that a new majority party could emerge by the turn of the century.

And there is a ready Utah constituency for such a party. Pollster Dan Jones notes that around 37 per-cent of Utahns identify themselves as independents. That's almost as many as identify with the Republican Party. Utahns are clearly conservative, but they aren't terribly partisan in their approach to politics. They'll vote for a solid, moderate, capable candidate without regard to party.

So maybe moderate Utah leaders should lead the charge. Utah could guide the nation into a new political era where a new majority party emerges from mainstream America and leaves behind the extremists on both the left and right. Come on, Leavitt, Bennett, Wilson and Gardner! Get together and get something going.

I'm being half-facetious here, because the reality is the two major parties are entrenched and provide a nominating mechanism and organizational structure for legislatures and Congress. It's not likely that a new party would be suc-cess-ful.

But until moderate, mainstream Utahns get involved and take back their political parties, they're going to continue to be embarrassed by the extremists.

And I suppose in the final analysis, we get what we deserve. The fringe groups are the most passionate about politics. They get involved. They attend party cau-cuses. They organize to elect delegates of their own ilk. They work hard to turn out their voters.

The result is their influence extends far beyond what is warranted by their numbers. If responsible, moderate, mainstream - but apathetic - Utahns don't use their large numbers to counter the fringes, then we deserve what we get.