"I'll worry about that tomorrow," laments Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind." But if voters want to make a difference, they need to worry today, because tomorrow is decision day.
When people pick up the paper this morning, they will be reminded about going to a political caucus tomorrow. And did you know that most Utah incumbent elected officials who want to run for office again, will get the votes they need to be re-elected tomorrow night at the Republican and Democratic caucus meetings? Did you know that some legislators don't even bother to campaign anymore? Lobbyists and special interests primarily finance some? One even said that he didn't want to bother voters.
Some get enough money from lobbyists that they even use it for personal use, like buying new clothes, car repairs, wages to wives for campaign work and parking tickets, to name a few. "Analysis shows that about 98 percent of the $848,000 in campaign money donated to legislators during the nonelection 2007 year came from special-interest groups such as corporations, lobbyists and political action committees." Deseret Morning News, Jan. 22, 2008.
Gone are the days when politicians walked their districts and had to respond to their constituents. Right now lobbyists are in control. All too many voters have developed the herd mentality and bought in to the sound bites conservative, liberal, party labels and simply waited for the TV ads and fliers, many paid for by special-interest money. Complacent citizens have allowed the special-interest groups to get the best government they can buy. Now the incumbents do not have to waste time talking with their citizens when they can use lobbyist money to pay for their campaigns.
Citizens keep complaining about wanting to have a more open and ethical government. Well, forget that. Nothing is going to happen unless voters get involved at the beginning in Tuesday's caucuses. Voters keep telling politicians they want ethics reform, campaign reform and limiting gift giving, but are being naive to think that incumbents will change things. Voters want a government that is open, honest and one that reflects the values and their needs, yet most allow the special interests to hijack their government. But nothing is going to change tomorrow if voters stay home.
That's why participating in Tuesday's caucuses is critical. Those attending will choose delegates to the county and state conventions of each party, who will then decide which candidates will run in the primaries and then on to the general election. Incumbents have an advantage because they have the resources and know-how to get their delegates to get their neighbors to attend the caucus and vote for them in the primaries. It is there that one can choose candidates who will reflect their interests and values.
Some voters may rationalize not going to a caucus, saying they should do away with caucuses or that their vote doesn't matter anyway. But until citizens start saying, "Enough is enough, we are going to reclaim our government," nothing will happen. Just don't expect those in power to reform our government; they are the beneficiaries of keeping the system the way it is.Let's worry about it today. If we want to reform our government so it is ethical, open and represents the public, rather than special interests, then we must stand up and say enough is enough. And it all starts with us, tomorrow, in our neighborhoods, when we elect those who will select candidates who are principled and will commit themselves to serving the public, rather than buying in to labels and slogans.
Utah native John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations, served on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch and on more than 45 state, local and volunteer boards. He also has been deputy assistant secretary of labor. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org