Editorial: Reform Utah politics

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  • Shimlau SAINT GEORGE, UT
    Nov. 28, 2011 5:55 p.m.

    I have attended every caucus meeting in the last 4 or more elections. I've never been attacked, or not allowed to speak, no one ever asked my religious affiliation, and no one threatened or bullied me, and I remember the feeling well from junior high school. ALL! were invited. If they didn't attend, then the fault is theirs, and if they feel disenfranchised, then who's fault is it?

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    Nov. 26, 2011 8:06 p.m.

    Clair, the problem was only a moderate one until a surge of conservative citizens, influenced by talk radio and/or the tea party movement, actually did something far more effective than talk--they showed up at caucuses. That's no problem except that the clear majority us, being moderates or independents, have abandoned our own duties to participate.

    Now that is giant problem. We better show up in March, 2002, or shut up our belly achin'.

  • DaveGarber1975 Provo, UT
    Nov. 26, 2011 9:38 a.m.

    As for myself, I think that Utah's present caucus/convention system, which allows grassroots Republicans to choose experts from among themselves to carefully interview (and otherwise scrutinize) all GOP candidates and then select the best ones (via multiple-round voting) as their official nominees, is working just fine. Nobody questioned this system until, in these last four years, Utahns began to choose a different set of GOP delegates---Tea Partiers and John Birchers and Ron Paulers and such---who booted Cannon for Chaffetz and Bennett for Lee, thereby giving the GOP nominees who are both less conventional and more devoted to the GOP's platform. Although I could be mistaken, I think that this has shown America's Establishment that they've lost their top-down control of Utah's GOP to its principled grassroots; so, they now want that control back, and they're getting desperate to find a way to regain it. I believe that primary elections would generally produce much worse candidates, as too many participants would fail to scrutinize their candidates nearly as well as a delegate would, and would irrationally favor candidates who are incumbents or who were given the most favorable attention by biased journalists or whatnot.

    Nov. 21, 2011 8:06 a.m.

    Dear Bob;

    I agree with a DN Editorial.

    The world is coming to an end.

  • Hellooo Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 21, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    Re: Esquire, "Utah has a system that protects the insiders". If this is so, then please explain how a popular sitting govenor, and a sitting US Senator whose roots in Utah's Republican party go back more than two generations are not selected to run. The current suggestion for reform in Utah politics is because the insider/elites have lost power. The outsiders now have gained influence and primaries would allow the elites to regain control by spending
    large amounts of money on political advertising.

  • Rod Mann Highland, UT
    Nov. 20, 2011 11:20 p.m.

    I'm disappointed at the shallowness in the editorial. A number of assertions are made with no facts or disconnected logic to support them. For example:

    1) May contribute to a lower voter turnout

    Utah participation in presidential elections has declined 8 out of the last 11 times, starting in 1964. It has gone from 78.5% of voting age population to 50.5%. Nationally the decline over the same period of time was from 61.9% to 56.8%. So why attribute the decline to a system that generated 78% turnout in 1964?

    2) Caucuses are vulnerable to manipulation

    Someone thinks that it is easy to manipulate the outcome of ~2,200 meetings all held the same night and run by individuals selected by their friends and neighbors? If it was so easy then how did Senator Bennett lose his partys nomination. He spent a lot of money and still lost.

    Utah has been lauded as being the best managed state by Pew Center and yet DN makes the claim that our current system is flawed and they have deep concerns about it. Why change something that is working for us today?

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 20, 2011 8:10 p.m.

    The radical right has taken over.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Nov. 20, 2011 12:19 p.m.

    Shaun -- I'm very much not a fan of Utah's government, but I have to challenge that debt figure. Can you provide a source for that because I sure couldn't find anything like that number any place I looked.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Nov. 20, 2011 12:14 p.m.

    Maverik -- that is exactly WHY sensible people need to continue to attend caucus meetings. If we can't talk reason to them, perhaps we can expose what happens there. How about using your cell phone to try to record the next time?

    You'll probably be tossed out the door, but the video can help tell the real story of some of these extremist havens.

  • shaun_ SAINT GEORGE, UT
    Nov. 20, 2011 9:47 a.m.

    @invisible hand. Utah is 21 billion dollars in debt. Not exactly a strong financial footing if you ask me.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Nov. 19, 2011 10:03 p.m.

    The REPUBLICANS elected their delegates. That is the voice of the people. All Republicans were eligible to vote. All of them.

    Just because Bob Bennett didn't make it to the ballot means absolutely nothing about the system. We elect delegates to REPRESENT us at the nominating convention.

    Why should anyone be able to predict the outcome. Maybe other parties have things set up so that the outcome is predetermined, but that's not the way the Republicans do business.

    Voting is a THREE-STEP process. First comes the caucus, where people choose delegates. Second is the primary where the two candidates are narrowed to one. Third is the general election.

    Just because many people chose to ignore the most important step, the caucus, does not mean that the system needs to be fixed; it only means that citizens don't care enough to give up an evening to be involved in the process.

  • Radically Moderate SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    It's really not that hard. I went to a neighborhood caucus when I was 18 and still in High School, and ended up getting elected as a delegate at the county convention. But then again, there were only five of us there at the caucus meeting.

    I'll never forget bumping into my Spanish Teacher at the convention- it was the only time I ever got caught sluffing school. Luckily he thought it was for a worthwhile cause.

  • goatesnotes Kamas, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 8:26 p.m.

    @slpa1 -- The statistics about the demographic make-up of the delegates prove conclusively that Bennett was ousted by "his own," not "extremists." I certainly agree the delegate demographic does not represent a statistical reflection of the averages in Utah population. To that end, if those who feel disenfranchised care enough the invitation to participate is open to all. There are about 3500 local precincts that hold caucuses. It's very hard (and it should be) for any candidate to corral a majority, or highjack an election. The caucus system actually safeguards the possibility that enough money alone could swing elections. Bennett outspent Lee 10:1 and lost. So much for a system that favors the wealthy elite. I'm just tired of all the hyperbole that because Bennett lost the whole system needs reforming.

  • Brer Rabbit Spanish Fork, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 7:12 p.m.

    It looks like the Deseret News has had just about enough with the grassroots republican citizens in the nominating process. The wealthy elite are not going tolerate this any longer if they can help it. First, the delegates picked by their neighbors, ousted Gov. Walker, then Rep Cannon and finally Sen Bennett. What good is it for the wealthy elite to have millions of dollars to pour into their candidates' campaigns, only to have their plans disrupted by the "unwashed masses?" This makes it very difficult for the wealthy elite to maintain their political influence.

    Utah has one of the best candidate selection processes in the nation. Here delegates from the neighborhoods study and vote for the best candidates from their grassroots point of view. Other states have primaries where the candidate with the most money, gains the most media attention and wins.

    Before you believe what the Desert News is saying here, start going to your neighborhood caucus meetings and get involved. Don't wait for the media to explain the candidates through their slick 30 second ads.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    Those who complain about the caucus system seldom bother to participate, or fail to get their positions adopted. The problem is their bad ideas, not a bad system!

    There are three main groups who oppose it:

    First- The political elites with an entitlement attitude that they deserve to serve forever, even when their policies are no longer (if ever) supported by the mainstream. (Walker, Bennett and Hatch are good examples)

    Second- the news media and pundit class who are unhappy that their biased recommendations and endorsements are ignored by delegates, most of whom actually get to speak directly to candidates, avoiding the media filters on candidate's actual views and statements.

    Third- A large number of very poorly informed voters who lack the interest to become involved and attend a caucus and make their views heard, and convince others to get behind a candidate.

    The high quality of Utah's elected officials and their performance demonstrate that the system works, and works well. Our state is recognized as one of the best run, we are financially sound, and unlike many states, our elected officials are hardly ever thrown in jail for corruption.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 3:40 p.m.

    @ Invisible Hand, your point does not change the reality.

  • Jory payson, utah
    Nov. 19, 2011 3:39 p.m.

    I think the current system works. It gets people who actually know what is going on and they can vote better instead a bunch of people on Deseret News that have opinions but are not exactly realistic.

  • slpa1 WEST JORDAN, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 2:58 p.m.


    Though I suspect you intended your arguments and statistics to support the delegate/caucus/convention system, they actually make the DN's point.

    The demographics of Utah voters do not match the numbers you provided. Those numbers clearly show that the average delegate does not represent the average Utah voter.

  • Clair Ellis Providence, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 1:23 p.m.

    It just is not credible to claim that Jon Huntsman beating Olene Walker was a victory for extremists. Think how many times the GOP delegates nominated a Garn, a Bennett, a Bangerter, a Leavitt or a Hatch, and the Dems nominate a Rampton or a Matheson. All but once, so far. Where's the problem?

  • Clair Ellis Providence, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 1:21 p.m.

    Oxymoron - "Republicans and Democrats select convention delegates in neighborhood meetings that are too vulnerable to manipulation and too loosely controlled."

    Too loosely controlled by whom - manipulators?

  • Breakfast of Champions Provo, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 1:10 p.m.

    I COMPLETELY agree with this. Caucuses shelter politicians and disenfranchise voters.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 11:26 a.m.

    Cheers to Deseret News for a thought provoking editorial.

    Objectives of political reform should include:

    1. Stop, remove, and prohibit the financial influence of any collective group on the election and representation of the people. Must include all businesses, churches, unions, associations etc. etc. etc.

    2. Allow, encourage and permit any citizen to nominate themselves for any elective office.

    3. Require each candidate to provide a complete, but brief, resume of his/her experience, training, pertinent organizations membership, etc., similar to the resume given for employment.

    4. Publish all resumes in such a way to reach every citizen. Allow no campaigning other than the resume.

    5. Provide a voting system that is easy, available to every voter, accurate and fair.

    6. Hold each representative to the plan and philosophy of the resume. On pain of recall or even beheading.

  • stevo123 slc, ut
    Nov. 19, 2011 11:03 a.m.

    @ Goatsnotes, You will have totalk to Howard Stephenson on that one.

  • goatesnotes Kamas, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 10:14 a.m.

    Getting rid of the Department of Education is much different than getting rid of public education. Just sayin'.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 9:53 a.m.

    Utah Politics =

    Absolute power corrupts Absolutely.

  • squirt Taylorsville, ut
    Nov. 19, 2011 9:52 a.m.

    Invisible Hand,
    The bigger issue has to do with the bullying itself. I am involved and a delegate so you are "barking" up the wrong tree here. Democracy is NOT bullying. It is respecting differing viewpoints not bullying people into submission or preventing people from attending their caucus under false pretenses.

    You are correct about getting like minded people behind you. That is absolutely how is should be done. The problem with the current system is that those who are novices in this process don't know any better.

    It is shameful that the focus is not on those doing the bullying as opposed to those who attend their caucus in good faith.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 9:35 a.m.

    At my last caucus all they wanted to do was get rid of public education. It was filled with a bunch of extremist whackos. I completely agree with the DN on this one.

    Our system stinks and there is a reason for low voter turnout.

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 9:24 a.m.

    @Esquire: Weren't Olene Walker and Bob Bennet insiders? They didn't get protected.

    @Squirt: You probably feel bullied when you're outnumbered. This is democracy at work. Get like minded people to attend the caucus with you. Stop making excuses and get involved.

    If it ain't broke don't fix it. Last I checked Utah was one of the few states that doesn't have a disastrous fiscal situation so we must be doing something right.

  • squirt Taylorsville, ut
    Nov. 19, 2011 9:24 a.m.

    Then let's talk more facts-Utah Rebpulican voters, Utah Democratic voters, Utah Independent voters and Utah Democratic delegates all ranked education as their number one issue.

    Utah Republican delegates ranked education 11th! Clearly out of touch with the Republicans in the state. Yes, reform of the current system is needed and soon!

  • goatesnotes Kamas, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 9:08 a.m.

    Maybe the facts will help the discussion. Here's the Quin Monson (BYU) survey of delegates:

    50.6% said they declared their support for a candidate at the caucus.
    48.1% said they did not.
    98% said things in the country have gotten "pretty seriously" off track.
    42% were tea party advocates.
    42% said they were not.
    15% had no opinion.
    75% of delegates reported they had given no money to the tea party.
    62% felt it's more important to have policies that adhere to Constitutional principles rather than crafting policies to solve pressing national issues.
    74% wanted to see less government intervention in our lives.
    95% use the Internet more than once a day.
    75% were males.
    64% were over age 45.
    Only 62% considered themselves as "strong Republicans," with the others leaning more moderate or independent.
    63% considered themselves as "strongly conservative," while 35% said they were "moderately conservative."
    36% were college graduates and 39% held post-graduate degrees.
    90% of the delegates were Mormons.
    88.8% considered themselves "very active" Mormons.
    95% were White/Caucasian.
    92% were married.
    79% made more than $55,000 a year.

    Blame the "extreme" tea party if you wish. Facts say otherwise.

  • goatesnotes Kamas, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 8:53 a.m.

    This editorial has the feel of advocacy for aging politicians (Walker and Bennett, for example) who should have the right in perpetuity to get "one more bite of the apple" for as long as they choose.

    No thanks.

    What if "reports" of bullying tactics are really isolated incidents? What if non-participation has nothing to do with the caucus meeting/convention format?

    There is a myriad of unsubstantiated rumors, but some of us believe the purest form of representative republican politics is exactly what we have in Utah.

    What I love about the current system in the grassroots participation of it. It allows greater participation by a number of upstart candidates who can take on establishment types with deep campaign war chests and have a fighting chance.

    We need more, not less, of that dynamic.

    This garbage about Republican party "extremists" is nothing more than sour grapes over watching Bennett get creamed by his own at the convention. Bennett was overdue. At 77 years of age he was turned away at convention by a group of delegates who were split right down the middle - half tea party, half non-tea party.

    Don't change everything over one predictable loss.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 8:42 a.m.

    I've never been so scared in my life, than with the last time I was at a caucus meeting.

    All I kept hearing about were Communists, guns, and getting rid of Bob Bennett. Anyone that disagreed, was shouted down. It's scary man, I'll never go to a Caucus meeting again. It was so scary! It must have been the same when Hitler and his goons shouted down opposition, talked about revolution, guns, and getting rid of political opponents.

  • squirt Taylorsville, ut
    Nov. 19, 2011 7:44 a.m.

    I am in complete agreement with DN on this issue. The horror stories of the bullying tactics which are happening in neighborhood caucus meetings are rampant. It becomes even more frightening when you look at the number of our legislators who have left in the middle of their terms and those who will be leaving to run for another office. Their replacements will be chosen by a few individuals who, because of Utah's system, have taken control of the delegate system.
    I actually had a neighbor tell me that she went to the Republican neighborhood caucus and was told that she had to support the entire Republican platform or she would not be permitted to attend the neighborhood meeting!
    I am hopeful that more mainstream Republicans will rise up and take the Republican party back from extremists who do not represent true Republican values.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 7:42 a.m.

    Utah has a system that protects the insiders. A change is indeed needed.

  • liberal larry salt lake City, utah
    Nov. 19, 2011 7:22 a.m.

    The political climate in Utah definitely needs to be moderated. One aspect not mentioned in the article is economic development. I can easily name 30 college educated, hard working people, who have moved out of Utah over the past few years, many of them are involved in information technology and education. The extreme right wing rhetoric coming from Utah politicians is very alienating to many people, and the ones with the means may not vote at the polling booth, but they do vote with their feet!

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 5:43 a.m.

    This makes way too much sense. That means it won't happen.

  • anti-liar Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 1:26 a.m.

    Well, for my part, I'd say that if the caucus system resulted in the ouster of Olene "Utah Compact" Walker, and Robert "illegal-alien loophole" Bennett, then it probably is a good thing.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 19, 2011 12:07 a.m.

    If "extremists" dominated the Democratic convention, they wouldn't nominate Jim Matheson every two years.