My View: The caucus system is a balanced approach to representation

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    Sept. 25, 2013 7:01 p.m.


    What I disliked most about the convention was not the difference of opinion. It was the absolute disdain for the minority opinion. It was clear that it was never going to be considered in a thoughtful manner; rather, it was only mocked and derided. Because of the increased participation at the caucus meetings, I expected a different outcome in that regard, but was disappointed. (It wasn't my first experience as a delegate.)

    We need to figure out how to make the caucus meetings better - ours was pathetic, and many were worse than ours - but there was absolutely no desire to do so at the organizing convention. It doesn't appear that the central committee cares, either. (I hate the name "central committee" - it reminds me of the old USSR.) So what we're going to get is an all-or-nothing battle between the two extremes. You're right about the voting based on TV commercials, which is unfortunately what will happen if the Count My Vote folks get their way.

    Like they say, we're bound to eventually get the government we deserve in spite of the best efforts of those who know a better way.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 25, 2013 3:36 p.m.

    I can tell you had a bad experience. But at least you got to go and represent your neighborhood! You can't do that if you're a Democrat.

    This was probably a bad year do judge. It was a weird convention with lots of division (not all caused by the evil tea-party guys). I don't seriously think they want "bad government".

    You may disagree with them. But that's what's great about America (and Utah). We can disagree.. and it doesn't have to turn into a civil war. You can disagree with a politician... and remove him (without blood-shed). You can see the government going in the wrong direction.. and say or do something about it (and not get put in a re-education camp).

    At least you got to go... listen... speak (IF you wanted to)... and possibly make a difference.

    There's bound to be "factions" at a convention. That's kinda what they are about (to gather, discuss, listen, and try to influence others by sharing your views with them, and listen to them).

    Better than everybody voting based on what they heard in that TV commercial.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 25, 2013 8:06 a.m.

    On Saturday, the State Republican Central committee didn't make the change some wanted on Saturday.They couldn't have, as the single proposal was something already voted down at the convention. What was proposed was a bad message bill.

    The myriad of changes and improvement that the state republican party is willing to make, just don't happen to match the demands of Count My Vote / Buy My Vote. Since that was voted again, the next proposed changes will be real. We want 250,000 to be able to come to the neighborhood elections in 2014 and 500,000 in 2016. However, we want the meeting to remain a meeting. No voting from home just so you can watch NCIS.

    Sept. 25, 2013 7:07 a.m.

    As a delegate, I was extremely disappointed with the Utah State Republican Party Organizing Convention. It felt like being in a mob. There was tremendous arrogance on display - sort of like "we were elected delegates, and so whatever we say or do is right. We don't need to consider what others might want or need." The contempt of the majority for the constituency they supposedly represented was palpable.

    One dimension of good government consists of governing where the people are, and nudging them in the direction that they need to go if they're not there and/or are heading in a bad direction. Bad government consists of shoving one's agenda down the throats of the governed. Some factions of the Tea Party, particularly in Utah, are apparently firm believers in bad government. While I support conservative principles, I think they right way to get there is through civil discussion, education, persuasion, and example, not through coercion.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 25, 2013 12:43 a.m.

    2bits, Bennett endorsed Bridgewater who lost.

    We already have a "bypass" system, filing as an unaffiliated candidate. A candidate can go straight to the general election ballot. Someone who doesn't think they can win if vetted by average citizens asking one on one questions can still run and spend their money. Why should they be a political party nominee if they are going to bypass their political party?

    At only one time for 10 years in Utah’s history did the state depart from the Neighborhood Election, Caucus and Convention System. In 1937, a powerful democratic state senator convinced enough of the legislature to switch to an open primary. He had had two losses, a US Senate race and also for governor, because the majority of the convention delegates disagreed with his legislative voting record. But he was well known and had money.

    Many at the time felt like an open primary was his ticket to the governorship, and he did win. But the change in the system only lasted for a decade. After public and media disillusionment, and even worse voter turnout, Utah restored the Caucus and Convention System. Why go back?

  • watchman Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 10:33 p.m.

    To One of a Few. No. Lee could not have beat Bennett in a straight election because the money and other clout of the incumbent would have made it very difficult for Lee. The handicap of the challenger would have been almost impossible to overcome the incumbent.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 10:18 p.m.

    One of a Few,
    What proof do you have that "the caucus system allows a small group of committed and well funded partisans to hijack the election"? I know people say that. But just saying it over and over and over doesn't make it so. How do we know that is true?

    It doesn't make any logical sense to me.

    Think about it logically. How does this small group use their money to hijack the election? They would have to invest tons of money in each community (to whine and dine and buy each neighborhood delegate, there are literally thousands of them). Compare this to how Democrats pick their primary candidates. You just have to wine and dine the party chairman and a few party big-wigs and you got it. And when was the last time a Democrat had to even go to a primary? Jim Matheson has only had to face a primary once in his whole career.

    IF Bennett could have won so easily... why didn't he run as an independent and beat Lee in the general election?

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 5:09 p.m.

    Senator Lee and Cruz are sinking the Tea Party on the floor of the Senate now. Is there going to be a tea party rally ever again?

  • One of a Few Layton, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 1:46 p.m.

    In principle the caucus system may be everything that is advertised. In practice, the caucus system allows a small group of committed and well funded partisans to hijack the election process. Is there one person out there that sanely believes Lee could have beat Bennett in a straight forward election?

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Sept. 24, 2013 12:45 p.m.

    The history of Lieberman's transition to Independent:

    Lieberman sought the Democratic Party's renomination for U.S. Senate from Connecticut in 2006.

    Lieberman was officially endorsed by the Connecticut Democratic Convention, which met in May. However, Ned Lamont received 33% of the delegates' votes, forcing an August primary.

    In July, Lieberman announced that he would file papers to appear on the November ballot should he lose the primary.

    August 8, 2006, Lieberman conceded the Democratic primary election to Ned Lamont and announced he would run in the 2006 November election as an independent candidate.

    On December 17, 2007, Lieberman endorsed Republican Senator John McCain for president in 2008.
    Lieberman spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention on behalf of McCain and Palin.

    Many Democrats wanted Lieberman to be stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs due to his support for John McCain which went against the party's wishes. Ultimately, the Senate Democratic Caucus voted 42 to 13 to allow Lieberman to keep chairmanship (although he did lose his membership for the Environment and Public Works Committee).

  • Fred33 KAYSVILLE, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 12:37 p.m.

    @ FreedomFighter41

    The same argument could be made that the general population could be swayed by a media campaign. I don't know what you mean by a delegate being bought off. I was a state delegate in the last election and it gave me access to the candidates that I would not have had otherwise. I was not bought off. I received tons of mail and opportunities to meet candidates in person. How do you vet 10 candidates out in a primary when you don't have the level of access that a delegate has? The general public will not have this kind of access if there is a direct primary.

    I am not questioning the intelligence of the public. I just think Thomas Rust has made a good argument here that the caucus system is a balanced approach. It allows delegates to narrow the field down and then the public gets to decide in the general election.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 12:29 p.m.

    IF the people of Utah wanted Bennett... why did he not even get enough votes to even appear in the primary (he came in number 3, only 2 meet in the primary). Obviously Republican Convention Delegates didn't want Bennett (and not ALL of them were radicals). Maybe they just weren't impressed with Bennett's plan presented at the convention (such as continued TARP programs and other government spending expansions)

    Maybe what you're saying is, "Utah DEMOCRATS wanted Bennett". Is that what you're saying. Because obviously Utah Republicans didn't want Bennett.

    IF Utah really wanted Bennett... then why did he not run as an independent? People have done that before and PROVED that their State wanted them (Joe Leiberman from CT for example). The Democrats kicked him out (for not being critical enough of President Bush) so he ran as an independent and beat the Democrat nominee AND the Republican nominee in the general election.

    That's how you PROVE that Utah wanted you.

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 12:12 p.m.

    "If people would have turned out to the caucus meeting that year that represented the general population then there wouldn't have been a problem."

    Lets assume that every single citizen participated in the Caucus. They elect delegates to represent us. later, in the process, these delegates are then lobbied by SuperPacs, friends, and those who wish to buy off their vote. If our delegates to decide to vote contrary to the majority of the people, what recourse do we have?


    We must wait for the next election and hope that our delegates show more backbone. But what if they don't?

    Wouldn't it just make more sense to let the people decide? Rather than demean our intelligence, why not trust in it?

    Let the people of Utah, not bought off delegates, decide our elections.

  • Fred33 KAYSVILLE, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 11:52 a.m.

    @ FreedomFighter41

    If people would have turned out to the caucus meeting that year that represented the general population then there wouldn't have been a problem. It all comes down to participation. How is that insane? We shouldn't scrap a system that works when people participate.

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 11:27 a.m.

    The people of Utah wanted Bob Bennett.

    We got Mike Lee instead.

    If this doesn't condemn this insane system then I don't know what will. Honestly, I don't know what will.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 10:54 a.m.

    one vote,
    Maybe some people were more concerned about who owned Senator Bennett... than they were about who owned Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. Ever think about that?

    Senator Bennett wasn't even CLOSE. He was number 3.

    You can criticize Senator Lee for the company he keeps. I have other issues with him. But the beauty of it all is... we can get rid of him if there's somebody better in just a few years (just like we did with Senator Bennett).

    I don't like seeing incumbents going back to Washington year after year (Hatch included). I think it's GOOD to get new representatives from time to time.

    In a name recognition contest, or a popularity contest, or a see who can buy the most media exposure contest (AKA Primary)... the incumbent, or the person with the most money (usually the same person) always wins.

    IMO... Primaries are good. But so are neighborhood caucuses to pick delegates to pick who will be in those primaries (instead of leaving it up to the party big-wigs and power-brokers).

    Caucuses are NOT inherently evil.

  • trgrant Riverton, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 10:50 a.m.

    This is a great explanation of what the caucus system does for Utah and its citizens. Thanks for sharing it.

  • watchman Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 10:23 a.m.

    One Vote....."This system resulted in Senator Cruz owning our Senator", Or perhaps it is the other way around. Whichever it is, they are both among the best senators in D.C. We need more of them.

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 9:36 a.m.

    This system resulted in Senator Cruz owning our Senator.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 9:07 a.m.

    When the voter turnout does not "reflect the growth in population" you need to factor in the part of the increase in those who are here illegally and have no right to vote. I doubt that is done; I have not even seen or heard it brought up in this context.

    Then again the "natural increase" in population, a considerable factor, is due to the greater number of babies born as compared to the number of people dying. Babies cannot vote either.

  • watchman Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 8:58 a.m.

    Very thoughtful article. Thomas makes some excellent points on why we adopted the caucus system and why we should keep it. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons our state has the title of being one of the best managed states in the nation.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 12:20 a.m.

    We have a system that that does NOT favor the incumbent, the wealthy or the famous. This is a good thing, and should be preserved.

    The Neighborhood Election and Convention system in Utah is the best way to make sure a grassroots process can win over large amounts of money. It is the only way someone with $100,000 can go against someone with $2 million in election funds.

    We want neighbors discussing the best candidates and finding ways to improve this state and the nation. If the system is changed, we would be dropping off votes, but not meeting and discussing candidates and issues. That is what is wrong with Washington, D.C. They don’t listen to each other in a meeting. They watch from their offices. We need to change that, not perpetuate it.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 12:19 a.m.

    Well written. Thanks for sharing.

    Our current problem with voter turnout is it has not kept up with the population increases. The voter turnout keeps going up but not as fast as the population. Some of that is the younger voters, where Utah has a larger percentage of them and they aren't, as a group, as involved. We need to educate those moving in and not understanding our system.

    Many citizens who attend their neighborhood elections and caucus meeting become interested in politics and get involved in their communities, the state and the nation. They meet and help candidates become elected. Some then later become candidates. This should be encouraged through education.

    The system and the experience attending the meetings can always be improved, but the “Count My Vote” initiative isn't the way to do it. Any changes to the system the political parties use to determine their nominees should be determined by the political parties.