I’ve been following the Count My Vote issue in Utah for a while now. It took me a while to come to understand exactly what the issues/complaints were and why there was an effort to change them. Eventually I came to this conclusion:
Count My Vote is generally supported by two types of people – 1)Political types who have or have access to big money and 2)People who are disenfranchised by the views of the politicians being selected and who believe that in an open primary they would be better represented.
The Caucus System is generally supported by those who 1)Want to see the everyday person, not the elite, have an equal and fair chance at being put in office 2)Believe in a representative form of government vs. a majority rules or democracy.
The Bennett factor absolutely cannot be overlooked in this. Bob Bennett, a Utah elite and career Senator, was ousted in the caucus by Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater – political unknowns at the time. Utah citizens in general were fed up with Bennett and caucus attendance was bigger than I’ve ever seen it, people wanted him out. I helped Senator Lee’s campaign and when I was not selected as a delegate in my neighborhood, I had several talks with the person who was selected. Orrin Hatch was up next and he literally had the fight of his life. Jason Chaffetz had already ousted Chris Cannon and suddenly things became very clear – Utahns realized they had power. The Utah elite is severely threatened by the caucus system for the very reason that it gives the little guy a strong voice and real power – money is not the swaying factor.
Here are what I see as the opposing facts on this:
1)With the caucus system, delegates are elected by their neighbors to represent them in the caucus. The delegates have direct access to the candidates, the candidates have less people to campaign to, less people to try to get to hear them and don’t have to spend a ton of money advertising. The delegates are able to ask candidates about the issues that are important to the neighbors they represent and select the ones who best represent their interests.
2)With the caucus system, name recognition and celebrity is not nearly as important as positions on issues. In an open primary, moneyed politicians with the biggest coffers have a distinct advantage in building name recognition. When the average voter goes to the polls, they’re going to vote for the name they’ve heard more. Because of this, the incumbent always has the advantage. They’ve had their name out there tied to their office and people recognize it. The caucus system allows representatives to take out incumbents if they have not been representing the people.
3)The caucus system takes the number of votes down to a representative level, not a turnout numbers game that politicians like to play. This means that the Utahns down in Enterprise have a representational vote equal to those in Salt Lake. In an open primary, a candidate could get thousands of votes in Salt Lake and only a few dozen in Enterprise. This means in a competition between a well-known Salt Lake businessman and a good ole boy from Enterprise – well, let’s just say Enterprise ends up with the same political treatment that Utah gets in the national elections.
4)The caucus system works very well where we have a citizenry who is not politically active and either doesn’t bother to vote or they vote without knowing much, if anything, about the candidates. The caucus puts those who care enough about politics to actively seek being selected as a delegate and actually attending the caucus in place to make an informed representative decision.
5)This is the reason I believe many of the disenfranchised want an open primary. With the combination of an open primary and a politically complacent citizenry, activist groups can tip an election by getting more people to the polls than the general public will deliver. An open primary gives them an opportunity to affect election results in a way that they cannot in a caucus system.
These are the lies, half-truths and misdirections that I see a lot:
1)”The caucus system is ‘unfair’ and doesn’t allow everyone’s voice to be heard.”
This is a bald-faced lie. First of all, the caucus system is a direct representation – your collective voice is indeed being heard. Secondly, the caucus system selects nominees from a field of nominees. You, each citizen, then votes on them. All the caucus does is narrow down the options.
2)”An Open Primary will make my vote count.”
This is a half-truth. It insinuates that somehow your vote doesn’t count with a caucus system – when it absolutely does. In fact, your individual vote actually counts MORE in a caucus system than it does in a primary. We need look no further than Mia Love’s campaign against Jim Matheson. She lost by .3% – and third-party candidate jim Vein took 2.6%. Now imagine that played out in an open primary with 10 candidates on the ballet. Your whole town, 100%, could vote for your local candidate and the Salt Lake candidate could get 2% of the votes there and destroy your candidate (depending on the town you’re in). Spread the rest of the state out with 8 more candidates and what is the result? Your vote is about as ‘counted’ as your vote for a Presidential candidate. The caucus prevents this watering down.
3)”The caucus system denies me my voice in politics”
This is another flat out lie. First of all, when was the last time you talked to any candidate other than a city council one (if that)? Are you somehow accustomed to interviewing each candidate you’re going to vote for? No, you’re not. Your delegate however (and to be clear, this could easily be YOU), does have that opportunity. They have the opportunity to actually voice your opinion, assuming you give it to them, directly to the candidate and to bring you their response.
4)”Thousands of people have signed petitions against the caucus system”
This is true. It also does not tell the whole story. I’ve talked to people manning the Count My Vote booths and they are extremely vague in describing what they’re doing. They generally share one or more of lies 1-3 and tell you that they just want to put it to a vote. And what’s wrong with taking a vote on something? Nothing, really. Unless you believe that a campaign based on lies is dishonest at its core and has dishonest intent. By putting it to a vote we open it up to them having the ability to manipulate/influence that vote with more lies.
Here’s what it all boils down to as far as I can tell: Those who can’t game the caucus system with money and their minority opinion know or believe that they can do so with a primary system. I don’t believe they are altruistically trying to improve things for the little guy – I believe they are trying to fundamentally alter our political system so they will be freed up to manipulate the new system for their own gain. They want to destroy our grass roots system with the people as the power and change it into the farce that the National system has become. Hope and Change – we’ve already seen how well that works out.