Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Utah Caucus Night

The Utah Caucuses are today, as if it really matters.  I guess it does this year because the races are so close, but the caucus system here is broken.  Utah has one of the lowest caucus participation rates in the nation, which really surprises people because our general election turnout rates are about average for the nation.  The thing is, I know why we don’t turn out on caucus night. People have been questioning why, and I know why.
 
Exclusion.
 
In the past, you have had to be registered with a party in order to participate in that party’s caucus.  As people have increasingly become disillusioned with the two major parties they have been turning to 3rd parties or become independent, which would then exclude them from being able to participate in the caucuses even if they wanted to.
It’s a simple conform or shut up.
 
A few years ago, a citizens referendum was proposed called “Count My Vote” which, had it not been circumvented by the State Legislature, would have done away with the Utah Caucus system and replaced it with a mandatory primary election.  The history and deal making that went on between Count my Vote and S.B. 54 is pretty convoluted, but in the end “Count my Vote” was dead and S.B. 54 became the law of the land.
 
S.B. 54 kept the Caucus system intact, but provided a way for candidates to get on the ballot by circumventing the Caucuses and allowed for unaffiliated people to participate in the caucuses.  The Democrats embraced it and the Republicans are fighting it in court.
 
The outcome is that we still have the caucuses, if you want to attend a Republican caucus, you must register as a Republican while anyone can attend the Democrat caucus.
 
What a mess!I don’t know what it is about the Republicans lately, but they really seem to be wanting to exclude people from voting.  Voter I.D. laws, mandatory registration for primaries and caucuses, etc., make me wonder, what are the republicans afraid of?
 
I got an unsolicited email yesterday from some joker named Jonathan Johnson who wants to run for Governor against Gary Herbert.  The email was full of garbage about preserving the Caucus system in Utah.  The email didn’t have a “contact me” button, but it did have a facebook page link, which is just as good.  So I sent him a PM:

Murph:  I just received your unsolicited email about preserving this exclusionary system of governance that we call the "Caucus System." Since I'm not a Republican nor a Democrat, you believe that I should not have a voice in who should run our country.  Is that what you're saying Mr. Johnson? Fortunately, the Dems are not as exclusionary as you are and will let me caucus with them. What, exactly, are the Republicans afraid of? Because I think that you guys would be happy to see only a select few with the honor of voting.

Johnson: SB 54 makes a ballot spot for sale in Utah. That is not how we should do it. I believe the caucus-convention system could be improved to promote more participation, but SB 54 was not the right solution. BTW, I'm not afraid of any open debate of ideas. Please don't lump me in with career politicians like Herbert.

Murph: You can stop right there. The people, not the party elitists should be picking the candidates. SB54 was used to supplant a Citizens Initiative to replace the outdated and exclusionary caucus system. In effect SB54 killed Count my Vote. And who did this? Oh, that would be a Republican controlled legislature. The system is broken, and you and your ilk want to keep it that way.

Johnson never countered back.

Granted, I was in a pissy mood when I sent that PM, and I did have a few of my facts wrong, but hey, he just rolled over.  That’s ok, Jonathan Johnson has about as much chance as Super Dell in getting the Republican nomination for Governor of this state, and tomorrow morning, he’ll be another bitter “also ran.”  I do hope that he sees that open participation in governance is the only true and fair way to run this country.  It kind of bothered me that he said, “the caucus-convention system COULD be improved to promote more participation.” (emphasis added by me) that “could” tells me that he doesn’t really believe that the caucus system is broken.
As in: It COULD be changed, but it’s just fine the way it is.
 
I hear this kind of thing at work all the time when I have an idea for my department. “Ya, Murph, we COULD do that, but wouldn’t it be better if we did this?”

Patronizing, that’s all that “Could” was.  It was a subtle “Go away, Kid, Ya bother me.”

Here is my dream, that some day, on Primary Voting Day, the 4th Tuesday of March, all people, regardless of their affiliation would be able to walk into a polling site, walk up to a voting machine, pick a party, and pick a candidate.  Or even better yet.  Walk up to the voting machine and have it say “Here are the Republican Candidates, who would you like to see on the November Ballot? Pick One.” Next Screen, “Here are the Democratic Candidates, who would you like to see on the November Ballot? Pick One.” Next Screen, “Here are the Green Party Candidates…”  

That would be the most fair and accurate way of choosing the final candidates for the November election.  But that would never happen in this country because the parties would be afraid that the people of the opposition party would try to submarine them by picking the weakest candidate.  Absolutely, that would happen.  That happens now.  And so what, that’s how the game is played.

Look, If I were an unethical person, I could change my registration to Republican right now, or even do it at the caucus location, vote for who I think is the weakest Republican candidate (Trump, in my opinion) and then change my registration back tomorrow morning.

So, here’s the point.  Go to the Caucuses.  If you’re registered as a Republican, well, God bless you. Enjoy meeting with your like minded people.

If you are and Independent, like me, join me with the Democrats.  They seem to be open to all comers.

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