Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tribune Editorial -- Utah's Broken Caucus/Primary System

I've been perturbed at the recent ousting of Sen. Bennett. I was disappointed to hear of some of the utter disrespect with which delegates treated Sen Bennett's departure.

I've read some hard core right-wingers who are patting themselves on the back and are seething at the opportunity to go after Orrin Hatch in a few years (on a side note, where the hell were you tea party-ers the last time Hatch was up for election? Talk about being in office too long!). Some have mentioned their contempt for moderates in the "Big Tent" Party that the conservative demigod Ronald Reagan sought to build -- a party that had room for differing points of view.

One blog in particular tried to assert that the convention's ousting of Bob Bennett was an ousting by the Utah voter. The blog's author's argument (I'm assuming) goes like this, the state of Utah is known as the most Republican state in the country, therefore the majority of Utah voters must be registered as Republicans, therefore the majority of voters had the opportunity to attend the Republican neighborhood meetings where the delegates were chosen, and therefore the majority of Utah voters chose the delegates that chose to knock Bob Bennett out of the Senate. There are a couple of flaws I'd like to address regarding this line of reasoning:

1.) Many Utahns refuse to declare a party affiliation -- nor should they have to. The Republican party's record for keeping with campaign promises and party platforms has been unreliable at best over the past few decades. Couple that with the Republican Party's current climate of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin-ified rage and fear, and there are quite a few Utahn's who have absolutely no desire to be associated with what once was Ronald Reagan's "Big Tent" Party. Those who are not declared members of a political party are not invited to participate in the delegate selection process or to vote in primary elections -- those voices are not heard in the caucus/primary system

As a side note, I wonder if the Tea Party Republicans (I'm referring to anyone whose views mirror someone like Cherilyn Eager) would embrace Ronald Reagan as their political Messiah if he would have been involved in the race to be Utah's next U.S. Senator. Ronald Reagan gave great speeches about conservative values, but Ronald Reagan's record as president saw large deficits, and high taxes -- two cardinal sins for conservative leadership. It might be argued that he couldn't do anything about that because of the Democratic majority under which the Congress was ruled throughout his tenure as president, but hasn't Senator Bennett been working under same conditions for the past few years?

2.) The purpose of the convention is for the party to choose the candidate which is the most electable not to elect the representative. Especially here in Utah, the Republican candidate will more than likely be the winner of the general election and so the convention results have more importance than it likely should. While the tea party-ers are pleased with their coup, many of the rest of us feel cheated of a good representative for Utah. The key word is for Utah, not for conservatives or for liberals! Senator Bennett, like him or hate him, was able to get things done for our state and there are many that would have voted him in a 4th term if they were given the chance. Unfortunately, they won't be given that chance because the state's convention/primary system is only open 3500 of the most politically active and often the most politically polarized among us.

I agree with the SLTrib editorial board when it wrote:

In the 43 states where the political parties value the input of all members and hold direct or open primary elections to select candidates for statewide offices, the answer would be an unequivocal "yes." Anyone who wants to run can gather signatures from registered voters and have their name placed on the ballot. And anyone who has registered to vote can pick from the entire field.

If that were the case in the Beehive State, Bennett, a clear favorite of the Republican rank and file in public opinion polls, may well have won. But in Utah, one of just seven states where conventions play a primary role in selecting candidates, party delegates do all of the talking, and most of the voting. The rank and file are largely silenced, left to pick between the top two candidates in a primary election only if the top vote-getter fails to amass 60 percent of the delegate vote at convention.

I was pleased to hear that Bennett is considering a write-in campaign. I haven't decided who I will vote for, I would like to learn more about all of the candidates. However, if Bennett want to be written in as Senator I will definitely consider it.

Honestly, I'm not a rabid Bennett supporter or hater. I simply believe in democracy, and when democratic systems fail provide democratic results those systems need to be challenged. The control that the convention/primary system has on the outcome of Utah elections is one of those systems. Olene Walker (not to diminish the great work JMH, Jr. did as Governor) was the last victim of this broken system, she did a great job as Governor is her short tenure and the general population should have been able to pass judgment on Walker's governorship and the general population deserves a vote on Bob Bennett too.

Anyways, I'm going to move on. There are many other issues to discuss.

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