I attended my first Republican caucus recently. As a proponent of the Count My Vote campaign, I decided I needed to see what really happens at a caucus meeting. I was wrong. I could have gone a lifetime without needing to see what happens there.
First we were to choose a new chairperson who would serve for the next two years. A young guy introduced himself and his experience as a campaign manager for someone in another district a year or so ago, and his eagerness to be involved. We elected him as chairman. We then elected his wife as secretary and treasurer.
Then we needed one state delegate. Another gentleman was nominated for that, as well as our chairman standing and saying he’d really like that assignment too. The other nominee stood, introduced himself and said he really would like to see a stronger candidate than Mia Love; he really didn’t like her. The young, newly elected chairman said he really liked Mia Love, and thought she was a great candidate. Eventually our chairman withdrew, stating maybe he’d rather be a county delegate. Several others present voiced their approval of Mia Love and expressed their desire that she be supported. Ultimately, the first nominee was elected as our state delegate, though he reaffirmed his doubts about Mia Love.
At this point, one of the gentlemen I was seated by leaned over and said, “Do you want to run for anything?” I said, “Yeah, I’d like to run for the door!” He didn’t seem amused.
Here’s what I learned from my one, and only, experience with a caucus meeting:
Caucus meetings are advertised as grassroots, neighborhood involvement in politics. It’s a way for the little guy, with little recognition and even less money, to make a difference and get involved in politics. I didn’t see it as anything like that.
The deadline for candidates to declare ended just 24 hours prior to the Republican caucus. This means that when the Democratic caucus was held, they had no idea who was even running as Democrats in any of the offices.
In our precinct, 14 out of 120 registered voters showed up at the caucus meeting. We elected a delegate to the state convention to place our vote, when in reality he isn’t bound to vote for a particular candidate. He can vote any way he chooses. Instead of 120 people voting, one person votes however he chooses.
As a nation, we seem surprised when voter turnout continues to be less and less every election cycle. Yet we continue to relinquish our right to vote to representatives and delegates to vote for us when they have no idea how we would vote given the opportunity. There is no reason for average citizens to research an issue or get involved in politics and learn about a candidate when their votes really don’t count, and what they think really doesn’t matter.
The Count My Vote initiative did a great disservice by giving in so easily to the legislature. No one in their right mind should be defending the caucus system.
Salt Lake City