Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Utah Caucus Night - March 15th, 2012

Utah is now within days of caucus night, to be held on March 13th for Democrats and March 15th for Republicans. Since I know nothing about what the Democrats are doing (and don't care), I will focus on what I know best - the Republicans.

Utah has a unique caucus system, not well-known by other people around the country, and perhaps not understood even here in Utah. I am currently a state delegate from my little country precinct, and intend to stand for re-election again next Thursday night (fair warning to any potential opponents who don't agree with me). Let me give some perspective and add to the many voices who are encouraging a record turnout at the caucuses.

Who Your Delegate Is Determines Who the Candidates Will Be

In Utah, the candidates who represent each political party are chosen by delegates at state and county party conventions. The process begins at the neighborhood or precinct level, like it will again next Thursday night. Typically a precinct includes 1,200-1,300 homes, so a precinct is roughly the size of a neighborhood. There are about 3,500 Republican precincts in Utah's 29 counties.

In each two-year election cycle, each precinct holds a meeting called a "caucus," usually early in the year of the November election. This year the date is March 15th at 7:00 p.m. During the precinct caucus meeting, people from your precinct (neighborhood) will be elected to represent your precinct as delegates to the state and county nominating conventions. As a state delegate in 2010, I was elected with a stated position of supporting Mike Lee and voting against Bob Bennett. I told my neighbors I believed they were entitled to know who their delegate would be voting for. Those who agreed were free to vote for me, and those who disagreed could pick my opponent. I won a simple majority vote to be elected. It was a sacred trust, and gave me an instant appreciation for all candidates who submit to the process of putting their names on a ballot, regardless of political persuasion.

Why Delegates Matter Now More than Ever

At the nominating convention the delegates attend, if a candidate receives 60% of the delegate vote, they automatically become the party’s candidate and move on to the general election in November. If no candidate reaches 60%, the top two candidates move on to a primary election held in June.

In 2010, the incumbent three-term senator, Bob Bennett, was ousted at the convention by the delegates and two new candidates, Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater, emerged in the senate primary race for the Republican nomination, since neither was able to garner 60% of the vote in convention. The reason those delegates you elect next week matter now more than ever before is simple - it's time to take back the other Senate seat from Orrin Hatch. He has represented Utah with distinction, and we can all be grateful for his dedicated service. But after six six-year terms totally 36 years in the Senate (almost half his lifetime!), it is time to send someone else to represent us.

Hatch is making an argument that experience, clout, seniority, influence, and knowledge make a difference, that somehow we can't live without his expected rise to the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee. The simple truth is that is all hypothetical political-speak for the real reason: "You must send me back so I can set a consecutive Senate service longevity record." He absolutely believes in his heart of hearts he is a Utah treasure of inestimable worth and that he is irreplaceable and an unassailable icon of mythical proportions. Well, maybe. I don't think so.

Simple Steps to Becoming a Delegate

Becoming a delegate doesn’t require you to be a politician, have extensive knowledge of political science or social issues, or be a public speaker. You are going to a meeting with your neighbors, letting them know you are committed to getting involved and striving to make a difference for your area.

Basic things to remember:

1. Determine your voting precinct - check it out to find the location of your meeting at

2. Identify people in your precinct who will vote for you (reach out to as many family, friends, and neighbors as you can), but even then all you have to do is show up, speak up, and advocate for what you believe.

No prior experience is required, you will enjoy the process and you will make a tremendous difference.

I made a determination early in January of 2010 that Mike Lee was the right U.S. Senate candidate for Utah and for the nation. He is now in Washington and is making an instant impact and producing real results during an important time for the United States. Only today, he and Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rand Paul (R-KY) put forward a projected balanced federal budget to be achieved in five years. They are doing EXACTLY what they promised to do when we sent them there. I like to think I got that one right, and I am so grateful for the invitation extended to me by my friends to get involved.

Now I am extending that same invitation to each of you as you witness the escalation in the fight for freedom globally. You cannot change the world all alone overnight, but you can distance yourselves from the apathetic and inertia-bound tendencies seeming to grip us on matters political and religious. Now is the time to step up and to be counted in the precious free exercise of your beliefs.

The Utah Caucus System is Superb

Utah’s system of electing delegates to county and state conventions system is under constant attack. The arguments were heard again and continue unabated. Those who lose elections, particularly the bitter Bob Bennett who characterized his loss in 2010 as being "excommunicated from the GOP," contend it is "government by the few, the rich, the extreme or the political elite." Others say it is "closed, controlled and unfair" as it allows only a few to cast ballots for candidates who eventually appear on the November ballot. Still others will tell you the caucus meetings happen too early in the cycle when the average person is not thinking politics. Since Bennett's loss there are advocates for an "alternate path" to the November ballot - they want a 2,000 signature petition as a way around the expressed will of nominating convention delegates. Watch and see what happens if Hatch goes down to defeat. The outcry will be deafening. But do not be deceived. It is only a truly representative republic at work doing its best work.

On the other side of the argument where I reside, many constitutional experts would agree Utah's process is the best and most constitutionally-correct system in America. In case you hadn't noticed recently, Utah is receiving a lot of "pub" because of Lee's outspoken alignment with a traditional and "strict constructionist" point of view of the Constitution. In so many ways, Utah is emerging with a powerful voice on the national scene.

Dan Liljenquist, Republican Candidate
 for U.S. Senate
I love the Utah caucus system because it is so inherently and fundamentally grassroots by nature. It's how a guy like Mike Lee can mount a campaign and spend 1/10th of what the entrenched incumbent does and win! Dan Liljenquist is trying to mount a repeat performance this year against Hatch. The process is totally controlled by the citizens who care enough to attend their neighborhood caucus meeting and get elected to make change they believe in at the subsequent nominating convention. Those who choose to stay home, of course, have that right, but they can never say thereafter they were somehow "cheated" out of their representative republic.

Elected delegates to the county and state conventions then have the responsibility of nominating the candidates who will appear on the November ballots for their respective parties.

The Utah Caucus Epitomizes the Representative Republic

Thomas Jefferson
In my view, our system in Utah comes closest to the fulfillment of representative republic envisioned by the founders than any other I've seen. We elected representatives to vote on our behalf, rather than a direct democracy where a simple majority rules. The whole idea is captured by Thomas Jefferson in The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, No. 1685, p. 193, where he wrote, “The Constitution was meant to be republican, and we believe it to be republican according to every candid interpretation.”

Clarification:  That's not Republican with a capital "R" -- it's "republican" as in "representative republic" with a small "r." Never forget the difference.

The average Utah/U.S. citizen typically does not take the time to study issues and candidates as thoroughly as one who puts himself/herself up for consideration as a delegate to the nominating conventions. It is presumed delegates will make informed choices based upon their best judgments and that trust is imposed by their friends and neighbors at the caucus meetings at the lowest level of government imaginable. Some feel disenfranchised because they have to work on caucus night, or they are on vacation, or they forget to attend. Whatever the reasons, they may still voice their opinions among their friends and neighbors and encourage and persuade others face-to-face to their point of view in whatever honorable way they desire, even if it's just a simple conversation in the grocery store check-out line.

Everyone Should be Suspicious of Incumbents

It is not my belief the founders would have approved of the current system comprised of incumbent career politicians. Bob Bennett promised he would never become one, then continued to run again and again. Orrin Hatch  (currently in his sixth six-year term) is in the same category, having served twice as long as Bennett. Neither has demonstrated the wisdom to step aside voluntarily. There's always someone who wants term limits enacted into law across all fifty states simultaneously so no state that voluntarily imposes term limits will be penalized. We must reject that argument out of hand. The founders gave every citizen the power to impose term limits on any elected politician - it's called a ballot in your hand every two years. That's why only citizens at the ballot box in America are empowered by the Constitution to impose term limits on their elected officials. A passive and indifferent electorate, however, leads to the tyranny the founders feared most. You may think your senator is the finest senator on planet Earth today, but the intent of the founders was never to send people to represent their neighbors who would then get automatic annual pay raises, perks and multi-million dollar pensions and gold-plated health insurance plans at no cost to them personally. Amazingly, only in recent weeks a bill was introduced to punish members of Congress who engaged in insider trading based on privileged information they garnered from closed-door hearings! And that's why Martha Stewart spent a year in jail - but that would never happen to a member of the privileged political class!

The caucus system makes it much easier and less expensive for citizen candidates from the grassroots to unseat an incumbent. The only vocal opposition I've heard against it comes from those who favor the incumbents. I proved to my own satisfaction that my one voice in 2010 DID make a difference. I can't even count the number of people who told me they voted for Mike Lee because of my advocacy of his candidacy.

The Caucus Eradicates the Possibility of Tyranny

In states that have a direct primary election, the choices of who will run in the final elections are made on a "pure democracy” idea. That was exactly what the founders were trying to avoid because of its tendency to eventually empower tyrants after the revolution.

The founders gave the citizens of the United States of America a government designed to protect against the intrusion on their God-given rights by all powers, foreign and domestic. However, the implied trust is a presumption that in a free representative republic the citizens would remain vigilent and actively engaged. The inherent weakness in our form of the representative republic is that we may lose those protections if we don't.

I'm writing about it today looking back on what happened in 2010 as a testament to what can happen when we are awake, alert and on task as a free people. I have every confidence the trend will continue into the election of 2012. I once heard a well-known lobbyist describe the U.S. Senators as "100 potentates." It's time to do more now than to "hope" for a "change" from the past for the sake of our future well-being as a country. That "hopey-changey" thing didn't quite work out the way we thought it would did it? After 36 years of being part of the past and all that has put us where we are today, now is the time to act.

As I have stated passionately before, we really have no other choice as the guardians of freedom's flame.

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