Op-ed: Voter apathy, not caucus system, is culprit
David Irvine recently implied that eliminating Utah's caucus system will solve the issue of bad politicians ("Caucuses will keep same people in office," Tribune, Oct. 20). He mentioned that former Sen. Bob Bennett was defeated by tea party delegates at the caucuses.
Claiming that caucuses keep the same people in office is the exact opposite of what happened. I knew Sen. Bennett and his father and they were both great senators. But the caucuses wanted someone new to represent Utah in Congress after more than 40 years of Bennetts.
Irvine cheered the organizers of Count My Vote that is trying to "put the masses of Republicans and Democrats back in charge of selecting the candidates." The effort is an attempt to have candidates nominated via direct primaries. He says that Utah is hampered by the caucus system and that it is anti-majoritarian.
But the number of registered voters who vote in primaries in Utah can be as low as 7 percent. That is not a majority. And money seems to have an unusually large effect in elections with low voter turnout. Delegates do tend to be more active in politics and voting than the majority of Utahns. Big corporate money does not seem to sway them.
It is not the delegates, stupid, as Irvine said. It is the voters, stupid!
In the case of Sen. Bennett, money did not influence the election. People did. We could have a system where unlimited money from corporations sways elections. The reality is that the same people are kept in office by low voter turnout. Whether we have a caucus system, a money-take-all primary or a straw poll, it comes down to voters voting.
Irvine seems to have a Republican stereotype that is far from reality. I am a Republican delegate. I do spend a lot of time becoming informed about candidates. I regularly argue for more education funding and better air quality (as shown in my past op-eds in the Salt Lake Tribune).
I believe that most of my fellow Republicans and delegates also have the same philosophy.
I know that Gov. Gary Herbert feels the same way. The reality is that most of the individuals who attend caucuses want better education funding and better air quality and world peace. But implementing those ideas is not as simple as wishing for them. Often, there are many different ways or unacceptable financial effects in implementing the ideas.
There are many different opinions in our party despite what many Democrats and so-called tea party people say. Our caucus system is an opportunity for citizens to participate in choosing candidates for elections without pay to play. It decreases the effect that big money, including the very large money that can come from big corporations/citizens, can have on an election.
All of that big money comes with strings. It makes more sense for our politicians to be appreciative of voters and caucus-goers than of big money.
Caucuses work. Irvine may not like the candidates that caucuses put forth. But primaries in other states have produced politicians that embarrass their states. It really comes down to citizens participating in elections. Caucuses are the best way to encourage more citizens to participate.
George Chapman is a Republican precinct chair and a delegate to the Republican county convention.
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