We’ve finally come to the state Republican convention and the only thing that’s a guarantee is that there will be plenty of drama. Lots and lots of drama.
My first state convention was 2002 and the most excitement we had was one fellow (eventually booted from the party) stepping up to the mic and invoking some arcane interpretation of Robert’s Rules of Order. Now, most Republicans I know long for those good old days when the bulk of the delegates went to convention to select a nominee and not to spend hours (and hours and hours) on conspiracy theories, booing candidates and punitive bylaw changes.
Candidates have worked hard meeting delegates since caucus night on March 20 and making their case for why they should move to the next phase of the election process. (Well, let’s be honest. Some have worked hard. Some haven’t really done anything at all. I’ve never understood this “let’s run but not actually do anything” mentality but, anyway, I digress.)
Saturday morning, those candidates will face delegates for a vote but not before some delegates argue about the dangers of electronic voting, spend 45 to 90 minutes arguing about the agenda and bringing up numerous points of order designed to slow, impede or otherwise gum up the process.
Did I mention more than two dozen bylaw change proposals? For the love of pete…..
A friend of mine, Jesse Harris, created a convention Bingo card with squares containing things like “candidate mentions their LDS mission,” “Nancy Pelosi,” “SB54,” “Keep My Voice” and “conspiracy theory.” We can’t play the drinking game at our conventions because everyone would be totally sloshed by 10 a.m.
Some candidates, of course, are convention-only, so their fate rests on the actions of the delegates. Others will be on the primary ballot no matter how well (or poorly) they do because of choosing the dual path and having gathered signatures. Extra kudos to them for also going to convention where they stand a decent chance of being booed for following state election law.
Interestingly, the Count My Vote initiative to put the dual path in front of voters in November had plenty of signatures to get on the ballot while the Keep My Voice initiative to prevent signature gatherers from getting on the ballot as a Republican failed to meet the required threshold and will not be on the ballot. In spite spending $175,000, hijacking caucus night with their propaganda film and trying to coerce caucus attendees into signing, KMV fell short - presumably far short - of the numbers required to get on the ballot.
If polling holds, the CMV initiative will pass in November and by 2020, the caucus/convention system will be even less relevant than it is today. Smart candidates will take the dual path - or even signature-only - and will make their case directly to primary voters. I think that’s a good thing.
The caucus system could be a good thing if it operated as it was intended - as a way for individuals to represent the collective minds and hearts of their neighbors. A true representative for shared values. Instead, it’s become a hotbed of conspiracy theorists (seemingly the more outlandish, the better) and folks who would rather shame their neighbors than talk with them. You know what they say about power, even little bits of it.
The good news is that there seem to be a large group of first-time delegates who tend to be center-right, pragmatic and collaborative in nature. I hope they are the majority. We shall see soon enough.
To the candidates: Best of luck to those of you who have taken the role of candidate seriously and who have been out engaging with delegates. May your speeches be short, the voting swift and may graciousness abound, win or lose.
To my fellow delegates/Jedi warriors: May the Force be with you. May your shoes be comfortable, your caffeine plentiful (just like your patience) and may you be home in time for dinner.
Holly Richardson, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist, is planning on being home to see her daughter off to senior prom and is NOT planning on bringing her sleeping bag, “just in case.”