How the Caucus Impacts Party Leadership and Governance

There are many great things about caucus system, such as creating an environment where money has much less of an influence and the average citizen can run for elected office without breaking the bank.

But a flaw of the caucus system can be found in the reason why people are willing to give up time to interview the candidates and to go to convention meetings. This is even more interesting when you consider the central committee, which is made of precinct chairs, vice-chairs, legislative district officers, and county party leadership. They are willing to give up four Saturdays mornings a year giving up about three hours each time.

Among the motives are a sense of self-importance for being chosen and elected by peers. Sometimes people serve to try to make a difference for their children or to express political viewpoints and even because it is a duty. Others enjoy the political process and they want to make sure things are reasonable but the biggest motivator I have seen is fear. People are afraid about the future, for themselves and their children. They are afraid Common Core is going to destroy education and brainwash their children. They are afraid ISIS will attack and kill more Americans. They are afraid that President Obama is going to [fill in the blank with fear of choice].

Fear is such a powerful motivator that all sides use it to drive people to the polls and generate millions in revenue on talk radio and news shows.

The effect of the fear is that the people who are elected to participate have much stronger and more one-sided views than the general population. This is even more extreme with the party’s central committee. This is especially true when there is a  low turnout on caucus night.

One of the great benefits of the caucus system is that delegates can take their time to better interview candidates and research the issues for an election. This gives us better elected officials. Unfortunately, though, the trust that those voting in meetings actually know anything about certain topics can be misplaced. Delegates are great at learning about candidates, but from my years of experience I have not seen the same about understanding both sides of an issue. Issues that are not of great importance to them are probably understood very little.

A great example was Saturday’s Utah County Republican Party Central Committee meeting. To my dismay, we had several resolutions and quick-fire votes yesterday to measure support for various issues before the legislature. Unfortunately, the proposals were not sent out via email before and a few minutes of discussion about topics as complicated as Healthy Utah and the Bus Rapid Transit was insufficient for people who have not thoroughly reviewed the issues in order to make an informed vote. And yet, this is exactly why we elect members of the central committee to do this for us, including county commissioners and state legislators.

As they head to the legislative session this week, I sincerely hope that elected leaders are able to take these quick-fire and mostly uninformed votes by those with stronger political viewpoints in context  and remember they don’t represent all of those on the Utah County Republican Party Central Committee. I am confident they will.

I was very impressed with comments offered about former Speaker Lockhart regarding her service to our state. I was also very impressed that although the party chair’s proposals for changing how the county party operates were not successful, people were very respectful and showed their appreciation to him for trying.

While I am extremely grateful for all of those willing to serve their community and get involved in the political process, we need to realize our own biases and limitations.

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