The Caucus System: Anathema of Apathy -- By Matthew Carling
Submitted by cedarlegal on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 8:05am
“The tyranny of a prince in
an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a
citizen in a democracy.” Some of the
self-proclaimed political oligarchy is “reviewing” the Utah caucus system arguing that many voters
feel disenfranchised when it comes to their choice of candidates on Election
Day. Political pundits claim that the
current caucus system hijacks “democracy” every other March when Utahans elect
neighborhood delegates to represent them at county and state nominating
However, apathy, that gentle springtime nonchalance
of thousands of Utahans, seems to permeate the electorate. This cyclic indifference rears its ugly head
every other March during neighborhood precinct caucus meetings. During these meetings, while most are
watching their favorite reality shows, their neighbors are spending up to 2
hours selecting neighborhood representatives that promise to educate themselves
about the issues and candidates and attend the County and State Conventions in
April and May. This “bottom up”
republican form of government prevents the majority from selecting the fashionable
candidate that begins fundraising for the next election on November 3rd. The caucus system holds elected officials
responsible all the way down to the neighborhood level without having to worry
about the whims of an ignorant democratic majority.
Democracy has been defined
as the “tyranny of the majority.” This
phrase was first coined by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America
(1835). Democracy or “the violence of
the majority faction” is a system we should neither be promoting nor
idealizing. The caucus format is more
time consuming than primaries and requires a higher level of participation from
voters. Nevertheless, this system of
government has many virtues.
Delegates are generally more
informed than the general voting population.
Authorizing delegates who spend a sizeable amount of time researching
and meeting candidates protects society from mob rule. No one argues that Senator Robert Bennett
would have survived a primary election as the “fashionable candidate” with deep
pockets. However, Senator Bennett
underestimated the power and hostility of informed delegates—delegates that
held him accountable for TARP, bailouts, and callous statements that violate constitutional
notions of freedom. Only Summer
Soldiers, not Utah
delegates, will tolerate such chicanery.
argue that the Legislature should revise the system. However, the Legislature may not amend or
repeal the Caucus/Convention System. In EU
v. San Francisco City Democratic Central Committe, 489 U.S. 214 (1989), the
United States Supreme Court held that a state cannot interfere with the
internal operations of political parties.
Reform, if any, must come from the parties themselves. Others argue that the caucus system is not
perfect and must be modified. No system
of representative government will ever be perfect when its greatest component
is human nature. The caucus system is
the only way to prevent, as blogger Connor Boyack noted, “propaganda, sound
bytes, and well-funded individuals” from influencing the opinions of the masses.
While we bemoan the
system, others are covertly putting in place the stones necessary to change our
beloved caucus system. Once in place,
when the masses become again too apathetic and divert their attention to
Celebrity Apprentice, the establishment just might revise the system right under
our noses. Lovers of freedom must become
ever more vigilant in protecting our freedoms.
This coming March, may we all take the time to attend our neighborhood
precinct caucuses and organize ourselves because “tyranny is always better
organized than freedom.”
Reprinted from the Salt Lake Tribune, May 31, 2011.