I anticipate there will be much debate over the decision to reach a compromise rather than a debate over gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues during this Utah Legislative session, if my Facebook wall is any kind of indicator. Personally, I can see both sides of the issue. On one side, even a lost cause brings a discussion to the fore. On the other, the likely, and permanent loss of the gains made last year in Salt Lake City and County was too big an ante to sacrifice.
But now, here we are. Where do we go from here?
A recent The Salt Lake Tribune poll shows overwhelming and growing support for legal protections for gay and transgender Utahns. But does that matter? Is the power in the general electorate? Do legislators on Utah’s Capitol Hill listen to such polls; do they listen to their constituents?
They do if they are the ones who elect them into office. And by that, I mean they are the delegates who go to their party’s biennial conventions. If we were to commission a poll that mattered to lawmakers, we would make sure to call these delegates and only these delegates.
This is the truth that right-wing (and some left-wing) leaders know. Election results in the vast majority of races are determined not in November, but in May and June at the conventions. Once West Jordan Republican delegates cast their ballot, the outcome is largely determined. Similarly, when Salt Lake City’s Avenues delegates chooses their favorite son/daughter, the hard work is done. The following fundraising, campaigning and posturing is largely for show. The candidates’ greatest concern is to not to make a misstep.
Looking at who these delegates are will show us why our elected leaders are out of touch with the general populace. There are those of us most motivated to get involved, aka the most polarized people in the state. They are the ones called by the Utah Eagle Forum; they are union members; they are gun owners; and, yes, they are gay and lesbian people. The average Joe and Jill are far less likely to make the trek to a meeting and seek election as one of perhaps two or three people to represent their neighbors at the county and state conventions.
That gives the power of the electorate to about 5,000 Utahns, not the million or so people eligible to vote in the state.
You think your vote counts as much as anyone else’s? No. Delegates in the state, by my math, wield the power of about 460 people.
We learned that back when newcomer Gay and Lesbian Utah Democrats (which has morphed over time into Utah Stonewall Democrats) took to the streets of Rose Park in the ’80s and muscled an anti-gay Democrat out of office, replacing him with a young Pete Suazo.
And Gayle has learned that as well. And she does a better job of it.
It is time that our community realizes that raising big bucks for post-convention elections is like paddling a dinghy at the edge of a waterfall. The outcome is already determined by then.
We need to put a much larger focus on getting gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and progressive Republican delegates elected in West Jordan, Davis and Utah Counties, and other areas we have no power.
Look into what it takes to be elected at the upcoming Precinct Caucuses. Find friends in your neighborhood to go and cast their votes with you. Find the delegates in your area and befriend them. Show up and have the brass to put your name in the hat. That is how to gain the real power in Utah politics.