The Straight Line

Beating a dead horse

People often say that nothing is accomplished by beating a dead horse. Hopefully I’m going to prove them wrong with this one.

By the time this column hits the streets, the neighborhood caucuses (or mass meetings) will be a couple weeks away, depending upon your political views. The Democratic Party meetings are on March 13, while the Republicans and Constitution Party meetings are on March 15.

At these meetings the members of the individual voting precincts will elect their delegates to the county and state conventions, where the eventual party nominees for elected office will be decided. Love it or hate it, Utah’s caucus system is currently the law – and if you want to make change happen in this state, this is your single best chance to do it.

I’ve heard all kinds of talk over the years about how “my vote doesn’t matter” and “the system is broken” and other forms of blah, blah, blah. You know what? That’s all a bunch of self-defeating whining. Look back at the municipal elections of 2011, in which there were several races decided by 5, 10, or 30 votes – in areas with less than 25 percent voter turnout!

If you really want your vote to matter, you need to attend your precinct caucus on March 13 or 15. This is the most basic and pure form of representative democracy available to us. Depending on where you live, your precinct meetings will have anywhere from two to 200 people. This is where your vote can really make a difference.

Those delegates that you elect (or, if you choose to do so, become one) will be voting at a convention to determine the party nominees. In 2010, the Republican convention delegates unseated a three-term incumbent U.S. Senator – for better or worse is a matter of much debate, but don’t tell me that those votes didn’t matter.

We’ve all seen what Utah’s elected officials are doing to the LGBTQ community. They’ve taken bullying to an entirely new level. This year alone they’ve again tabled a statewide nondiscrimination bill, essentially telling landlords and business owners that it’s OK to fire or evict gays, lesbians and transgender citizens. The House just passed HB363, which prevents sex-education teachers from advocating homosexuality in schools.

Are you happy with state “leadership” that doesn’t respond to the will of the people? If you are, then stay home and ignore the caucuses and things will continue down the current path. If not, then now is the time to make a difference. Go to your caucus meeting and get involved. If you don’t want to be a delegate, help elect one that will stand for your political beliefs.

If you have questions about the caucus system or the delegate selection process, I encourage you to contact your party office. If you don’t belong to a party, get in touch with one of the many campaigns currently underway. There are also several organizations, such as the Utah Stonewall Democrats and Equality Utah that conduct delegate training sessions in the weeks leading up to the neighborhood caucuses. All you need to do is reach out and make a difference.

I’ve said it before, and I’m not the only one saying it. If you want to see change, you need to help make it happen. If you don’t vote because you think your vote doesn’t matter, well, you make that true. With voter turnout at record low levels, every vote matters. You never know which vote is going to be the one that turns the tide of change, so take a few minutes and exercise your right to have a say in how our government operates.

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