Utah Republican Party Vice Chair, Lowell Nelson told members of the Utah Republican Party’s State Central Committee that powerful Utah media organizations support changing the current caucus system because the change will result in a financial windfall for them.
Nelson said that the Salt Lake Tribune tells it readers that the current caucus system is exclusionary, that it vests too much power in hands of too few people and that it is among the most undemocratic in the United States.
Nelson reminded Committee members that, “We are not a Democracy, we are a Republic” and that under the current caucus system, party candidates are elected by delegates who are chosen by their neighbors to represent them and to select the best candidates for office.
He challenged the premise that the more people who vote, the better the outcome will be. According to Nelson, an informed electorate arrives at the best results, therefore, the focus needs to be on adding informed voters to the process not simply on the overall number of voters.
Nelson explained that the caucus process allows delegates elected by their neighbors to “plough deeply” as they investigate candidates much like a jury does in a trial. For example, in a court hearing, 125,000 people are not asked to cast votes to determine the guilt or innocence of a person, rather they delegate the authority to twelve jurors who are expected to gather information, evaluate it and then to cast well-informed votes.
Nelson said that Republicans need to help their neighbors understand the value of the caucus system. He emphasized the importance of giving candidates a limited number of delegates to meet with in order to explain their positions in depth because they cannot visit with each and every voter.
The vice-chair then warned about the “motives of the public challenge we face.” He noted that those in the media will benefit from potentially huge amounts of additional revenue that primary elections will generate both in terms of advertising and increased readership and viewers. The media, therefore, has a clear conflict of interest because when candidates are selected without a primary election, the media loses revenue and potential influence.
Nelson also pointed out that if the media and other powerful political elites succeed in doing away with the caucus system, they will have much more influence over elections because of the vast resources they have available.
He concluded by reiterating the necessity to “explain to our neighbors the value of the caucus system and about the jewel of a system that we have.”