The motives behind Count My Vote

One of the reasons I love working for Sutherland Institute is that I can say what I mean without fear of political reprisals. That’s refreshing in politics today. So many voices are beholden to some special interest – some business, some political party, some union, some candidate. All I’m beholden to is Sutherland Institute’s governing principles.

You might remember Sutherland’s position on immigration. It short-circuited a lot of people precisely because our opinion was independent, conservative and thoughtful. We listened, we taught, we argued and we took a stand. What I appreciate most about how Sutherland does business is that we’re transparent – you know where we stand and why and we’re willing to dialogue (or slug it out) with anyone. It’s one of the things we do best. We say what others cannot say because of their political conflicts and special interests. That makes Sutherland Institute special and, as I said, very refreshing.

All of that is to say this about the new Count My Vote effort: I just wish, just one time, that the folks behind this effort would be honest about their motives. Just say it – moderate Republicans are tired of being out of power in office and certain Utahns would like to assume that power.

I’d invite every Utahn to visit the website Visit its page titled “The Facts.” Study them. And then ask yourselves some obvious questions.

First, Count My Vote claims that the current caucus/convention system hinders voter participation. They state that voter participation used to be much higher than now. The problem with this claim is that the caucus/convention system has been in place for over a century, since just after statehood.

Utah’s longstanding caucus/convention system isn’t responsible for low voter turnout. My guess – and it’s only a guess because nobody knows for sure – is that low voter turnout in Utah has been a function of the growing divide in politics. On the one hand, the Democratic Party has moved so far to the left that it has alienated Utah’s Mormon population. On the other hand, apathy can be a function of moderation driven by special interest politics that crowd out any real feelings of efficacy among voters. That combination is deadly if democracy is defined by voter turnout alone.

Second, Count My Vote supporters are seemingly embarrassed that Utah’s caucus/convention system is unique. That’s what a moderate partisan would argue, right? “We don’t like being different!” They think, so goes the nation, so goes Utah. That’s just not a very good reason to do anything, frankly.

Third, Count My Vote argues that Utah’s caucus/convention system is exclusionary and unfair – another mantra of moderate partisanship. Utahns certainly don’t want to be exclusionary or unfair, do we? To me anyway, this is most absurd argument they make.

What they’re really saying is that a high standard of civic participation should be subordinate to voter participation. While everyone wants Utahns to participate, few people seek participation at the expense of an informed citizenry. Democracy hinges much more on responsible citizenship than it does on some idealized and unrealistic vision of universal voter turnout.

And fourth, Count My Vote’s real concern – convention voters often disagree with the moderate Establishment. To which I say, tough beans – then get your folks involved. Orrin Hatch did and won. Only arrogant elites refuse to get their hands dirty with the people.

So far, Count My Vote hasn’t given me any good reason to change anything.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

The above post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

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