During a Sutherland Institute panel last week at the state Capitol discussing the Count My Vote initiative, I mentioned that I have no concerns about low voter participation rates or worries about under-participation by women and youth. I stated matter-of-factly that I’m more concerned about the quality of participation. Are voters educated? Frankly, I don’t want people deciding my freedom who think a “call to duty” is a videogame.
For my candor, the Count My Vote panelists lectured me for my generalizations about uninformed youth and the value of 18-year-olds who are old enough to fight and die for their country. What I said is true. I’m not running for elected office and I’m not being paid to engage this campaign – so I get to tell the truth.
The game being played by Count My Vote leaders is the old bait-and-switch. Their problem is that Count My Vote is an elitist scheme. They need it to look more mainstream, so they wrap it in the context of concerns over voter participation. They complain about a limited number of neighborhood delegates who get to pick candidates for the general ballot when these elites know full well that their scheme would put those decisions in the hands of a dozen or so rich fat cats.
Yes, their arguments are shameless. But that’s campaign politics! They will say whatever it takes to win.
Back to reality: If we’re to avoid creating voter tests to determine participation in one of the most sacred roles of citizenship, we have to find nonintrusive ways to filter the negative impact of irresponsible citizenship – irresponsible meaning single-issue voters, special-interest parasites, and uninformed citizens who think and vote based on selfish emotions. Utah’s caucus and convention system is that filter. And it works.
There are important reasons why we don’t let a 10-year-old vote. And there needs to be a way to limit the influence of adults who still think like a 10-year-old. Such citizens, at any age, are susceptible to the momentary emotions that this state ought to steer clear of.
The problem with Count My Vote is singular: A direct primary system places the future of Utah in the hands of wealthy candidates, 30-second sound bites, superficial popularity and raw human emotion. If you don’t like 3,500 Republican delegates picking your candidates, wait until Count My Vote is in place and a dozen wealthy community leaders in some corporate boardroom choose them for you.
Count My Vote treats voter participation the same way politically correct community organizers treat youth sports – everyone gets a plastic trophy for participation. Everyone gets a cupcake for showing up. Count My Vote treats citizens in the same condescending manner.
Count My Vote is the idea that the act of participation is everything and the purpose of participation is nothing. My guess is that Thomas Jefferson would laugh at Count My Vote. Our Founding Fathers believed in an educated citizenry – quality over quantity in respect to participation.
I don’t speak for the Utah Republican Party or any party. I speak for responsible citizens who can spot a ruse a mile away and who don’t succumb to flattery like a 6-year-old naively responds to an unearned trophy. Count My Vote is about one thing: elites manipulating the masses to gain political power.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.
This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.
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