Perspectives: Utah’s caucus system thwarts oligarchy

OPINION – If our leaders in Washington D.C. are not full-blown oligarchs they are missing a great opportunity. Too much power in too few hands is becoming the norm.

It’s getting harder to argue that the millionaire politicians of D.C truly represent the people that elected them.

Dan Eggen of the Washington Post has crunched the numbers and reports, “The new figures underscore a long-standing trend of wealth accumulation in Congress, which is populated overwhelmingly with millionaires and near-millionaires who often own multiple homes and other assets out of reach for most of the voters they represent.”

This is not typical class warfare grousing about the haves and the have-nots. It’s the acknowledgment that money has become the master key that opens the doors to political power. It also serves as a handy tool to leverage the allegiance of many of our senators and congressmen.

John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute has pointed out how the influence of corporate money has made it nearly impossible for anyone but the well connected to have any chance of even running for office at the federal level. Once elected to federal office, special interest money becomes the gateway to power and wealth.

To receive such favors, individuals elected to the Senate or House of Representatives are required to cater to the desires of their wealthy sponsors. If they prove that they can be counted on, they are allowed to share in the spoils.

This is why even with their approval ratings in the figurative basement, incumbent members of Congress still manage to get re-elected 9 out of 10 times. Too often, the votes we are allowed to cast on Election Day are for candidates who are chosen and backed by the wealthy elite.

Our ballot choices are almost always limited to only those candidates who can be counted on to preserve the status quo.

This purchasing of influence extends to key policy makers in other branches of the federal government. In Vanity Fair, Joseph Stiglitz wrote: “When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift–through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price–it should not come as cause for wonder.”

The increasing distance between the Beltway elite and the rest of us is becoming impossible to deny.

Political power has been concentrated in the hands of a small group of wealthy and influential leaders. That is the definition of an oligarchy. Few of us have the financial wherewithal to hire the necessary lobbyists to sway this privileged clique in our favor.

This means that our ability as citizens to influence policy at the federal level has all but vanished. So why would we want to encourage a similar disconnect with our state-level politics?

The current effort to abolish the caucus convention system in Utah would open the door to the same type of domination by the wealthy. The most visible proponents of the Count My Vote initiative are right at home among the affluent elite. Many of them have spent considerable time fraternizing with members of the Beltway crowd.

Those behind the Count My Vote effort understand that by outspending their opponents in the media, the masses can be swayed in the elites’ favor. The disingenuous plea to “trust the voters” is a clever platitude meant to distract our attention from the actual loss of influence that we the people will suffer.

Judge Andrew Napolitano wrote:

It is evident that as Americans, we have very little influence on the political process. The federal government and state governments have gone to great lengths to leave the impression that our votes count, but have continuously diluted our power. If exercising the right to vote were truly effective, the government would not be so eager to promote it.

With enough money, the right amount of influence can be purchased and the voters’ choices carefully limited just as it is done on the national level.

This is why Utah voters should think carefully before agreeing to discard the caucus convention system as the elite are asking them to do.

This system is an example of how representative government works at the grassroots level. To exert influence within this system, one must only choose to attend their neighborhood caucuses and participate in the conventions if elected as a delegate.

The best way to understand how Utah’s current system empowers the common man is to become active and attend your upcoming caucus in a few weeks. The people complaining loudest about the caucus system’s shortcomings are the ones who won’t step up and take part in it.

The caucus convention system is an effective check on the power of the oligarchy because it allows voters at every economic level to wield real influence in vetting and selecting potential candidates.

Keeping that power in the hands of the people requires more active participation than simply voting on Election Day.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • Roy J January 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

    That’s a good point, Bryan. Definitely going to attend.

  • Brian January 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I love the caucus system. Our precinct is active and informed and our chair and delegates are sought out by candidates and their voice is heard. As a voter I’ve never had a candidate give me the time of day, except when they’ve attended our caucus meetings (which has happened repeatedly). I’m sick to death of the money-driven primaries, and very proud of the active caucus system. Without it we never would have gotten rid of the deeply entrenched Bob Bennett.

    • Craig January 17, 2014 at 5:56 am

      UNFORTUNATELY, it helped to retain the deeply entrenched Orrin Hatch.

      • Bryan Hyde January 17, 2014 at 11:27 am

        Not exactly. The caucus system forced Hatch into a primary with Dan Liljenquist. It was the masses who were duped into re-electing him.

  • Dana January 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I have not heard any persuasive argument to keep or discard the caucus system. However,
    Anything that shakes up the “business as usual good ol boys club” can’t be all that bad.
    And, THIS is really shaking them up.

  • Johnc555 May 8, 2014 at 5:56 am

    I truly appreciate this article.Really thank you! Fantastic.

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