Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What do you think of registering as a Republican just for the caucus?

While waiting for an hour to vote in the primary, just about everyone around me was filling out the Republican registration form in order to vote for Mitt Romney. The people we talked to mostly intended to vote and then remove their name from Republican rolls in the following weeks. They joked about not wanting all of the fundraising junkmail. I hadn’t thought of before, being unaffiliated.

Then a comment on a post over at Green Jello got me thinking about a decision I’m struggling with—whether to register as a Republican in order to participate in what would be my first neighborhood caucus. Cameron asked what good you can do outside of the two main parties…and he has a point. Is avoiding both parties because of their warts a beneficial, effective decision?

I haven’t struggled with my political identity—I’m independent. I voted for both Republicans and Democrats in my first election at age 18, and wrote my dad’s name in for a position where I disliked all of the candidates. I am not a member of either party and get frustrated with party politics. Locally, I am especially frustrated with state Republican leadership over a variety of issues and county leadership over the float scandal last year. So in one way, I would feel a little dishonest registering as a member of an organization I largely disagree with.

But…local participation is the shot in the arm that politics, and especially the local Republican party needs right now. Both parties have huge disagreements within their ranks and people who vote differently. There are a few Republican representatives that actually care about public education, and my representative is at least more engaged and willing to negotiate than some of the hacks out there. Maybe my opinions could honestly be a part of the party.

And even if I’m too far from whatever a good Republican is, does the principle of public participation trump Republican clannishness when the Republican caucuses often serve as de facto elections? Many believe the whole reason Republicans close their caucuses and primaries is to assure that the smaller right wing faction of the party dominates the more moderate Republican voters who aren’t officially registered with the party (possibly unregistered to avoid constant fundraising requests like those voters I spoke with at the primary…I don’t know how bad it is, never having been registered with a party. My father gets a lot of stuff, but he’s a caucus-going party loyalist).

I know that I could attend the Democratic caucuses, but I don’t really identify with that party either. I’m fairly sure I would support the Democratic candidate in any race in Utah Valley, but I’m unaware of any Democratic races featuring more than one candidate. They did a good job to get so many excellent candidates (But can’t anyone, please, unseat Senator Valentine?!), and I already know they’re 300% better on education than Utah Valley Republicans…so I’m not sure exactly what they’re going to do in their local caucus meeting. Do a cheer, confirm their choice of the only Democrat running for each office, and ask for money?

I would be giddily joyful if a bunch of Democrats won in Utah County in November…but realistically, I’ll be ecstatic if one or two win. Maybe Sandstrom is the most vulnerable after lying through his teeth about education to get elected and sponsoring a few pointless bills? It seems like representing a moderate voice at the Republican caucus could present a greater opportunity to make a difference. (Though Bob beat me to blogging about Green Jello’s post and argues that “One blade of grass is much more significant in a field of five than a field of 50.”) And Stan Lockheart says I am irresponsible if I don't attend a caucus meeting.

So…what do you think? If you’re registered with a party, are you planning to attend a caucus? Any planning on registering Republican just to attend? Any thoughts on whether that is an ethical choice?


Captain Mark said...

I actually plan on attending the Democratic caucus. The democrats don't require you to affiliate and I'm curious how they run their meetings.

Jesse Harris said...

I've also sworn off party affiliation and have no plans to change that. Both of the major parties operate on a "eat your own young" mentality and third parties focus on outlandish rhetoric instead of practical solutions. I'd prefer to not get involved of any of that or suffer from "guilt by association".

As far as caucuses go, they're all a matter of internal party jockeying. Seeing as I'm not part of a party, I don't see any reason to participate in what is essentially an anointing. If independents don't like it, get the 300 signatures you need and put yourself on the ballot. I just might do that myself someday.

Cameron said...

I think it's important to attend the meetings. That is our country's true democracy at work. It's the grass roots. I really don't think Utahans or the Utah Republican party as a whole are all that "right-wing". Look at the governors we elect. Gov's Leavitt and Huntsman are very much the moderates, and I think they reflect the true political sentiment of Utah's voters.

The problem with the Legislature and with local politics is that in contrast to the gubernatorial elections, no one votes for the small stuff. City councils, school boards, and caucus meetings don't get much attention from people, and that's why we end up with people we don't like.

If all the people who vote for governor got involved in the rest, we'd end up with a lot more moderates.

UtahTeacher said...

Thanks for comments guys. I was beginning to hear crickets chirp.

Look at the governors we elect. Gov's Leavitt and Huntsman are very much the moderates, and I think they reflect the true political sentiment of Utah's voters...

If all the people who vote for governor got involved in the rest, we'd end up with a lot more moderates.

I think this is right on Cameron. This is why I'm leaning toward registering Republican and making my voice heard. I better decide quickly!

Jesse, I think the "jockeying" this year may be important. If more precincts could send relatively "normal" people rather than organized Eagle Forum types to the state convention, I would hope the rhetoric and perceived pressure on the candidates would be less. But I'm definitely feeling weird about it. Not quite guilty...but weird.

Cameron, have you been to a precinct caucus before? Anyone else? I wonder how chummy the old timers will be and if a newcomer or two will be welcomed or perceived as butting in if bringing more moderate ideas.

Cameron said...

I've not been to a precinct caucus before - I'm relatively new to Utah. But I'm going to mine tonight, so we'll see how it goes.

Allie said...

When I first moved into a new house several years ago, I went to the republican caucus, because I thought the democrats caucus was in the same place. People were very nice and welcoming, for what it's worth.

If you think there are problems with either party, go to your caucus. Take your friends. It wouldn't take too many people to significantly change who the state delegates are.

If you don't participate because you don't like the way the parties are run, you're doing nothing to fix the problem you're complaining about.