Bryan Schott’s Political BS: Self Preservation vs. Public Good

There’s a commonality among lawmakers who are seeking to undo the Count My Vote compromise.

When I talk with them about their objections to the dual-track system to the primary ballot, nearly all of them say “If we had an open primary, I would have never been elected.”

That’s a telling statement, because it reveals their opposition comes from a place of self preservation, not a consideration for the public good.

And, why not? Legislators like the seats they hold and all of the perks of power.

Why wouldn’t they want to keep the current rules? That’s what put them into power in the first place. Change the game and it puts them at a distinct disadvantage.

That runs counter to the prevailing public opinion. Just 14% of Utahns want to return to the caucus system the way it was. More than twice as many Utahns want to keep the compromise that creates a dual-track system to the primary ballot. Three times that number want to eliminate the caucus system completely and go to a direct primary.

Even Republicans don’t like the caucus system. Our polling shows 19% of GOP voters want to go back to the caucus and convention system. I’m guessing that’s the same number who actually attend the caucus meetings in March.

Self preservation is a powerful motivation. That’s the reason lawmakers won’t pass campaign finance limits. Incumbents can raise astonishing amounts of money while challengers are at a distinct disadvantage. Lawmakers won’t limit themselves unless they absolutely have to.

That’s what happened last year when the SB 54 compromise was crafted and passed by lawmakers. It was a last-ditch attempt to save the caucus system. People seem to forget that part of the whole process. Count My Vote was ready to take their issue to the ballot and kill the caucus system forever. Lawmakers, again in self preservation mode, voted to save the caucus system by approving the compromise.

Now, they’re in self-preservation mode again, hoping to kill off any other path to the primary ballot and leave the caucus system in place.

Here's a thought – if these lawmakers can't win in an open primary, then why did most of them vote for the compromise last year in the first place? 

Caucus supporters desperately want to kill the compromise because they are in danger of losing the power they wield with the current system. They are part of a small group who basically controls who holds a majority of the offices in Utah. Why would anyone want to give that up?

This self preservation is a craven political calculation designed to do nothing except keep themselves in power.

Reneging on the compromise would be incredibly short-sighted as well. Sure it would stop the dual-track system from going into effect during the 2016, but it would almost assuredly mean Count My Vote would redouble their efforts and get enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot. If that happens, it means bye-bye caucus before the end of the decade.

But that’s a long game, one that critics of the SB 54 compromise aren’t interested in playing. In their minds, it’s better to kill off the immediate threat and remain in power than worry about silly things like integrity and keeping a promise.