Utah’s Caucus Convention
The following is a copy of a guest editorial published in the Salt Lake Tribune, May 30, 2010 with a preface providing an historical perspective.
Utah’s Caucus-Convention Exemplifies Constitutional Wisdom
By Cherilyn Eagar, Director, American Leadership Fund
Preface to the Guest Editorial
A typical guest editorial is limited to around 600 words. This background information serves as a preface to the published editorial.
The author’s position is based on research on the original intent of the Founders, Framers and Signers of the U.S. Constitution from their writing, discussion and debate before, during and after the Constitutional Convention where the U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787.
In general the delegates sought to create a representative, republican form of government – not a democracy – free of the dangers of governments of the past that had unleashed authority to the uninformed masses. They also did not approve of the powerful and controlling party factions of England.
They sought to insulate the new American government from the dangers of democracy by constructing an election/nomination process that would prevent mob-rule from taking hold. They created three branches of government (legislative, executive and judicial) with checks and balances and election/nomination processes that would ensure a republican/representative form of government.
Of those three branches, the House of Representatives had the shortest term (two years) and was the only branch of government to be elected democratically, or directly by the people. Even so, the people were electing a representative, not directly voting on the issues government would encounter. The original intent of the Constitution remains today with election of the House.
The Judiciary was selected by nomination of the Executive Branch (President) and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. These appointments were subject to “good behavior” and were impeachable by Congress. Original intent is still intact here.
However, much has been said about the 17th Amendment, which removed a critical guard against democracy and replaced it with the direct popular election of Senators. But Constitutional original intent stipulated that the states legislatures would select the two senators to represent state sovereignty, not the people.
When the 17th Amendment passed, the states lost their balance of power and defense, notwithstanding the 9th and 10th Amendments, against a strong central government. Many “constitutional scholars” maintain this amendment was a “win” for democracy. And indeed it was. The 17th Amendment is central to the loss of states’ rights and is a key to the economic oppression Utah now faces with the federal land grabs and federally-funded and unfunded mandates that limit and control state decision-making authority over their own property. In Utah’s case, that amounts to around 70% of its land. Because of this imbalance, the federal government directly impedes the states’ right to fund education and open up resources to provide a thriving economy.
Of particular interest is how the Founders set up the election process for the Executive Branch, the President. Today, by virtue of the 12th Amendment, original intent was further eroded and the U.S. moved another step closer to direct democracy. Originally the Founders sought balance of power and protection from mob rule by requiring electors from each state, which totaled the number of the federal delegation (for Utah that is 6 electors).
Those electors were selected by the state legislature. The electors would cast their vote by ballot at the state level, and the state would then certify and send the ballots to Washington where they were tallied in the presence of both the House and Senate. There was no “winner take all” policy. The U.S. House of Representatives then voted for the top five candidates, each state given one vote, and the top two then became the President and Vice-President respectively. [In 2012, Obama would have been president and Romney, Vice-President.]
The 12th Amendment turned the presidential election into a popular vote, hanging the original “Electoral College” by a thread, which at least preserved the voting strength for the smaller states against a national popular vote. Today a national movement is afoot to eliminate the Electoral College altogether and transform the Presidential election into a national popular vote. State legislatures are currently endorsing such forms of government.
In 2008, even the Utah State PTA voted unanimously in support of a “direct democracy” resolution. The discussion included a strong sentiment that if the Utah Education Association could not successfully impose its will through the state legislative representative process, it would get its way by going directly to the people – most of whom do not have the time to be as informed as they might. And that is precisely what the Founders feared from direct democracy. The unintended consequence is mob-rule. One can only hope that resolution passed because of lack of information and in-depth study of the unintended consequences.
The ramifications of removing the Electoral College (a compromise of original intent in the first place) and of moving to a national popular vote would be disastrous for the smaller states, as they would become “fly-by,” more so than they already are. Not surprising, the greatest political energy is found primarily among Democrats who, if presidential elections were won on popular vote, would have defeated George Bush. The reality is, candidates would flock to the largest cities where the votes can be won, more so than already happens. It would indeed become a victory, not only for Democrats who would gain advantage from the liberal Left urban votes, but also for democracy and mob-rule.
The Founders’ writings are profusely entrenched in their distrust and loathing for democracy because its track record shows that it is the shortest-lived form of government and that it virtually always resorts to mob-rule and tyranny and then ends with a violent and bloody death.
This short video explains the form of government the US Constitution guarantees: a republican form of government. What does that mean? If you don’t know, you’re not alone because this has not been taught in school for many years.
The following guest editorial establishes the parallels between democracy and moving from a republican, representative caucus-convention to a democratic, popular vote, general Primary election. It sounds a strong warning to all citizens of Utah not to remove one of the last threads holding our fragile once-republican form of government together. It creates a strong argument for other states to reclaim the republic by adopting Utah’s grassroots, representative system.
Utah’s Caucus-Convention Exemplifies Constitutional Wisdom
By Cherilyn Eagar, American Leadership Fund
Published May 30, 2010 Salt Lake Tribune
Utah’s “caucus-convention” election system is under attack. Some say it is a closed, controlled and unfair system, only allowing a select few to participate by requiring party registration and attracting the extremes of both parties.
Conversely, many constitutional experts would agree that this is the best and most constitutionally correct system of all. The Utah caucus-convention approach is inherently grassroots, defined by the citizens who show up and not by those who choose to stay home.
With each neighborhood divided into precincts, a “caucus” meeting is publicly announced and held for each precinct. Any citizen may attend, and delegates are elected. The only requirement is that citizens must register with the party caucus they attend; they can even cross party lines to influence their neighborhood caucus.
After delegates are elected by majority vote, they attend and vote at the county or state convention to which they were elected. A delegate’s duty is to study the candidates and issues, to report to their neighborhood precinct with recommendations and then to cast their vote(s) accordingly at the convention. The candidate who achieves 60 percent of the vote at the convention then becomes the party’s nominee for mid-term or general election. If no candidate emerges with a super-majority, a run-off (Utah’s version of a “Primary”) is held between the party’s top two contenders.
This system mirrors the representative, vertical balance of power the Framers intended for the States. The Senate was meant to be selected by a representative body (the state legislature) and the House was to be elected by popular vote. Representation is the trademark of a republican form of government, and one which the Framers felt would best guard against tyranny. In The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, No. 1685, p. 193, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The Constitution was meant to be republican, and we believe it to be republican according to every candid interpretation.”
The average U.S. citizen typically lacks time to study the issues and candidates as thoroughly as a precinct-elected delegate, who subsequently is entrusted to produce more informed choices.
The Framers would not have approved of the current incumbent career politicians who get automatic annual pay raises, perks and multi-million dollar pension plans. It is easier and less expensive for citizens and candidates to unseat an incumbent via the precinct caucus-convention approach. It’s a healthy concept, but not popular among career politicians who have become accustomed to drinking from the trough of Washington’s special interests.
In Primary election states, choices are made through a more “direct democracy” approach — a concept the Framers despised because of its tyrannical track record. Candidates are required to spend millions to get their messages out to the voters. This typically restricts the election to millionaires and/or to incumbents who have massive campaign war chests funded by special interests, usually from out of state. It also limits the voters’ candidate exposure to superficial 30-second media sound bites.
The Framers believed in elections by the majority. But take a look at California’s upcoming Primary: With 12 U.S. Senate candidates on the California Primary ballot, will the majority even elect the nominee?
For Federal office, Utah has two Republican U.S. Senate candidates and two Democratic Congressional candidates in the Primary run-off election. They have been more carefully selected through this wise election process. It is now up to Republicans and Democrats to decide who will be Utah’s next Congressional nominees in the November mid-term election.
Now is the time to get involved in this important decision. I encourage you to listen to the candidates individually, check out their websites, talk to supporters and opponents and then cast a thoughtful vote on June 22, 2010.
Cherilyn Bacon Eagar is a former U.S. Senate candidate (R-UT) 2010 and US Congress 2012, the Vice President of EZHomeFind, a Salt Lake City-based real estate Internet marketing company. She was named Wasatch Woman of the Year-Community Service 2011, and is a Republican state delegate, Central Committee member, Coordinator, American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, National Eagle Forum Committee Member. She is a guest radio talk show host, has consulted on media and political campaigns and was featured in Sean Hannity’s book Let Freedom Ring. She is married to Randy Eagar, together they have 7 children and 12 grandchildren. For more information: www.CherilynEagar.com