The opponents in Utah's election bout are in the ring. In one corner we have Big Money, led by Mike Leavitt and Mitt Romney; in the other, Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Senate and Constitution, the United States Constitution, and us, the little guys. Choose your side wisely; this is a big deal.
Two years ago my neighborhood selected me as a delegate to the state convention for my political party. I took seriously my responsibility to carefully evaluate the best candidates to run from our party, as did other delegates I knew. The voters would then choose between candidates from all parties in the final election.
I attended a zillion meetings with candidates; some at private homes, and one in my dining room. I got to know them; I listened, questioned, discussed, pondered and double-checked until I solidly knew where each stood. I checked the records of incumbents. I then voted my careful selections at my state convention. I felt good--sure then, and now, that I acted wisely.
This is the caucus system. It is based on the delegation of assignments. A group of neighbors (a precinct) says: "It isn't practical for every one of us to do this investigative work, ourselves, so we choose you, because we trust you, to investigate carefully and then act wisely for all of us". The system is rooted in the reality that busy people cannot do everything, so we divide the burden. We do it all the time. We cannot each repair the roads, so we delegate that to the city; we don't all own swimming pools, so we build a community Rec center, we cannot each own 100,000 books so we fund a city library.
Delegation is a critical part of our lives. In voting, there are alternatives to delegation: each of us does a thorough investigation of every candidate ourselves, or we blindly and ignorantly stab at voting for candidates we haven't evaluated, or we don't vote--we abandon self-government and take what we get. You understand if you have ever stood in the voting booth looking at unfamiliar names, then blindly chosen the name you've seen and heard the most on signs and TV. (This is how money buys votes.)
Romney and Leavitt say their primary system will increase voter participation. Here's the translation: "Do it all, every one of you; do the investigative work on every single candidate, yourself. Try to find out what they stand for from paid advertisements. Forget personal meetings -- it's a waste of time, especially in lightly populated areas; forget delegation to trusted neighbors. Do it all yourself."
The Utah caucus system matches the delegation in the U.S. Constitution to elect legislators we have confidence in, who then give their best efforts to write wise laws. That system worked beautifully when we supervised it; it will work again when we carefully oversee those we elect, instruct them to follow the Constitution, and bounce them if they don't.
No one says the caucus system is perfect. While delegates from Big Money are polished and politically pretty, the delegates from the caucus system have a great virtue: they are from us. They will not sell us out; they will work for the good of those from whom they came. In the end, the great strength of the caucus is that it is us.
Regardless of what Count My Vote tells you -- the exaggerated faults of the caucus system, the lauded but unsupportable "bennies" of Count My Vote, the endorsements of people you thought you trusted -- remember that CMV means you vote against delegation. You vote either for countless hours of your personal time, or blindness in the voting booth.
Those are the two opponents in the boxing ring: Romney, Leavitt, your time and energy and blind voting, or Chaffetz, the Senate, us, reality and common sense that your neighbor is your friend in the delegate process and he will serve you well.
Next week: Utah elections: The compromise
• Pamela Openshaw is a Utah Valley speaker and author of "Promises of the Constitution." You can reach her at her website, promisesoftheconstitution.com.