Friday, April 03, 2009

Steve Fair on the Caucus

Steve Fair wrote such a great rebuttal to the CaucusOK! movement, that I had to re-post it here in it's entirety.
Earlier this week you may have received an email in support of moving Oklahoma Republicans back to a caucus system of choosing which presidential candidate receives Oklahoma’s delegate votes to become the Republican nominee for President.

Most knowledgeable Republicans who have studied the caucus proposal being promoted feel passage would be extremely devastating to our party and could set our party back over 20 years.

The information provided in support of this change to the caucus is extremely misleading and comes from individuals whose goal is to create a system that would allow a very small, well-organized minority to manipulate the process to promote their own political agenda.

Let’s analyze each statement made in support of the Caucus.

In 1976, 1980, and 1984 the Oklahoma GOP supported Ronald Reagan for President - through a caucus system instead of a "Presidential Preference Primary".

Ronald Reagan lost the Iowa Caucus in both 1976 and 1980. He then came back and won the New Hampshire primaries. So using that logic, if New Hampshire had a caucus Ronald Reagan may have never become President. How can we empower the grassroots to support conservative leaders like Reagan in the future? Answer: Restore the Oklahoma GOP to the Caucus System?

Back to the Reagan example. In 1976 Gerald Ford won the Iowa caucus. One week later Ronald Reagan won the New Hampshire primary. In 1980 George H.W. Bush won the Iowa Caucus. The following week Ronald Reagan won the New Hampshire Primary. I don’t know of anyone who would argue that Ford and Bush 41 were more conservative than Ronald Reagan.

Counties across the State, including Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, have already passed a proposal known as "Caucus OK!" that would restore the Oklahoma GOP to a caucus system, and it will soon be heard at the State Convention, Saturday, April 18. I would invite you to visit the Caucus OK website http://caucusok.org/to learn more!

While it is true the proposal was passed in a few counties it was soundly defeated 52-28 in Cleveland County, which was perhaps the only county to have a full and open debate on the issue. Cleveland County even suspended its own convention rules to allow the principal proponent of the caucus proposal to debate for the measure. It was still soundly voted down.

[MP: I might add that Reagan did not become the nominee because Oklahoma had a caucus in place. Also, we didn't have a Ronald Reagan running in 2008, so we didn't have a chance to elect a Ronald Reagan.]

"An enlarged , invigorated , and empowered grassroots volunteer and donor base will result from the restoring of the caucus system."

There is no evidence that this would be the case. Iowa has been the example given to support this assertion, claiming Iowa gets more attention and activity because of their caucus. Truth is, Iowa receives attention because they are first in the process. New Hampshire receives an equal amount of attention and they have a primary. Current RNC rules do not allow Oklahoma to conduct their selection process earlier than it is currently held, either primary or caucus. Changes are currently being discussed by the RNC and will more than likely be put into effect before the 2012 elections.

"A caucus system is a nomination process that truly reflects a consensus of the Party grassroots."

Again, there is no evidence to support this claim. In 2008 over 345,000 Oklahoma Republicans turned out to vote in the Republican Presidential Primary. If the proposed caucus were to be approved we would be telling those Republicans that we didn’t care about their opinion and that their votes didn’t matter.

"Moving to a caucus system will increase fundraising opportunities for the Party."

The change as proposed would not generate additional revenues; in fact, it would be extremely costly to the Oklahoma Republican Party, as it requires the party to furnish ballots, including absentee ballots, to all Republicans at no cost. The OKGOP would also be responsible for conducting the voting process, including having to verify whether those showing up or mailing in ballots were indeed eligible to vote.

[MP: Yet another great point. The Party would have to have the capacity to send an absentee ballot to every registered Republican, as well as notice of the change to the caucus. To not do so (or be able to do so) would be morally wrong.]

"Moving to a caucus system will save Oklahoma tax-payer dollars (up to $3 million)."

This is not true, as the change to the caucus does not eliminate the primary. The Democrat party will still conduct their voting via a primary. It does not change the law.

[MP: Notice the clever twisting of the figures by the Caucus OK! folks. The "up to $3 million" amount would be if the Democrats moved to a caucus as well. A shameful, deceitful tactic, if you ask me.]

"Moving to a caucus system will increase Oklahoma's influence and attention in the national election process."

Since 1988 when Oklahoma moved from the caucus to the Primary, Republicans held 32 seats in the Oklahoma House; we now hold 61. In 1988 Republicans held 15 seats in the Oklahoma Senate; we now hold 26. All in all, Oklahoma Republicans have done quite well under the current system.

[MP: The only way Oklahoma will gain more influence on the national scale is if we have tremendous population growth, or replace Iowa or New Hampshire as first-in-the-nation. Either way, not likely to happen.]

CONCLUSION
The truth is a caucus system would empower a few influential activists who believe they know better than the general population what Oklahoma needs. A caucus system would establish an oligarchy which is a form of government where power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society- aka Political Pharisees. That is never good and goes completely against the principles of the U.S. Constitition which is inclusive and protects us from the establishment of an oligarchy.

[MP: Exactly! The oligarchy point is one that I have used many times in arguing against the caucus. This would disenfranchise huge amounts of Republicans across our great state.]

Oklahoma Republican activists should be about the business of educating Oklahoma voters and encouraging more conservatives to become involved in the process. Moving to a caucus system would be a step backward in Oklahoma. We have accomplished too much with a Presidential Primary! While not a perfect system, it is infinitely better than moving back to a Caucus system. Vote No at the State Convention!
I could not have said it better. I agree with Steve - vote against the caucus resolution at the Oklahoma Republican Convention on April 18th!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Steve Fair (and yourself) are against something you've never experienced! Wow, what a bunch of "open" minds!

Those of us who were around when Oklahoma held a caucus remember the standing room only at precinct meetings, the HUGE crowds at county conventions and even larger crowds at State Conventions. Campaigns had large numbers of volunteers, many who helped a candidate because they learned about them at the precinct.

I don't see where we are trying to imitate Iowa... it will be an Oklahoma caucus. Most likely the first one in nation to be only Republicans participating in them.

Steve is a nice guy BUT he is wrong on the caucus. It's time to give Oklahoma Republicans their voice! Vote YES to restore the Caucus.

Anonymous said...

Size of crowds is not the only thing to be considered. There are better ways to learn about a candidate than "at the precinct". That's a recipe for RINO victories. Pander to the right long enough to win, which is REAL easy to do at a caucus, and then govern to the left.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fair gets it wrong on multiple counts. Besides the fact that he unfairly and publicly questions the motives of those in favor of a return to the caucus system, he gets the following factual points wrong:

1. He repeatedly refers to the results of the Iowa caucus. We are not talking about Iowa, nor are we advocating the caucus system for all 50 states. We are talking about Oklahoma. And Oklahoma has proven itself a more conservative state -- particularly in its historical caucus results.

2. He asserts that there is no evidence that a larger, more active volunteer and donor base would result from a return to the caucus. To that I say, ask anyone who was active in the Party back then. They'll tell you that participation was far higher. But how can we FAIL to increase volunteers when we will have vastly larger contact lists of interested Republicans to call upon for volunteers?

3. He asserts that Iowa receives its attention solely because of its being first in the nation. I would argue that it does not only get its attention from that fact, but I would further point out that if Oklahoma adopted the Caucus OK proposal, Oklahoma would also be one of the first in the nation as our precinct meetings/caucuses occur around the last week of January.

4. He asserts that RNC rules would prohibit Oklahoma from holding such an early caucus. This is incorrect. RNC rule 15(b) reads:

"No primary, caucus, or convention to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates to the national convention shall occur prior to the first Tuesday in February in the year in which a national convention is held. Except New Hampshire and South Carolina may begin their processes at any time on or after the third Tuesday in January in the year in which a national convention is held."

The precinct caucuses do not "elect, select, allocate, or bind" any delegates. It is merely a poll which may be used later, by the district and state conventions, to bind delegates, if the convention so chooses (which I expect it usually will). The election of delegates would occur on the same time schedule they always have. We would therefore be among the first in the nation to test the various candidate's popularity through the precinct poll, thereby reaping the rewards of such an early caucus, but also remain in compliance with RNC rules.

5. He asserts there is no evidence that a caucus system would yield results reflective of the consensus of the Party grassroots. This one is really simple: Those attending the conventions - the Party grassroots - will be able to bind the delegates based on majority support - not a mere plurality as is the present case.

6. He states that the 345,000 people who voted in the primary would be told that their vote doesn't matter. This is simply not true. They would have the same opportunity to vote, just through different means. And with the current system, almost two-thirds of the Republican electorate were told their vote didn't matter because almost two-thirds did NOT vote for John McCain, yet he was awarded all the delegates at-large, and in three of our five congressional districts.

7. He asserts that the proposal would not generate any additional revenue and would actually cost the Party money. This is patently false, as the candidates filing for candidacy would pay a filing fee (in an amount decided by the State Committee) to the Party rather than to the State election board. This alone would be a large source of funds. But added to that, since delegate binding would occur through the convention process, candidates would purchase delegate lists and other candidate services directly from the Party for their campaigns.

8. He asserts that the proposal would not save any tax-payer money. This is also false. While it is true that this proposal does not change law, it would effectively end the GOP's participation in the Primary, reducing the cost of the Primary itself even if the Democrats continue to participate. However, if we do adopt the Caucus OK proposal, currently-proposed legislation requiring each political Party to finance its own Primary would receive a lot of support in the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate. If passed, the Democrat Party would then have to foot a $1.5 million bill to pay for their own Primary - while it would cost Republicans nothing. It would either force the Dems to drop the Primary as well, or else would give the GOP a tremendous financial advantage. It's a win-win situation.

9. He asserts that the fact that Republicans hold more seats in our state legislature than they did in 1988 demonstrates that the Primary works better than the caucus. This is a very weak argument. For one, there was a shift toward the GOP during this time across the nation, and in Oklahoma in particular for ideological reasons - not because of the way we nominated Presidential candidates. However statistically, there is a slight tendency to favor Republican legislatures in caucus states compared to Primary states. But the issue at hand is not so much state legislature races (which are a general election issue), but the Presidential nomination. I believe the case can be well established that the present system, which tends to nominate the media-darling candidate, often by plurality rather than majority, is broken. We were told back in the 80's that we should go to a Primary to get more attention by joining "Super Tuesday" (and as I've heard it, the main proponents of the shift were Democrats). It didn't work. Now we're being told by Mr. Fair that we have to stick with a system that isn't working, and didn't achieve the goals it was meant to achieve.

Anonymous said...

If the caucus intiative fails, then we the conservatives need to get more vocal and active than ever. The change to a primary system coincided with the neocon insurgence into the party. We got a bunch of anti-Clinton Democrats to change parties, but they were not educated in what it means to be a conservative. People like the Oklahoma bailout whores in Washington, Mick Cornett, and various and sundry other corporate fascists could not have been elected were it not for the RINOs that joined the party soley because they didn't like Clinton. Maybe if we the conservatives really reach out to and educate the neocons; and if necessary separate the sheep from the goats, regardless of supposed fundraising ability; we might make true conservatives out of them. Then the caucus initiative could pass next time around.