Part 1: The Problem with Utah Polictics

Politics:

  • Poly, meaning many;
  • Ticks, blood sucking bugs.

Chapter 1: The Background

I’ve always hated politics.

In high school, one of my teachers offered an extra-credit assignment to write a letter to our Congressional Representative about an issue we’d been discussing, then report back with their response (if any). This was back in the days before email and web-forms were the primary forms of communication with elected officials.

I was one of the only students who completed this assignment, and the only one who reported back with a response.

I learned a few things about politicians that day:

  • kids don’t really matter to elected officials, because they’re not voters
  • form-letters and canned responses are the norm, because listening to constituents is too hard – it gets in the ways of restricting liberties

I took my concerns to my dad. His parents lived through the Great Depression. He was a child in the 1940’s. He was witness to “government meddling”. He’d given up on the system years before, refusing to even vote.

I was young and naive. I thought I could change the world.

My mother was an early elementary school teacher and drank the Kool-Aide of the teacher’s unions. They were less a union, and more a political action and special interest group, lobbying for laws that would take away the rights, responsibilities, and role of parents.

I don’t hold these stances against my parents. Their conclusions were made based on a lifetime of their experiences.

I still felt that I needed to fight for the Divinely inspired vision the founders of our nation had fought for.  I couldn’t give up on that. I had to be the torch-bearer for my generation.

Chapter 2: The Beginning

I never missed voting in an election, not once – general or primary. But  I didn’t know about Utah’s Caucus and Convention system. They don’t teach that in school. My parents didn’t teach me about it.

Instead, I told my new wife that I thought we needed to attend this “neighborhood caucus” thing – not even knowing what it was. The first round we just went to see what it was all about: neighbors, meeting in a small room, learning what it meant to be a Republican, then electing people from our neighborhood to represent us in political matters so we could go about our lives.

A lightbulb went off in my head. These elected neighborhood representatives (“Delegates”) would be that voice – a megaphone – between the individuals and those elected to protect our liberties. Instead of listening to tens of thousands of voices all screaming about different topics, elected officials could focus their attention on a few hundred (or a few thousand for Federal positions) Delegates. Perfect!

But the system, as inspired as I felt it was, wasn’t being used to its potential. People didn’t know about it. Those elected to fill the positions of Delegate and Precinct Officers were going through the motions, not fulfilling the responsibilities they were elected to. (I’m not innocent in that respect either.)

Two years later, I attended my neighborhood caucus again. This time I ran. I was elected as an alternate State Delegate and as the Vice Chair of the Precinct. Due to personal events in the life of our elected Precinct Chair (who was also an elected State Delegate), I was called on to fill-in a State Delegate, attend the State Nominating Convention, and run the Neighborhood Caucus the next time around.

At that State Nominating Convention, something amazing happened: an incumbent U.S. Senator, Bob Bennett, yelled at, belittled, and scolded the elected Delegates. He readily admitted to casing what he called “unpopular” and “Toxic Votes” (the bailouts, the ill-named Patriot Act, the indefinite detention provisions in the NNAA, TARP, and more). He said we didn’t know anything, and that if he had to cast those votes again, he would – despite knowing they didn’t have popular support, and knowing the elected delegates were opposed to them.

When the dust settled, he came in third-place – not enough to put him on the Primary Ballot. He’d just been fired. He knew it, and the “swamp” knew it, too. They couldn’t allow that to happen again – it meant that the People had the power – not the Aristocracy, the Media, and the Establishment. How dare we?!

At that Caucus, I was elected as the Precinct Chair, County Delegate, and State Delegate. I had learned what a Delegate was supposed to be. I wrote more letters, made more phone calls, and met with more elected officials over those several months than I had in all previous years of my life – combined. I even created, managed, and maintained a website for my little Precinct where I shared my letters to (and responses from) elected officials, posted their votes on key issues, and called my neighbors and fellow Delegates to action to make sure our voices were heard.

Chapter 3: The Middle

A year later, as Precinct Chair, I attended the County Organizing Convention. At these conventions, we hear from and elect individuals to carry out the purposes of the County Party. The next level of leadership below Precinct Chair was  “Leg Chair” (Legislative District Chair), the gentleman holding that position was running unopposed. I’d never met the man, I didn’t know who he was or what he stood for, and didn’t feel that it was right to vote for him without the information. I asked if he could take a few moments to introduce himself to us. He said that without an opponent, it wouldn’t be fair to give a speech. I didn’t follow his logic, but I decided to nominate myself to run against him – forcing a pair of 3-minute speeches, one from him, and one for me.

He chuckled and offered me the floor. My speech was simple: “Hi, I’m Joe Levi from SY08. I really don’t want to be Leg. Chair, I just think before casting our votes, we should know who we’re voting for – and no one should ever run unopposed. People deserve a choice.” That was it. He took the mic and gave his speech, answering the questions I’d raised earlier. The election was held. He won – but I got a quarter of the votes. I’d hit on two points that resonated with people: they want a choice, and they want to who they’re voting for.

A few short months later I got a call from the Leg Vice Chair: the Leg Chair I’d run against had resigned due to scheduling conflicts. The Leg Vice-Chair became the Leg Chair and offered me as an interim appointment to fill the position of Leg Vice-Chair until the next election. I accepted the offer and appeared before the County Executive Committee. My story was shared with them and a vote was held to confirm (or deny) my interim appointment. It passed unanimously. My Precinct Vice-Chair stepped up to be Precinct Chair and I began attending monthly meetings of the County Executive Committee.

Chapter 4: The Storm

It was during that time when I learned about a group of people who called them “Count My Vote” (CMV) and were trying to pass an Initiative via the signature petition route to change the law to disallow political parties from picking their own candidates. Who was “Count My Vote”? Follow the money.

  • The Ruling Class: the political elites, the “Establishment”, and now referred to as “The Swamp”
  • The Aristocracy: the very rich who can “buy votes”
  • The Mainstream Media: by eliminating (or rendering powerless) the elected Delegates, campaigns will shift from meeting neighborhood representatives to buying ads on TV, Radio, Newspaper, and printed mailers – all of whom will make significantly more money from selling their services to candidates, who will have to get money from major donors to fund their campaigns (thereby purchasing influence).

This group (through their followers) started attacking people who were defending the Caucus and Convention system. One such victim was Phill Wright, then-Chair of the Davis County Republican Party (DCRP). I saw the DCRP Secretary (Kathleen Anderson) attacking Phill Wright as these meetings.

I had been asked to serve on the Ethics Committee and was elected to its Chair. Our committee heard a complaint brought by Secretary Anderson against Chairman Wright. An Ethics Committee is chartered with the solemn responsibility of hearing allegations, weighing evidence, and recommending the appropriate remedy – privately, discreetly. This is the way private organizations are meant to operate and to self-regulate. The process protects the innocent while allowing for fair remedies to be recommended for the guilty. Secretary Anderson made her complaint public, deciding to try her complaint in the court of public opinion. After a thorough investigation, her complaint was dismissed as “unfounded”.

Soon the Vice Chair (Lisa Bingham) joined in – entering her attack as a monolog as her spoken resignation letter.

I leaned over to my Leg Chair and whispered: “Who are we going to run for Vice Chair?” I already had my answer, I was hoping she would give another name that I could get behind. She said “you” – and my life changed.

I didn’t know who Phill Wright was. He seemed like a decent man, but he was taking flack and being attacked, and being too reserved – not defending himself against their volleys. I didn’t want the job, but I knew it wasn’t fair for him to be taking all the arrows. The Party needed its leader. I committed myself to take those arrows so he could do the job he was elected to do. I didn’t make that public knowledge.

The election was set and I ran in a field of 7 candidates. After multiple rounds, I won.

Immediately after winning the election, I resigned from the Ethics Committee, feeling that there needed to be a separation between Party Officers and what I considered to be the committee with oversight of “Internal Affairs”.

That’s when “they” started courting me…

(to be continued…)

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