The Ogden Standard Examiner had a great guest commentary by the chairwoman of the Weber County Democratic Party. LaFray Kelley asks a good question:
Why should the presence or absence of an ex-Massachusetts governor on the ballot for president have any influence on your judgment over how well your local state legislators have done in representing your interests? It’s obvious when you think about it: Who’s on the ballot for president has nothing at all to do with how your state and local elected representatives are doing.
Unfortunately she fails to recognize that there is an answer to her question that is worth considering about our political culture. The presence or absence of an ex-Massachussetts governor may have no bearing on how our local or state elected officials are doing, but because of our high interest in Utah regarding this particular ex-governor his presence or absence does effect our general interest in casting a ballot at all in November. The problem is that our political culture is biased towards the highest levels of government when it comes time to perform our civic duties.
Ms. Kelley quite accurately states that our votes are more likely to affect the outcome of local and state races and that those races have a greater impact on our lives.
The message here is simple: Exercise your right to vote for whomever you want for president, but recognize your votes for state and local candidates are far more important — and have far more impact. These are the votes where you have a civic duty to closely examine the issues and the candidates. It is especially important to find out about nonincumbent candidates, so you understand what your choices are. This admittedly will take extra effort, but that effort is perhaps the most important duty you will exercise as a citizen.
While I fully agree with Ms. Kelley on her conclusions I am forced into skepticism regarding her motives for two reasons. First, the party she represents is the party that most clearly espouses the attitude that promotes the top-down approach to government, especially in social issues. Second, her timing is off. If we really want to change the system we should be starting at the precinct caucus meetings and during the primary season. By putting her commentary out after the state conventions she has assured that there are very few primaries available to consider non-incumbent candidates. For the most part, our only options are for the general election in November and the vast majority of us can choose between an incumbent (not changing the system) who is a Republican, or a non-incumbent (who she has just touted as the avenue for change) who is a Democrat like her.
Such timing undercuts the level application across parties that any argument for change should have because change is not just changing parties, it is changing the political system by examining the candidates and issues before your choices are whittled down to one or two. That truly is “perhaps the most important duty you will exercise as a citizen.”