Dear Mr. Romney:
I voted for you in the 2012 presidential election, and I still think you’d have made an uncommonly good president. I was pleased to hear that you’re running for the US Senate seat which Senator Orrin Hatch will vacate at the end of his term. I’ll be eager to see what you can accomplish.
I’m sure you want to make a difference for Utah itself, not just for the country. So I have an idea for you. First, I’ll tell you what it is. Then I’ll explain.
I propose that you change your party affiliation from Republican to United Utah, then run for that party’s nomination for US Senate.
If you do, I will join that party too, and many others will also, I expect.
You’ll have little difficulty getting their nomination. Right now their website lists no candidate for that office, but even if there is opposition, you have enough support in Utah to win. You could simply urge your supporters to join the United Utah Party, so they can vote for you in its primary. If they’re Republicans now, as I was from age 18 through August 2016, they probably already know that most of the Utah GOP leadership doesn’t want you or them. If they’re unaffiliated, as I am now, perhaps it’s because the feeling is mutual.
Once you’re on the general election ballot, party affiliation won’t matter much. You’ll win in a landslide, assuming you’ve campaigned effectively at all.
So that’s my plan. Here are some notes on its origins in my odd little brain.
Caucuses and Conventions
I was a Reagan Republican in spirit well before I was old enough to vote, and I still am. My family and I moved from New York to Utah in 1998, and I soon started to get involved in local party politics. For years I tried to be a voice of reason (as someone said), or the designated driver at a frat party (as someone else said). I finally gave up and left the Republican Party in 2016, because persistent abuses at the county and state levels showed no signs of abating, and because at the national level the party rank and file nominated a revolting specimen for president.
The county and state party abuses I mentioned have a similar theme. Like the Utah State GOP, the Utah County GOP is largely controlled by rabid partisans of the caucus/convention system. Their single-minded commitment rivals the Democratic Party establishment’s near-sacramental devotion to certain of its pet issues (which I won’t name, because this isn’t about that).
For a long time, I liked the caucus/convention system too, but with less than religious devotion. It meant that I could get involved and wield some small influence on our politics — and I did, as precinct chair and vice chair, and as a delegate to numerous state and local conventions. To this day, I like the neighborhood gathering for a caucus, and I like the diligence with which many delegates study the candidates.
You know that New Testament dictum, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20)? I often liked the caucus/convention system’s fruits. The conventions I attended typically weeded out the wing nuts on the first ballot or two, leaving us with a strong, less extreme candidate or, better still, a primary in which voters could choose between two good candidates. We got Senator Mike Lee this way, for example, and I got to vote for Senator Orrin Hatch in convention once. And Governor Gary Herbert has managed to survive the convention repeatedly, so we have a seasoned governor who represents more of Utah than his challengers would have, and who serves as a needed restraint on some of the legislature’s excesses.
These happy outcomes were less common in lower offices, and the more I was involved and the longer I watched the system work, the larger its failures loomed. Among its perennial misfires is the right-wing supermajority in the Utah Legislature — which isn’t even on the same planet with many Utah Republicans, let alone Utahns in general. And if last year’s convention had had its way, proven workhorse John Curtis would not now be in Congress, finishing a preening show horse’s abandoned congressional term. Curtis finished fifth at convention, as I recall, behind four weaker but ideologically purer candidates.
I’ve come to believe that, for the most part, when primary voters have a chance, they do better than the delegates do on their own. Even Mike Lee was a distant second at his first convention, getting just enough votes (including mine) to force a primary, which he narrowly won. And John Curtis sailed through his Republican primary, which wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gathered signatures.[I don’t have rights to publish, but I can link to, this excellent Glenn McCoy cartoon on one-party rule.]
Which brings us to last weekend, when the state GOP leadership served up more of the same, only worse. The Central Committee adopted bylaws allowing the party to expel candidates who use the other legal means, signatures, to get on the primary ballot. When their lawyer told them that this directly violates a certain Utah law they hate (usually called by its bill number, SB 54), and that it may also be unconstitutional, they fired him on the spot.
I understand that they amended the proposal late in the process, so it wouldn’t apply to you in 2018, but that just makes the picture more calculating and cynical, not less.
You and I are old enough to know that the phrase “Central Committee” doesn’t need the Utah GOP to give it a bad name. We remember several decades of one-party rule by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with its Politburo and Central Committee, to say nothing of its one-party counterparts in China. But the Utah GOP has certainly caught the one-party spirit. There’s more than a whiff here of ideological poisoning, disdain for the rule of law, and fondness for the trappings of tyranny.
Be My Political Hero
So, Mr. Romney, you could do Utah a great service by sneaking into the Utah GOP tent just long enough to drive a stake through its head. You are uniquely positioned to do this without sacrificing an electoral victory, given your immense popularity in Utah.
The Utah GOP may not depend on its head for much these days, and the rest of the serpent will probably writhe angrily for a while. But imagine how good it would be for Utah for a nationally prominent Republican to leave the party, join a less radical third party, and win a seat in the US Senate.
So that’s the plan. It would be good for Utah. It would be a fine adventure for you — an Olympic challenge. It would be high-grade political entertainment for me. And it might send some useful shock waves into our national politics too.
If I understand the filing period correctly, you have a little over two weeks to decide.
So be my political hero. Please.
Best wishes, etc., etc.