Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not those of St. George News.
OPINION – If there were a single description to sum up the majority of Utah’s election races this year, it would be: “The Old Guard vs. the New Guard.”
This is clearly seen in the U.S. Senate race that will decide if Orrin Hatch will be reelected to a seventh term or if he’ll finally have time to pursue his songwriting career. It’s also evident in the state Senate race for District 28 between New Guard incumbent Senator Casey Anderson and his Old Guard challenger Evan Vickers. Shades of a new vs. old battle are appearing in the gubernatorial race and a number of state legislative races as well.
The common thread in each of these contests is an emerging field of relatively young political leaders and their supporters who are challenging certain policies and principles of the Old Guard. They point to the increasing size of government and its associated costs and say it’s time for more ethical leadership that is less pragmatic and more grounded in the principles of good government.
Meanwhile, the current leadership and their supporters are defending the status quo by pointing to their various accomplishments while calling into question their challengers’ lack of political experience. They forget that at one point, they too were new office holders and had to gain their experience on the job.
Perhaps the greatest difference between the two camps is found in how they relate to increasing federal influence over state and local governments. The Old Guard, while often frustrated with federal mandates, has learned to make peace with the feds; especially when federal money is at stake. The New Guard, on the other hand, has apparently taken Nancy Reagan’s advice and is perfectly willing to “just say no” to federal overreach.
The question which remains to be answered is which side has greater support from the voting public. One group has the numbers, for now. The other group has time on its side. It will be fascinating to see which of these groups prevails in this election.
Of course, those whose participation in the election process is limited to their time spent in the voting booth are likely oblivious to this growing schism. Most media coverage offers just the surface facts and occasional statistical snapshots from pollsters. To get a true sense of the scope of the developing divide, one must be willing to attend their precinct caucuses, the numerous town hall meetings and debates, and the county and state conventions.
Prospective voters can catch a glimpse beyond the dazzling curtain of colorful signage and campaign flyers and stirring candidate stump speeches only by actively participating where the real debate is taking place: behind the scenes. One clear upside is that being involved like this allows those selected as delegates to do a better job of vetting the candidates as well as learning the concerns of the people of their precincts.
Most delegates take this duty quite seriously and will spend many hours of their personal time becoming well informed on the issues and the candidates themselves. Alliances are often formed among like-minded delegates to better position the candidates they support. It’s not outrageously difficult to become a delegate, but it’s enough work that the unmotivated tend to steer clear of the process. This is one of the huge advantages of Utah’s caucus system in that big money alone is not enough to influence the delegates at this grassroots level.
There is, naturally, a dark side to anything that affects the distribution of political power, and this is also found at the various conventions. It includes the whisper campaigns that take place in the form of catty rumors or petty differences that are quietly but purposefully disseminated in order to sway the delegates. Sometimes, advantage-seeking sinks to the maturity level of a school pep assembly with exaggerated cheering or booing or snarky comments from the back of the room during a candidate’s speech.
It can be seen in the perfectly groomed political staffers with immaculate dark suits and power ties, hovering in the background exuding a slick, almost predatory air as they seek to create advantage for their candidates. Many candidates try to find their way into the delegates’ hearts through their stomachs, by hosting catered dinners, lunches, and breakfasts. Just remember, like a political soup kitchen, there is always a sermon attached to the meal.
These are just a few of the commonly accepted methods of winning friends and influencing delegates. But understand that most delegates recognize this grooming for exactly the game that it is.
The bottom line is, if you’re not participating beyond reading simply the news and going to vote, you’re missing the bigger picture of what’s actually shaping our politics.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.