Good morning, boys and girls. Today we present a little something I like to call "Fun With Civics."
The Democrats and the Republicans held their respective party caucuses -- cauci? -- this past week, and the contrast between the two groups was stark, to say the least.
A caucus -- other than being just a really fun word to say aloud (Hey kids! Wanna get Mom or Dad's undivided attention? Casually mention to them that one of the older kids at school asked if you'd like a peek at a caucus.) -- is a special meeting where voters elect delegates to represent them at various party conventions and functions. And yes, caucusing is every bit as exciting as it sounds.
As such, most years, even the Republicans are lucky if they can get a handful of die-hard political junkies to show up at a caucus. But this year, things were markedly different.
This year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stuck its nose into the process, in the form of a letter read from the pulpit. In that letter, the church strongly warned that it is the duty of every member of the church to attend as many boring meetings per week as is humanly possible.
And caucuses certainly fall into that category.
Why, the Mormon Church was so serious about its members attending caucuses that it even went so far as to instruct all local church leaders -- including Kaysville city officials -- not to hold any meetings on that Tuesday and Thursday evening.
Man, was that letter ever a game-changer.
For the Democrats on Tuesday, party officials were clearly giddy with the unprecedented turnout at their caucus, which typically draws the crowds of a weeknight poetry reading.
Just how unaccustomed were the Democrats to such a robust turnout? The caucus at Centerville Elementary School drew in excess of 100 people. And clearly, the woman who called the meeting to order was out of her element. After welcoming the crowd, she actually said, "I thought we'd take a moment to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves and tell us why they're here."
An audible groan rose from the audience. Really? That sort of thing may have worked most years, when the caucus consisted of both active Democrats from Davis County getting together to flip a coin (loser runs). But this year, with triple-digit people in the room, two things were abundantly clear from her suggestion:
A) That's going to take awhile.
B) It's going to get repetitive, what with the vast majority of folks explaining their attendance with, "I'm here because my church told me I had to be here. Will there be refreshments?"
Next came the grand Utah Democratic tradition of begging people to run for office against the Republicans.
"It pays $100,000 a year, if that helps," a party official said of one office.
It felt somewhat uncomfortable, listening to them ask who wanted to run for second place. We all sat there frozen, like at one of those art auctions, where you don't dare rub your earlobe for fear of inadvertently buying a $50,000 painting.
In fact, I sneezed at one point midway through the caucus, and while I can't be certain, I've a growing suspicion that I'm now the party's candidate for Davis County Commission.
Two nights later, over at the Republican caucus at Farmington Junior High School, it was a completely different vibe. Whereas at the Democratic caucus we parked right in front of the school, at the Republican meeting I can't even be certain our eventual parking spot was inside the county line. It was like outside LaVell Edwards Stadium on game day, what with all the minivans and BYU attire.
I will say that the Republicans were much more organized and formal in their meeting, which began with a word of prayer ("Bless us that this caucus won't devolve into a church basketball game ...") and the Pledge of Allegiance (One guy in our precinct meeting emphasized the "under God" part so forcefully that I think he actually pulled a muscle in his diaphragm).
It was also the much more patriotic of the two meetings. Indeed, if any Republicans actually drank, they could have played a really fun drinking game where you had to down a shot every time a speaker used the term "founding."
Founding documents. Founding principles. Founding fathers. Someone even managed to coin a reference to "The Founding Founders."
"Inspired" was another big word that night. Inspired documents. Inspired principles. Inspired candidates. And, of course, the trifecta of Utah Republican rhetoric: Inspired Founding Founders.
And yes, for those of you Mormons out there keeping score, I did overhear someone in the audience mumble that "Constitution hanging by a thread" thing.
Bottom line? More folks becoming involved in the political process is never a bad thing. And as your Democratic candidate for Davis County commissioner, I solemnly pledge that, once defeated in November, I will work tirelessly to ensure that I never so much as clear my throat at a party caucus again.
Donate to Mark Saal's campaign at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.