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In March, when a lot of us started quarantining and social distancing, I was chatting with a friend about all of the changes, and I happened to mention face masks. Immediately she said, “I would never be caught dead wearing a mask.” I was kind of surprised she already had such firm feelings about it.
As April rolled around, I started making a few face masks, mostly because I can sew and I had people asking for some. I figured it couldn’t hurt to be prepared. A thought came to make one for this friend. The thought kind of terrified me, fearing that by the simple gesture I might offend her. Somehow, though, I got up enough courage, made one and gave it to her. To my surprise, she graciously accepted it. (Whew!) Thinking back, I am really not all that surprised because she is a nice person, but at the time, I had worked myself up to imagine some real fireworks. Later, I asked her if I had offended her by making her a face mask. She chuckled and said she wasn’t offended, but that she didn’t expect to wear it much.
Later however, and being the good friend that she is, she sent me a message and thanked me for making it, in spite of her initial reaction. She said that several times she was happy to have it in her purse since a few places had started requiring masks. She said it made her feel good to have a nice one to pull out and put on, even though she didn’t exactly agree that she needed it.
We have had the occasional discussion about everything going on. She looks at how everyone is acting and reacting, and comments on how it’s all a little overdone (or a lot overdone). She is concerned about the fear that’s being generated by everything. She disagrees with the enormous amount of responsibility being placed on the government to make decisions for us. Even with her own personal beliefs, she has volunteered her time and helped sew face masks for others.
But then, she faced a real challenge as the messages from various leaders in her life have become more direct in saying that we need to wear facemasks in public. She didn’t say this directly to me, but I can imagine that having the same messages of “the other side” coming from people that she respects might have created some feelings similar to betrayal. How could they be saying the same things that all of these overhyped people are saying? How could they be telling her to put on a mask?
It was a few days that we didn’t talk and I wasn’t sure what she was thinking or feeling. When we finally connected again, I asked her how she was doing with this whole thing. “It’s been rough,” she admitted. She explained that at first, she didn’t want to have to go along with what everyone else has been saying. She didn’t want to have to give up her position and her belief that masks aren’t important. She had to take some personal time to reflect and understand why all of this mattered. In the end, she concluded that while she still might not agree with all of what people have been saying, she decided that she wanted to move forward and support the more fundamental things that she believes in.
I share this story not so that you all feel guilty and put your masks on. It’s just that I can’t help admiring my friend. I have reflected again and again on what she did. She went from thinking and believing very strongly one way, to being willing to do something else. That is HARD. That is really hard. I think about the amount of humility it must have taken her. I think about what our communities, and society, would be like if we had more people like her.
Welcome to Braving Politics Podcast! I’m Emily Bergeson, candidate with the United Utah Party. In this episode we’re going to talk about finding strategies for getting involved in politics when we’re already overwhelmed with life.
I don’t need to paint a picture of a hectic life. That’s all of us. I’m sure you’re stepping over toys and cleaning up messes just like I am. We have responsibilities at home, responsibilities at work. We have difficult relationships and personal problems. And then we have this massive nation-wide — world-wide — mountain of issues. So many voices to sift through. The stakes are high and there are so many emotions. We’re already maxed out.
Last night I couldn’t sleep. I had so many thoughts going through my mind. Trying to keep up with everything has been difficult. I’m a problem solver. I like making things right. I like fixing things. I like finding ways to blend ideas to make people happy. But trying to solve so many problems, trying to make everyone happy is impossible. I have definitely had to learn how to simplify my life. By focusing on the things that I have control over, I have been so much happier. I have had more successes to celebrate and fewer days of anger and frustration.
That’s a big reason why for so many years I ignored politics and all of these big issues. Simplify my life and focus on what I can control? Then I definitely don’t need to worry about politics. I can’t possibly influence anything. There are too many people fighting. People seem to be happy in their misery. Too much damage, too many colossal-sized problems. And quite frankly, I just didn’t see myself as someone who understood enough about politics to really have much to say. I mean, what could I add to an already crowded space? Whatever I had to offer, whatever I had to say has likely already been said. And let’s be real here. I’m more likely to make a fool out of myself than say something smart.
But last night I started blending some ideas and applying them to politics. I mean, I’ve spent years trying to nail down various parts of my life. How is politics any different? Don’t these principles and words of wisdom apply in more than one situation? So here are some things that have been on my mind and how these basic principles that I’ve been trying to follow in my everyday life can apply to politics as well.
We can start with the principles I’ve already shared. Simplify the problems and focus on the things I can control.
When faced with huge problems in life, simplifying the tasks can help us not feel overwhelmed. Got a huge mess to deal with? Okay, focus on one area, one task, and go from there. In politics, it’s much the same. We have these enormous problems and we have people making a variety of suggestions for how to solve problems, how to get involved, how to make the world a better place. Step back. Simplify the problem and focus on something that works for you. Once you’ve simplified the tasks, start with the activities you are motivated to do. Starting with these activities first helps you build momentum, which can help propel you into the tasks that are less exciting. Or, who knows? Maybe with the momentum from the activities you love, the other activities won’t seem so bad anymore.
What would all of that look like? Let’s say the hot topic in politics is… um, I don’t know… racism. Let’s say you’re not sure where to start, so the first thing you think about is education.There are tons of elements that go along with education, so you can break that down into smaller pieces. There are historical elements, current problems, perceptions, etc. There is also educating ourselves on the various aspects of racism. Racism in the justice system, in the education system, housing, poverty, pay rates. There’s systematic racism elements that people are talking about. Institutional racism. There are individual interactions and cross cultural issues. Overwhelmed? Yeah, me too.
Okay, so let’s simplify things, starting first by following the activities that motivate you and help you build momentum. Let’s say you want to start with something basic and straightforward. You can start with picking one historical topic, one historical event that you find interesting and go from there. Or maybe you feel like you understand the history fairly well, but you’d like to educate yourself on what’s going on within your state. Pick one thing, one element you’re interested in and start there. If that’s all too overwhelming, don’t reinvent the wheel. Seek out organizations in your area or nationally who have already done the heavy lifting. Pick just one organization and find out something interesting about what they do, how they are involved. But, keep it simple.
Now let’s say you’ve simplified the problem and you picked up on one thing that really bothers you. What do you do? What can you do?
Think about things you can control. Think about the parts that contribute to the problem. Think about a simple step, within your control, that you can do that might help. Maybe you could start by mentioning it to your friends. Awareness of a problem can help pave the way to finding a solution. Maybe you could start by joining a local group of people who care about the same issue. Maybe you’re feeling more informed and you’re ready to talk to your local leaders like the city council, the mayor, and other elected officials.
Does all of this still feel way out of your league? Way outside of your comfort zone? No problem. You’re not alone. I guarantee you there are people out there who feel the same way.
But it can all start with a simple step, a simple task. You don’t have to do all of these things all at once. You don’t have to do all of these things alone. Work with others. Figure out what issues matter the most to you and start there.
We all feel overwhelmed at times. When things are especially overwhelming, remember it’s not your responsibility to fix everything. It’s not your responsibility to save everyone. You don’t have to take on all of the problems of the world. Take a break and recharge when you feel like it’s getting to be too much. But don’t let all of these feelings stop you from getting involved. For a long time, it stopped me. I stayed out of it, leaving it to other people to run everything. Now that I’m looking around and seeing what’s going on, I’m not all that thrilled. I know things can be better. I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. And while I don’t have to feel responsible for everything, I know I can at least do my part. I can support others, I can take steps and do things that feel right to me, much like you can do things and take steps that feel right to you. If we start where we are, focus on the things that are important to us personally, we’ll feel happier, celebrate more successes, and have fewer days of anger and frustration.
Welcome to Braving Politics Podcast! I’m Emily Bergeson, candidate with the United Utah Party.
In this episode, we will be talking about Utah Primary Elections.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves diving into the Primary elections, I’d like to explain the difference between primary elections, and the general elections. It’s often confusing when you see signs go up in June and you’re getting calls, texts, and e-mails from candidates. There are public debates and lots of conversations about who to vote for. It starts to feel a lot like the general election, doesn’t it? But then the ballot comes in the mail and you look through all the names and you notice a few of them are missing.
Primary elections are specific to political parties — Political parties like the Republican Party, Democratic Party, United Utah Party, the Constitution Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party to name a few. All of those people who are listed on the ballot belong to just one political party. They do not represent all of the candidates for the position, just all of the ones running with one political party.
Not every position and not every political party has a primary election though. In order to have a primary election you need two things: You need more than one candidate competing for the same position AND you need a close enough race that there isn’t a clear winner.
The first part is determined in March when candidates for elected positions file with the county or state office. There may be only one candidate declaring candidacy, there might be 20. Each candidate either associates with a political party or runs independently. Independent candidates have a separate qualification process for getting on the ballot for the general election and automatically independent candidates don’t have to worry about a primary election.
For candidates running with a political party, that filing week — yeah, you only have a week to file candidacy — you’re watching the list and seeing how many other people file with your party. If you’re the only one who files with your political party, then it’s all done. No need for a primary election or any other steps for you. But if there is more than one candidate who files under the same political party, then we’ve met the first criteria and you may or may not have a primary election.
The second part of determining if you need to participate in a primary election is based on a few other factors. In Utah, each political party has a convention. A convention is like a pre-primary election. At this convention, political party delegates (you know, those people the members of that party in your neighborhood selected to represent them) vote on which candidate they like best. In some cases delegates settle things and a clear winner emerges. That’s what happened in the position I’m running for. There were 3 Republicans who filed to run for Senate District 7. At the convention, however, one candidate clearly won to represent the Republicans on the ballot at the general election in November. There is no need for a primary election. All done.
But let’s say there isn’t a clear winner at the convention. Then the political party holds a primary election to determine who wins to represent that party. Let me emphasize, primary elections ONLY select who will move on to the general election. This is not the person who will necessarily win the position. It’s confusing in Utah because usually the person who wins the Republican primary election also tends to win the general election, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
There’s another way that candidates can qualify for a primary election and that is through the signature gathering process. This bypasses the convention and delegate votes and demonstrates that the candidate has enough support among registered party members that there should be a primary election.
Confused? Let’s use the race for Governor to help us break this down a bit. First of all, the current governor in Utah is not running for re-election. We call this an open seat, when the incumbent, the person who currently holds the office, is not running again.
With an open seat like this, you’ll often see a lot more people step forward and declare candidacy. Some people step forward from the same party, some people don’t. In this case 15 people paid the fee and declared themselves a candidate for governor. But not all 15 people get to move on to the next round. Not all 15 get to be on the ballot in November. And not all 15 will go through a primary election.
So, who are these 15 people? Well, eight of them are from the Republican party, four of them are from the Democratic party, one is from the Independent American party, one is from the Libertarian party, and one is an unaffiliated candidate listed as a write-in.
Okay. The rules say each political party can have only one candidate on the ballot in November. Each party then holds a convention to determine who will get to represent their party on the ballot in the general election in November. The Libertarian and Independent American party conventions were likely fairly straightforward with only one candidate stepping forward with each party. The unaffiliated write-in is not with any political party, so they follow different rules.
Okay, so for the Utah Democratic party, with four candidates who have declared, the convention is the first step. During the Utah Democratic convention this year, delegates voted and chose a clear winner to represent their party on the ballot during the general election in November. Also, none of the other candidates gathered signatures in order to qualify for a separate primary election. With a clear winner, and no other candidates qualifying for a primary election, the Democratic party does not need to hold a primary election for this office. It also just so happens that all of the other elected offices have a clear winner, so Utah does not need to conduct a state level primary election for the Democratic party. If there had been a few races without a clear winner within their own party, or if there had been candidates who had gathered signatures to qualify for a primary election, then the state would have to conduct a primary election for the Democratic party as well.
Now let’s look at the Utah Republican party and their candidates for governor. There were eight total candidates who declared candidacy with the Republican party. Three of those candidates gathered signatures before the convention. During the convention, two candidates gained enough votes from delegates to qualify for a primary election. Notice that one candidate qualified twice, through the convention and through gathering signatures. The other four candidates did not qualify for the primary election and did not move on.
So, in this case, the Utah Republican party needs to have a primary election because there is not a clear candidate to represent them on the ballot in the general election in November. This isn’t the only race either. Turns out there are several other races throughout the state with the same situation. Some candidates qualified through the convention. Some candidates qualified through gathering signatures. Either way, if you vote in the Republican Primary election, again, just know that for every elected office where there is more than one name, each name represents people from the same political party who are competing for the same political office. The only reason why there are names on the ballot is because there is not yet a clear winner and the party needs to conduct a primary election to determine whose name gets to appear on the ballot to represent them in the general election in November.
Okay, now that we hopefully understand when — and if — a political party needs to hold a primary election let’s talk about primary elections here in Utah.
In Utah, the Republican party is the main political party. 1977 was the last time we elected a Democratic Governor. Across the state Republican candidates consistently win roughly 70% of the vote. In our legislature our state senate is made up of 29 senators. Of those senators 23 are Republican and 6 are Democrats. That’s 80% Republican, 20% from Democratic party. I don’t think Republican senators have to worry too much about what the Democrats think. In the House it’s the same. Out of the 75 House representatives, 59 or 80% are Republicans and 16 or 20% are from the Democratic party.
What do these numbers tell you? The Republicans win, Democrats lose. As harsh as that sounds, that’s the way things are currently in Utah.
But there’s another problem. While all of the other political parties in the state have open primaries, meaning anyone can vote in their primary elections, the Republican primary is closed. That means only registered Republicans can vote. This does make sense from a logical standpoint — I mean, only those who are members of the party should be allowed to participate in their primary elections, right?
Except…. Because the Republican party has such a super majority in most of the state, the Republican primary election basically becomes THE election. So, the Republican Primary that’s taking place right now until June 30th is determining who our governor will be, who the Attorney General will be, who your House Representative is and your State Senator, your Congressman… you name it. So unless you’re a registered Republican, you don’t really get to determine who wins in November.
Wait, what? Let’s think about it for a second. Republicans win almost all of the races during the general election in November. No other party really has a chance of winning. Now, the Republican primary election determines which Republican candidate, only one, gets to move on to the November election. When the rest of the voters who are not registered Republican get their ballot in November and they’re looking at who they can vote for in November, they will have one Republican, one Democrat, one Libertarian, one Independent American and one write-in candidate. And who always wins? The one Republican — the one who was selected during the Republican Primary election.
That’s even worse for some of these smaller races like mine. The Senate seat was determined by only a handful of people voting in the convention. There were three other candidates and you don’t even get to look at them. It’s already been decided.
People in our state have figured out that the only way to get voted into office is to play the Republican party game. People who do not even align with the Republican party have switched over to try and find a way to win. Congressman John Curtis who represents the 3rd Congressional district was originally a Democrat but made the switch because, honestly, what other choice did he have?
We have been trained to think that the only way to win in Utah is to be Republican because of the closed primary. A very large number of people stay registered Republican but do not personally align with the party. This year it’s been particularly bad with lots of people saying that you should change your party affiliation temporarily so that you can vote in the “real” but closed election.
Um… Anyone else see a problem here?
Here’s another problem. We all pay for the Republican party’s closed primary election, even though we don’t get to vote in them. That’s right. If you’re not registered Republican you don’t get to vote, but you still have to pay for it. Our public officers do all the behind the scenes work of facilitating the Primary elections, printing ballots, mailing out ballots, collecting and processing ballots, paying poll workers, and publishing results — all paid for by taxpayer dollars. That’s not including the costs incurred to host debates and any other additional activities related to primary elections.
This fact about the Republican Primary elections in Utah is the thing that flipped the switch for me. I believe that in a Democracy we should have choices. I believe each voter should have a say who represents them. I also believe we shouldn’t be stuck picking between Republicans or Democrats. In certain areas of the state, there is really only one choice — which isn’t much of a choice. Politicians who have figured out how to work the system only have to worry about the system and not the voter.
Braving Politics Together invites you to join us in changing things for the better. So much of what happens in politics is intimidating and complicated, designed to keep the majority of us unaware of what’s going on. It doesn’t have to be that way. Help us share our message so that more of us are aware of how things work and why. Together we can decide a better way.
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