My feelings on "Operation Chaos" as suggested by one member of the Utah Legislature
by Emily Bingham Hollingshead
Yesterday afternoon, a republican legislator made a call on his Facebook page encouraging all registered republicans in the 2nd congressional district to "cross over" to the Democratic side, vote in the Democratic party primary, and vote for the "liberal Claudia Wright" in order to ensure a win for their guy, Morgan Philpot. Mr. Legislator reasoned that Philpot "could easily beat the liberal in the conservative 2nd Congressional district."
Earlier today he retracted his statement and removed the offending status update, and told his Facebook friends that his plan for "operation chaos" was misguided and and that his tone was "unintentional."
Unfortunately many of us who are following this election like our lives depend on it have already seen the entry. Taking the comments down has absolutely no effect, because it's already out there. We' have been talking about his remarks ever since, and we even have screenshots. So we aren't going to let him, or Republicans for that matter, off the hook so easily.
Before I continue, here are some facts about the Utah Primary system:
1. If you vote in a Democratic primary, it is open to all voters - we don't make you change party affiliation (if you want to stay a republican or an unaffiliated voter, you can).
2. If you vote in a Republican primary, you have to be a registered Republican - it's closed to only Republican voters.
3. You can't vote in both primaries - so crossing over to our side means you can't vote for your guy in your primary (i.e. that little Senate race that the R's are so concerned about).
What I find the most ridiculous about the suggestion to "cross over" and stuff our ballot box, is that the whole thing was put on Facebook, where political minds of every flavor are watching like hawks. Nice way to show us what you're thinking.
Some have asked "what is wrong with this as a campaign strategy?" - as if encouraging people to abuse the sacred voting right with trickery is ethical. I don't believe it is ethical, nor do I believe it is a campaign strategy that shows us their guy can win. Elections should be won on the merits of the candidates in the game, period -- no matter *who* the opponent is.
Anybody who is willing to waste a vote on a person they would never otherwise vote for may believe he is doing the right thing to help his "real" candidate. I can only say that this is misguided and an abuse of one's voting power, and I hope that people will always try to cast a vote for the person whom they believe best represents their values, opinions, and political perspectives. There are enough games in politics - as a matter of fact, the Tea Party folks claim on a daily basis that they are *tired* of politics as usual. This vote switching business is as stinky as the stuff that goes on in Washington which they abhor.
Friends have asked me why we don't just close the Democratic primary to registered Democrats... seems like doing so would solve the problem of a primary being infiltrated by the opposition, right? But I think that such a move is just chicken. Democrats have always been "the big tent" party and there is no reason for us to stop doing that now. There is no data to support that such "infiltration" has been successful, at least not in Utah - and so while infiltration seems a bit threatening , the effect would probably be neutral. I am perfectly comfortable in keeping our primaries open, and offering an alternative voice to all of Utah's voters.
But I will tell you what. If for some reason, all you republicans show up in droves to vote in the Utah Democratic Party primary, we won't let you forget it. See, when you vote in a primary, both parties know who you are -- we don't know who you vote for, but we know that you have shown up.
Therefore I make the following promise:
Dear Republican... if your name ends up on our rolls, we will simply note in our voting records that you are someone who is willing to cross party lines to support Democrats, and we promise to do the following to show our gratitude:
- We promise to infiltrate your mailbox with our literature with as much information as we can possibly send to you about our liberal candidates
- We promise that we will call you and ask for money to support our liberal candidates
- We promise that we will even ask you to volunteer on a liberal campaign or two.
- We promise that our candidates will show up on your doorstep and ask you to put a sign in your yard.
After all - politics is a game in which we try to all work together to put the best people in our elected positions, so that we can all come together to create the best policies for Utah. That's the bipartisanship that everyone is craving in this difficult political climate.
So... infiltration and ballot box stuffing, Mr. Legislator? What an odd way to cross party lines to get things done.
Emily Bingham Hollingshead is a political consultant and Democratic Party activist. She is also the Communications Director for the Utah House Democrats and has worked on several winning legislative campaigns.
In 2006, she was the Democratic candidate for Senate District 28, a 6 county seat that encompasses much of the 2nd Congressional district. (No, she didn't win and credits the race for giving her broader insight into the minds of Utah voters).