1937! 1937!

Supporters of the caucus system in Utah constantly point to 1937 to make their argument against open primaries.

They use the example of a “powerful Democratic state senator” who wanted to run for governor. He convinced the legislature to change to an open primary, and he won. But “because of media and public disillusionment” the open primary lasted only 10 years.

Fair points. But using something that happened more than 70 years ago to prove something now is a bit disingenuous.

For a fair comparison, let’s look at some of the other things that happened in 1937:

  • Howard Hughes flies from New York to Los Angeles in 7 hours and 28 minutes.
  • William Hastie is the first African American appointed to a federal judgeship in the U.S.
  • The world’s first jet engine is tested in England.
  • The Hindenburg explodes in New Jersey.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge opened.
  • Picasso completes his Guernica painting.
  • Amelia Earhart disappears during her attempt to fly around the world.
  • The first guard takes his place at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C.
  • Spam is introduced to the world.
  • The Soviet Union begins the “Great Purge” where more than 700,000 people were killed.
  • Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premieres.

Look at that list. Lots of air advancements and air disasters that year. But, using the caucus argument, we should have switched back to rail transit because that’s much safer.

There are plenty of things that have changed in the U.S. since 1937. How about the Civil Rights movement? There are many in the South who would love to go back to the days of Jim Crow because they are “disillusioned” with the current system. I’m sure those people think things worked just fine before the 1960’s. Thank goodness we didn’t listen to them.

The point being, it’s ridiculous to point to events that happened nearly 8 decades ago as a justification for keeping things as they are. It’s not an “apples to apples” comparison. It’s more of an “apples to something that’s been composting for 70+ years” comparison.

Sure, Utah tried open primaries once and it didn’t work so well…in 1937.

But, if the open primary is such a flawed system, then why does nearly every other state in the U.S. use some form of it? If Utah’s system is so superior, then why are we decidedly in the minority?

Is Utah smarter than those states? Our public education system would suggest otherwise.

Caucus defenders are grasping at any straw they can find to justify the existence of an outdated and archaic system that lets them keep power in Utah politics.

And, that’s what this is about. Power.

They say those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

Utah’s extreme political environment, fostered by the caucus system, is a lesson we need to stop failing.