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Pignanelli and Webb: Rigged election system, governor's race and Libertarians

Jonathan Johnson and Gov. Gary Herbert at the Utah State Republican Convention at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City Saturday, April 23, 2016.
Jonathan Johnson and Gov. Gary Herbert at the Utah State Republican Convention at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City Saturday, April 23, 2016.
Jeffrey D. Allred

After a week of sunshine, clear skies and warming temperatures, it can be hard for Utahns to focus on politics. Because we are one-dimensional, we insist on dragging readers back to depressing reality.

Some 59 percent of Utahns agree with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders that the U.S. election system is “rigged,” according to a recent poll. Is the system really rigged, or is this just a perception?

Pignanelli: “The system is rigged. It is designed to be rigged.” — Matt Dowd, ABC News

Yes, the nomination system is stacked against outsiders — but that is an important feature in American politics. Our beloved country cannot allow insurgent misfits — i.e. socialists and television reality stars — to capture the presidential nomination of major political parties.

Well, that was the hope.

Politics is just like anything else important in life — business, sports, romance, etc. Success in all these endeavors is dependent upon tenacity, timing, talent, toughness and temerity (Yes, I am proud of this alliteration.). For those who do not understand these essential requirements, the system seems fixed. But the reality is American presidential elections, including the nomination process, is a meat grinder accessible to those who possess all the necessary ingredients.

Democracy is what occurs on Election Day. Everything else is in politics is fair game for manipulation, strong-arming and patronizing. The parties have the right to construct any nonviolent, non-discriminatory, method to determine nominees. Yet, Democrats and Republicans have made the process very inclusive with primaries, especially when compared to the infamous back door dealings of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The current system is lightly and appropriately rigged to advance insiders (i.e. Clinton, barely) but to allow clever outsiders (i.e. Obama, Trump).

Webb: Of course, in this cynical era of anger and distrust, most people agree with Trump and Sanders that the system is rigged. Yet Trump has emerged victorious, and Sanders has far exceeded expectations in the very system they criticize.

The “rigged” argument centers on how much influence “insiders” (like elected officials and party leaders) should have, versus how much the process should be democratized among all voters. The Democrats have tilted toward insider influence by giving Democratic leaders “superdelegate” status, thinking those insiders will prevent the masses from nominating a populist (like Sanders) who can’t win in the general election.

Republicans got rid of superdelegates some time ago. That gives the party base and political activists extra influence, especially in caucus states. If Republicans still had a large number of superdelegates, Trump may not be the nominee.

The crazy-quilt array of nomination processes and procedures among the various states can also be confusing, along with tortuous battles over party rules and procedures. Yes, the political process is inconsistent and rough-and-tumble. But the unprepared get weeded out.

If we were to create a sensible, simple, national primary system where the rules are the same everywhere, it would be a big blow to federalism and state control. Candidates would stop paying attention to individual states. The process isn’t perfect and could use some reforms, but it’s better than the alternatives.

The governor’s race took an interesting turn with the entry of SuperPAC FreedomWorks into the fray in behalf of Jonathan Johnson. Will this have an impact?

Pignanelli: Campaign veterans are wondering why this national organization waited until late May to launch its attacks against Gov. Gary Herbert. The GOP state convention would have been a natural launching pad for these efforts. Further, FreedomWorks has a mixed scorecard in Utah. It helped elevate Mike Lee to the U.S. Senate, but could not defeat Orrin Hatch. Politicos believe Herbert will be equally impervious to these attacks.

Webb: FreedomWorks will hurt, not help, Johnson. It will appeal only to right-wing voters already likely to vote for Johnson. Why a national conservative organization would attack one of the top two or three most conservative governors in the nation is way beyond me (unless their real goal is to raise money). Maybe they ought to find a liberal to attack. We don’t need a D.C.-based special interest group telling us how to vote in Utah.

For the first time in political history, the Libertarian Party is receiving attention as a real alternative to the mainstream candidates. Will Utahns consider a Libertarian in 2016?

Pignanelli: America’s strongest third-party has a real opportunity this election. But it needs to abandon the weird stuff to gain traction. At the national convention, delegates discussed whether America should have entered both world wars, and one speaker stripped on stage. Fortunately, the adults prevailed and selected two prominent governors for their ticket — Gary Johnson (New Mexico) and William Weld (Massachusetts). Maintaining a mature non-bizarre presence will attract a larger percentage of Americans … and Utahns.

Webb: A vote for a Libertarian candidate is a wasted vote. If I refuse to vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton, I’d at least want to write in someone I’d like to see as president, like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan. Johnson and Weld are fringe candidates who would weaken the military and move America toward isolationism.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is the president/CEO of the Special Olympics of Utah. Email: