How Utah Shows Us Our Future After the Accountability Rule

We have written a whole bunch on the battle in Catoosa County as the GOP there has dug in on the idea that a room full of backroom deal makers should limit ballot access and prevent people they do not like from running for reelection as a Republican. At issue is the so called “accountability rule,” or as I prefer it be known, the “Alex Johnson Rule,” for the guy who is pushing this idea. If it were to be seriously implemented, it would allow just a few local party bosses to determine who could run for office under the Republican banner, excluding hundreds of thousands of voters who participate in GOP Primaries in Georgia.

It is my belief that the fight over the Alex Johnson Rule and it’s ultimate failure is just a single step in a much larger strategy. The ultimate goal of Alex Johnson and his acolytes is not to actually implement the rule broadly, but to move Georgia to a convention or caucus system, where instead of primaries small groups of activists nominate candidates without allowing the general voting public to have their say. The idea is that party activists are more informed than regular voters and therefore know who should be nominated to run as a Republican. But are they, really?

It is my opinion that the activist class within the GAGOP is not more informed on the issues than the bulk of voters who participate in the current party primary system, but I will concede they are certainly more angry. And anger has its place in politics as a powerful motivator, however it cannot be the only reason we take action to fight the left in our state and nationwide. With the ideological divide between the parties so obvious, our most important motivator should be to advocate for the system which would produce the most electable Republicans we can get.

We know for a fact that the activist class within the GAGOP is not representative of Georgia voters because they have told us so. Ahead of the 2022 GAGOP primary for Governor a poll of convention attendees found support for incumbent Governor, Brian Kemp, at about 32%. This was in spite of his generally favorable approval rating among all voters and specifically Republican voters who do not attend conventions. When the primary vote was tallied, Kemp earned about 74% of the GAGOP votes, a massive 42 point difference between the convention attendee and the average GAGOP voter.

Instead of taking time to analyze those two outcomes introspectively and wonder how they can improve their messaging to appeal to more people, the angry folks decided to try and eliminate those voters who disagree with them instead. The first step is the accountability rule. But they have had to know that the rule would fail when they tried it. And so the next step is to use that failure as fuel to convince the angry activists that in order to save the party we should eliminate primaries altogether and only allow convention attendees to select nominees.

Today, Brian Kemp’s approval rating sits at about 62%, a monumental number in a supposedly purple state. This is a governor who signed the heartbeat bill, massive tax reductions, constitutional carry, and school choice. He fought back against false media narratives like Jim Crow 2 dot Oh and the blistering attacks he weathered when he reopened the state after COVID. Its like living in a veritable conservative wonderland and yet the angry class continues to condemn him because the majority of voters must be the ones who are wrong because he isn’t a conservative, or something. Make it make sense!

Interestingly, we can see what the future holds for Georgia if we move to a convention system by turning our eyes westward to another red state, Utah.

The Utah GOP (UTGOP) employs the very closed convention system certain Goofballs, Rejects, and A-holes in Georgia dream about. To be considered the official UTGOP nominee, the activist class must approve of you at a convention. However, in a twist, if a candidate does not receive the official UTGOP nomination, they can then solicit signatures for ballot access. This arrangement allows us to lay bare for all to see the massive disconnect between activists who attend conventions in Utah and the broader electorate in real time.

And just like we have seen in the GAGOP, the convention delegates in the UTGOP appear to be out of touch with what the general electorate actually wants.

I had the opportunity to meet Utah’s Governor, Spencer Cox, last year when I heard him speak about a national effort he was undertaking to restore civility to our political debates and teach Americans how to disagree better. He’s earnest in his effort, never abandoning his conservative ideology, yet reaching across the aisle to reestablish respectful and dignified disagreements.

During his speech seeking the UTGOP nomination for reelection, Governor Cox was met with loud boos from UTGOP delegates reminiscent of Governor Kemp’s heated reception at the GAGOP convention in 2021. The boos prompted Cox to discard his speech and go off the cuff.

Maybe you’re upset that I signed the largest tax cut in Utah history. Maybe you hate that I signed constitutional carry. Maybe you hate that I signed the most pro-life legislation in Utah history. Maybe you hate that I sent troops to the border. Maybe you hate the 60 lawsuits we filed against President Biden and this administration. Maybe you hate that we stopped DEI and ESG and CRT. Or maybe it’s something much more cynical. Maybe you hate that I don’t hate enough.

Governor Spencer Cox to the UTGOP State Convention

Man, all of that sounds like a movie based on real events we have already lived.

When all of the votes at the convention were counted, Spencer Cox, an incumbent Republican Governor with a record of tax cuts, being prolife, anti-DEI, etc, could only muster 32.5% of the convention votes. The official UTGOP nomination for Governor went instead to Phil Lyman.

But it appears that Cox knew that seeking the official nomination for Governor from the UTGOP convention was a lost cause because he showed up already having collected the signatures necessary to get on the primary ballot. So voters will get a say and early indications are that Cox is going to smoke Lyman, much like Kemp smoked Perdue. One poll puts Lyman’s support among actual UTGOP voters at 4%, with Cox over 50% and 37% undecided. Among Utah Republicans who have an opinion (eliminating the undecideds), Cox gets to 81%.

Winning elections is a simple math problem, really, which only requires addition. Earn a vote, keep it, and go get more. However this angry class of activists like the folks in charge of the Catoosa County GOP refuse that tried and true method of winning and instead want to shrink the number of people involved in selecting our GOP candidates. I guess their hope is that they can force candidates who do not appeal to the majority of voters on us in hopes that the other side is somehow worse. It’s like trying to win elections through subtraction. It is a bizarre race to the bottom.

All of this is to say that if you care about your vote in primaries, you should start paying attention to what those angry people are doing to take it away from you. Because after the Alex Johnson Rule fails, they are going to come for you and take away your ability to vote in primaries. And just like in Utah, the activists in the GAGOP have shown us they do not care what the majority of Republican voters think at all.

2 Replies to “How Utah Shows Us Our Future After the Accountability Rule”

  1. “Maybe you hate that we stopped DEI and ESG and CRT.”

    Just musing here…not criticizing your argument….does the Ga Legislature have the power to ban DEI from all levels of government in Georgia? I ask, because here in Cobb, Dem Commish Chair Lisa Cupid was very proud of initiating a DEI office…and its a colossal waste of money.

    Good article, Scot.

  2. Thanks for the compliment, Bill.

    When it comes to cities, the legislature has pretty much free reign to tell them what to do because they are created by the legislature. Counties, however, have more home rule protections under the State Constitution. All of that is to say that the legislature may have some authority, but it would be a much harder needle to thread.

Leave a Reply