The days of flag burning are gone

People who protest often appear to be too naive to understand the political process.

Lots of people complain that the youth of today don’t protest injustice with the same intensity and commitment as they did in the 1960s.

So when I saw the pictures of thousands of protesters marching down the streets of Salt Lake City during the immigration debates, I thought maybe times were changing.

Then I attended the Salt Lake County Republican Convention and realized how changes in Utah politics are wrought. I also realized that all those marchers had wasted their time.

I was at the convention as a county delegate-one of only about 1,200 people who decided which candidates will run for political office this fall. I didn’t see a single Latino person there.

I voted in five elections. Every candidate running in each of those five elections tried to contact me several times to find out what my voting priorities were and how he or she could earn my vote.

Had I cared about immigration, I could have forced the dozen or so candidates banging down my door to care about immigration, too, in order to get on the ticket.

Don’t think you can’t hold this power, too. Becoming a delegate was so easy, and it is impossible to argue that minorities were discriminated against at the neighborhood caucuses.

One Sunday in church, my leaders announced that no church meetings should be held the night of the neighborhood caucus meetings so congregation members could fulfill their civic duty. I asked what a caucus meeting was, where it was and when. The guy I asked only knew where the Republican meeting was, so I went to that one.

Six people from my church sat on one end of the Lincoln Elementary School gymnasium to represent the southwest end of Liberty Park. Three of the people already had positions, another was about to have a baby and didn’t want a position, so my wife’s friend and I became county delegates. It was that easy.

At the convention I found that it was even easier to be a delegate than I had thought. At some neighborhood meetings only one person showed up, so that person, and maybe his or her spouse, became the delegates.

Had the activists who organized the marches gotten voters who cared about immigration to attend their Republican caucus meetings, I can almost guarantee there would have been dozens, maybe hundreds of Latino delegates at the convention. If those delegates made clear that immigration was their number-one concern, I have no doubt there would be some big changes in the Utah State Legislature.

Attending my neighborhood caucus for 30 minutes, then the convention for about four hours, took no more time than attending a rally or a march. Yet the only people who care about marches and rallies are television news crews. Politicians care about getting elected.

Therefore, they care about delegates.

Maybe that explains why today’s youth don’t protest like their parents’ generation. The political system today is wide open and anyone can get involved. There’s no need for civil disobedience or burning flags.

It was so easy to influence politicians that I now realize activists who don’t organize people to work within the political system are obviously too naive to deserve attention.