#1110 – Dick Bernard: One view of one Minnesota Precinct Caucus on Super Tuesday March 1, 2016

POSTS about Michigan, Iowa and New Hampshire are accessible here. More personal comments about Minnesota are found at end of this post, for March 2 and 7, 2016.
Our Precinct Caucus was one mile from our front door.
The traffic was so heavy that it would have made more sense to walk than to drive, though it was quite chilly. I found a parking space at the very back of the farthest away lot; then came a long walk to the school, then standing in a long line snaking into Woodbury High School.
It had very much a feeling of 2008, when the choices were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
There were, according to ballots for the Presidential preference, 151 people who came to our precinct, and signed in to register their preference for President.
About 50 of us (it appeared from the packed classroom) remained for the entire caucus.
Thus, two-thirds put their mark on a piece of paper and left immediately.
Our Precinct qualified for 30 delegates and 30 alternates to the next level.
13 volunteered to be delegates to the next level; no one volunteered to be alternates. Thus, if you volunteered, you were elected by consensus. No speeches were asked, or requested by candidates.
Every person could offer Resolutions on any issue.
Two of us offered Resolutions for consideration at the next level.
I was one of the two, offering resolutions from Common Cause Minnesota on three issues relating to voting and money in politics.
Another lady offered a heartfelt resolution on Water Quality. She was well prepared.
Both resolutions passed easily; both of us had to answer questions about our resolution.
The Presidential Preference in our Caucus:
85 – Bernie Sanders
66 – Hillary Clinton

The vote didn’t surprise me.
Most of those who voted left immediately, before the caucus actually convened.
The major decisions of who will be supported for President was left to those who will be delegates to at least the next level; and who will in turn select the delegates and begin the process of formally endorse the candidates for all offices at the state level.
It was a good night tonight. Too bad more didn’t come, and more didn’t stick around.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune headlined “Sanders, Rubio score key wins at jammed party caucus sites“; the Minnesota Secretary of States showed the statewide tallies (see them here).
There was no campaigning for votes last night. In fact, the Presidential preference poll was essentially concluded before the caucus meeting began. There were no campaign speeches, and the like.
Out of curiosity, I looked up to get an idea of the number of registered voters in my Woodbury precinct in the last Presidential election. It was 2601. Our district is relatively stable in population; it is generally DFL (Democrat), though roughly an even split.
Less than 5% of the registered voters in my precinct stopped by to cast Presidential Preference ballots last night, and our caucus was heavily attended.
13 of us, perhaps one percent of the registered DFL voters, became the decision makers. We became decision makers solely because we volunteered to become delegates.
We made no speeches, we did not need to declare our Presidential preference. Our “campaign” was our willingness to raise our hands and volunteer to serve. We now become the decision makers at the next level, the Senate District Convention on April 23, where we endorse candidates for local office, consider resolutions passed at the various precincts, etc.
I volunteered for the Resolutions Committee, which can be a tedious job, sifting and sorting through assorted resolutions, some of which require some discussion to determine what they mean. But every resolution is actually looked at by real citizens, and a report goes forward to the next level.
One dominant comment, yesterday noon, before the caucuses even convened, sticks in my mind: a friend said she heard some young people being interviewed. The sentiment was Sanders for President; and what if Sanders didn’t win the nomination? Probably the choice would be Trump….
I could not think of any more opposites than these two.
But I suspect that there are more than just students who are thinking in these terms.
It’s no wonder why we’re a very troubled democracy.

There were a number of comments to this post. At the time, my computer was running slow, and I couldn’t integrate them as received, but here are some afterthoughts for anyone interested.
1) Personally, I have some recurrent images from March 1
A) How important the meeting from 7-8 p.m. was (the caucus itself, about one-third of those who registered actually stayed for the entire caucus where the business of the evening was actually done.)
B) The literal stream of people I saw who left the caucus site and passed me by going to the parking lot as I was walking towards the caucus site about 6:30 p.m. They apparently came to “vote” for President, period.
C) The woman in the line waiting to get into the building who said she couldn’t believe there were this many Democrats in Woodbury. I asked her where she was from: she’d moved here from Iowa three years ago. People THINK this is a Republican stronghold, while it really isn’t. It isn’t the Republicans responsibility to point out that there are lots of Democrats in this community, and many others.
D) The young man standing off to the side as I was coming in and apparently knew me and called me “a usual suspect”. I didn’t recognize him at all. The tone of voice suggested he was an opposition observer. Anyone can come to a caucus.
2) As exemplified by 1B above, I am skeptical of any advantage to major changes in the Minnesota Caucus system in favor of a “Primary”, however devised. The political parties provide an essential function to endorse candidates and establish party platforms representing the breadth of this diverse populace. Those who came to vote only in our version of the “Straw Poll” but didn’t stay are another group, were interested only in a single office, the Presidency. Then there are the masses who just don’t bother.
I remember my learning about the impoverished country of Haiti, where the peasants were in assorted ways always denied the right to vote. When they achieved the right to vote, 90% of them did, and stood in line for many hours, enduring threats and violence.
In our educated society, we are amazed when 60% of the eligible voters vote for President (with lower percentages voting for the other candidates).
3) A comment came from a former colleague of mine, both of us had been involved in many organizing election campaigns. He uttered an organizing truism: “don’t peak too soon”. Of course, there’s a corollary: “don’t peak too late”. Single events, like the caucus, are important, but the successful campaign “plans its work, and works its plan”.
4) I remembered a key learning from long ago: stay on the offense; if you get trapped into being on the defensive, you’re losing. Donald Trump is masterful on going on the offense. It is easy to stay on the offense. You just have to decide to do it. Of course, a synonym for offense is offensive…there are problems with that, too.
5) Caveat Emptor: Karl Rove perfected the black art of making an opponents positive into a negative. This reared its ugly head in the John Kerry campaign in 2004, when decorated Vietnam war veteran John Kerry was “swift-boated”, successfully.
The same kind of tactic has become institutionalized: for example, Hillary Clinton’s extensive experience in policy making is made to be a liability. She was Senator from a large State, New York, of which New York City is a major part, and U.S. Secretary of State, not to mention First Lady of the U.S. for eight years, and all of these are made to be liabilities…because she was elected to represent the immense diversity of her state and our nation on the world stage.
And Hillary is a strong woman, and it is my sad observation over many years, that many women seem to resent stronger appearing women…. Her being a woman is cast as a liability…probably even among many women.
And it is a near certainty (my opinion) that many of the anti-Hillary talking points embraced by too many of the progressive left were planted by the right-wing propaganda apparatus.
6) There is a distressing inclination in our country to hold the President, and only the President, accountable, while ignoring the impact of the Congress, whose members we also elect, and can effectively throttle any President (see #5, again). Republican Presidents are sainted, whatever their faults; Democrat Presidents are demonized from the get-go.
Some years ago, for my own information, I did a graphic to represent the reality of Congress-President 1977-2013. You can view it here:US Congress 1977-2013001. A useful graphic from 1855 to present day is here.
If there is a demon in today’s American politics, it is the right wing hatred of the very government it seeks to control.
7) In the long term – in the case of election 2016 from now till November – I think my party, the Democrats (DFL) are best served by focusing on positive leadership, rather than negative positioning. I think the oft-cited “American people” want good government and appreciate things that are accomplished for the common good…and it has been the Democrats who have championed these goals.
But, that’s just my opinion.
My choice for President? Hillary Clinton, with Bernie Sanders for Vice-President…. here

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