#513 – Dick Bernard: Going to the Precinct Caucus, thinking about 100 Years

We’ll be at our Precinct Caucus tonight, at a Middle School in rural Lake Elmo ‘a hop and a skip’ from where Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann lives alongside a golf course.
Many precincts will convene at this school, same as always.
Four years ago, Feb. 5, 2008…well, here’s what I said, then:
“I’ve attended precinct caucuses for years. Our particular caucus location for the last several years has been a junior high school a 15 minute drive from me, just off I-94.
That’s 15 minutes on a normal day.
Tonight it took almost an hour to drive to the location, most of that time spent in the last half mile jammed bumper to bumper on the freeway and the exit ramp, and then another 15 minutes to walk to the school from my car which I had to park on the shoulder of the road.
The time spent had everything to do with the precinct caucus attendance, which was HUGE.
My caucus location was teeming with young people. The young guy who serves me coffee most mornings at my local Caribou was there, volunteering
for Al Franken. It is nice to make occasional unexpected connections like these….”

Two years later, sometime in early February, 2010, we went again, to the same school. Afterward, I didn’t write a word about it. Our local Senate District bulletin a few weeks ago said there were 300 at that Caucus. It was like a private gathering in our caucus classroom. Thence came the 2010 election. 41% of eligible Americans voted (55% of Minnesotans). We know the results. The election statistics on voter participation in 2008 and 2010 tell the tale: here for 2010; here for 2008. In 2008 62% of Americans and 78% of Minnesotans voted. (As I write, there are efforts at our legislature to make it more difficult for people to vote. Ah, freedom and democracy….)
A few hours from now we’ll be back at that school. Tomorrow I’ll report.
Why do I include “thinking about 100 Years” in my headline?
For the last several months there has been a frequent television ad for the fossil fuel industry, bragging, in several renditions, about the 100 years of natural fossil fuel resource we have left, making it seem like 100 years is a long time. You’ve likely seen one or more rendition of the ad over the last six months or so. Oh, so reassuring. We’ve got 100 years….
Even the most conservative Bible literalists say the earth has been around for a few thousand years now. We’re running out of time, and pretending that the good times can continue to roll on for at least 100 years. And then what? (I first publicly wrote about this in #4 on April 7, 2009. It’s been on my mind.)
This is your country, and the next generations future.
Get to caucus. Get well informed. And participate in the most important thing you can do: an informed vote in November.

Letter I submitted to Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday (not printed, possibly still pending):

A letter writer on Monday declares “I will never again vote for any Republican or Democrat running at the state or federal level…[rather] go to the best third-party or independent candidate that I can find.”
Apparently, by this action, the writer (and many angry fellow travelers like him) believes he/they can make a difference by voting for people who don’t have a chance, and who often effectively help to elect people even less desirable than the successful Republican or Democrat they despise.
Maybe he thinks his action is superior to those nearly 60% of Americans who didn’t vote at all in 2010, many of whom now complain about this dysfunctional Congress and Legislature they chose to have no part in electing.
Or others who voted with absolutely no knowledge of who – or what – they were voting for.
Reminds me of this grumpy old man I once saw in the polling booth next to me. His wife was with him, and after voting he loudly exclaimed, “now I have the right to complain”.
Ah, what fools we are. We have exactly what we deserve.

Dick Bernard, Woodbury MN
NOTE: There seems plenty of confusion about how government actually works. Much of this is intentional on the part of political actors who attempt to deflect blame to someone else; another, even worse, is just plain ignorance of basic Civics. I can’t solve the problem of intentional ignorance in this blog, but it would perhaps be helpful to know the makeup of the United States Government, which you can see here Congress 1977-2011001, and by basic understanding of how laws are actually made (by lawmakers, Congresspeople and Senators, and not by the President.)