The Process of Politics (Continued from Feb. 8)

On occasion, my wordpress platform gets irritated and says “no more revisions”. Yesterdays “The Process of Politics” was an example. I don’t know why; it just dug in its heels and refused to allow me to insert these comments, which add to the conversation I began about the Precinct Caucus (the base of Minnesota political process) and politics generally. So, here are the comments, and yours are solicited: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

Picture an eagle flying with only a single wing, or with simply a head…. photo by Dick Bernard, October, 2008, at dedication of gift by Mary Lou Nelson at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

from Jeff: Was gone at meetings in St Cloud most of the day, so skipped this time. Glad to hear you went! I like the candidates I see… good candidate for the state rep here, she is an immigrant from Africa, looks very
Sharp, good story, and has good background… GOTV [Get out the Vote] as usual will be the crux, my district kind of takes in Western Burnsville and most of Savage… it tends to be a bit more conservative than rest of Burnsville.

from Norm: I attended my precinct caucus (Roseville-3) and had a very positive experience with it as well. There about 45 people who signed in and I think that most of them stayed for the entire session and not just until they had voted in the straw poll. We had 31-people interested in filling the 30 senate district convention delegate slots (2/24/18) and one of them….a late comer…volunteered to be an alternate. As such, there was no need to vote to select the delegates to the senate district convention.

On the other hand, a friend of mine was in the caucus of another precinct on the A side of SD42 who told me that 90 people signed in at his caucus with most of them staying for the entire session that went until 9:30. He told me that they had twice as many folks who wanted to be delegates as they had delegate slots allotted to them. He said that they all worked it out to the apparent satisfaction of everyone with folks dividing up amongst the delegate and alternate slots available.

As such, no voting was required nor was the use of the cumbersome and time consuming sub-caucus process.

On the other hand, I always find the names of the proposed sub-caucuses at senate district conventions to be interesting. Frequently, they appear to be nominated by a person who claims to be a life-long DFLer, i.e. my bias is that to some of them, life-long means since they registered for the convention but… who just never participated in the process but now wants to get involved. Further, he/she feels that persons with his/her background have been ignored by the DFL and it is sure as hell time for the party involved…and not just to send old party hacks to the convention.

I can see it now some of the caucuses that might be nominated based upon my long experience with the process, i.e. Left Handed Norwegians who Secretly Wear Suspenders and do not like lefse! or Right Handed Swedes who do not like egg coffee! or (fill in the blanks).

We had 6 or 7 resolutions introduced on a variety of issues including the one that I introduced on behalf of the Veteran’s Caucus relating to the requested replacement of 150-beds at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis. That number of beds had apparently been lost due to the renovation and remodeling of the facility that included making lots of single and double bed rooms in areas that previously included rooms with several beds in them. It passed unanimously with little fanfare.

The caucus night for SD42 was very well organized and everything went very smooth that I was aware of. Some local candidates and/or office holders did come by as interrupters as they were referred to but no statewide candidates. [A candidate for Governor] was in the hallway when we left the caucus following its adjournment. [The couple] had just gotten there after first stopping at another senate district precinct caucus site where [the candidate] had talked to more than 20-precincts.

You are absolutely right that everyone can participate in the caucus/convention process but very few do no matter what is done to make them more attractive, if you will, including a failed effort a few cycles ago to hold them on a Saturday morning on the assumption that it would draw more people due to convenience. It did not do that and the turnout may well have been less than it had been on Tuesdays.

Well intentioned but no connection to the reality of the busy Saturdays that folks have, especially those with children involved in kids activities.

Given the large tent that we all like to say that we gather under…everyone is welcome…I have long since concluded that the much heralded concern over underrepresented groups is cute and all but has little value. I am convinced based upon my long experience with the caucus process and observations made of it is that folks make the decision to be underrepresented and there is not really much over time that can be done to make them think otherwise.

My individual concern with the caucus system when it is used as the vehicle for party endorsement especially for state wide offices is that thanks to grass roots organizing and whatever, it often produces a candidate who does not have a chance in hell of winning the primary let alone the general election. In addition, many candidates including Dayton on three successful occasions, have gone directly to the primary on the correct assumption that the folks making the endorsement decision through the caucus process do not represent the voters at large let alone the DFL voters at large. The primary always provides the opportunity for the voters to make a mid-course correction if they do not agree with what the endorsement process has placed on the ballot.

Response from Dick: Good comment. I’ll add it to the comments section on the blog. The flaws of the system will never be fully corrected. They are only replaced by other flaws, in my opinion. But it beats the alternative. I will be watching how the “youngsters” do in SD53A. I was impressed with all of them. They are who we were 40 years ago!

Reply from Norm: I agree.

I now enjoy watching the younger folks, i.e. do their thing, that is, us as you said 40-years ago, and see and hear how they do things.

On the other hand, regardless of the age of the participants, I continue to have strong concerns regarding the use of the caucus/convention process to endorse candidates for statewide office (it is very good for local legislative contests) as I think that it very seldom produces a candidate who can win the primary let alone the general election.

Further, given that we are all under a big tent with strong passionate beliefs about this or that, we often find it difficult to get behind the endorsed candidate, i.e. the candidate who wins the primary, because we are miffed or feel slighted that our candidate who “obviously was the best candidate available” did not receive the endorsement.

As Wellstone said, when all do well we all do well or something to that effect. [“We all do better when we all do better.” See 8th paragraph.]

We are a coalition based party, Dick, and, as such, that means that the tent holds the seeds for great success in elections and public policy development when we all pull together. Unfortunately, the big tent also holds the seeds for our destruction and not well during elections resulting in our having to sit on the sidelines whining ain’t it awful because we cannot get together following passionate debates and discussions regarding the merits of this candidate or that candidate during passionate endorsement contests.

So, some of us sit on our hands and stay home or vote for the other party.

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