Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Minnesota Caucuses

Last night I went to my caucus. It was cold and dark and not an exciting election year, but 11 people showed up from the township, of which 10 were willing to be delegates at the next level, the (state) Senate District caucus on March 9. We are eligible to send 14, but 10 was a pretty good showing for our little township. It took about 90 minutes to complete the business, because two people had brought resolutions, which required a little discussion/explanation before they were entered into the record. Most of the time was taken up by reading out policies and procedures, getting people to count the ballots for the straw poll for governor, and reading more statements from the party leadership and more notes about policies and procedures. There was some good discussion on the resolution process-- what it is, what it means, how it works. We had two solid people there who are really into DFL politics and are willing to be our chair and alternate for two years and represent us at the larger meetings.

After that 90 minutes, however, all that had really happened was that we signed up to attend March 9. The straw poll for governor was pretty meaningless: there are 11 candidates and 6 people voted "uncommitted." The rest were split between 4 candidates.

Yesterday on the radio I heard debate about whether or not the caucus system should be continued. Those against it were arguing that it's a closed system that doesn't really welcome everyone and that is only a way to get party insiders to choose a candidate. Well, our group certainly was not a bunch of "insiders" and was very welcoming. But what did we accomplish?

I have one political goal this year: work to defeat Michelle Bachmann as my congressional representative. I am voting for and advocating Tarryl Clark, who is in the state senate and a hard-working, moderate candidate who seems capable of working across the aisle. She has another contender, Maureen Reed, a doctor from Stillwater who has not held office before.

Last night had very little to do with this race, and yet it had a lot to do with it. At the next caucus, we'll be lining up to choose delegates to the district caucus, some of whom will then go to the state caucus, where the party endorsement will be decided. The party endorsement means significant money (and momentum) for the candidate. There will still be a primary, and both candidates can run in that, to see who is on the ballot in November. This is just about the party endorsement and so party funding.

I will go to the senate district caucus on March 9 and stand with a group that pledges to vote for Taryl Clark in the next caucus, although they may have other things on their agenda (including the governor's race) that results in my delegate switching issues in the district caucus, or sends a delegate from the next level who votes differently at the state level.  If I want to be sure my vote goes to Taryl Clark, I need to commit to being a delegate all the way down the line-- which means more Saturdays and more traveling, and a lot more reading of the policies and procedures.

I'm not a political animal in that way. I want to show up and vote and move on with it. The two people running our caucus really seemed engaged by the process, by gathering and counting and writing things down and putting slips in envelopes and etc. I'm quite happy we have them to keep our township in the process, even if I see the process as very flawed indeed.

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