Minnesota Precinct Caucuses or Harry crosses thru the Looking Glass

Last night, like Alice through the Looking Glass, I found myself in a strange new world. For 35 years I’ve attended Republican caucuses – until last night. Our city councilor Greg Gilbert turned around half way through the caucus and asked me, “Harry, aren’t you a Republican?” ”Not tonight,” I told him.There were others who were surprised to see me at a Democratic caucus. One was a former School Board member with whom I’ve tangled. Another was a fellow who stopped by my house a couple days ago to thank me for taking on the Reverend Young. As was the case in my former GOP caucus there was little need to debate because there was such unanimity of opinion, albeit in the opposite direction. For the Republicans, the debate is moot anyway because the Party has virtually encased its platform in stone so that it varies little from year to year. When the all but extinct liberal Republicans attempted to do a similar thing back in 1972 the conservatives squashed the proposal like a bug.The DFL platform probably changes greatly every election year, depending on which hot buttons are, well, hot. Where Republicans obsess about pro-life issues, pro heterosexuality, pro-gun stuff, and reducing taxes it’s just the opposite in the DFL caucus. While Republicans obsess about the unborn the DFL introduced a pie-in-the-sky resolution to rescue all Minnesota children from poverty. The resolution was vague, noble and probably prohibitively expensive. Nonetheless it passed unanimously.

Many of the resolutions were true to the big spending habits of Democrats. I voted for most of them thinking that the spirit of generosity they embodied was noble even if they would likely foment a taxpayer’s revolt if successfully implemented. The challenge for Democrats is to knit the social safety net together while restraining their liberality with some fiscal discipline. It’s not an easy balancing act. Of course, on the Federal level the Republican Party has completely abandoned fiscal discipline so the Dems can hardly be faulted. At least none of the Democrats financial wish list is aimed at an increasingly unpopular and mismanaged war.

I had been forewarned about the special hot button for the evening’s caucus a few hours earlier at the fitness center while I was suiting up to swim my mile. An old liberal was at his locker and I asked him if he was planning to caucus. “Oh yes,” he said, he told me that he was all set to introduce a resolution to impeach Bush. That gave me a couple hours to frame my objections to the resolution which would inevitably turn up in my DFL caucus too.When it did I was the only person to speak against it. I argued that the resolution, while no doubt satisfying, was a potential distraction for the Party. Political pundits all across the nation, I argued, were waiting to see how the Democrats could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this upcoming election. I added that while there were several possible legitimate counts for impeachment that the nation had no stomach for a Bush impeachment any more than it had for the Clinton fiasco. I concluded by saying that the best things for Democrats to do was focus on the on traditional Democratic values like taking care of those in need and where they wanted to take the nation.Only one enthusiast took a strong exception to my objection saying that if the resolution didn’t pass he was in the wrong party’s caucus. A couple others echoed some of my fears but the desire for payback was not to be denied, at least not at the precinct level. In a voice vote I was the only one to vote against the resolution. It was rather humorous really. I’ve been the lone vote on so many resolutions in Republican Party caucuses over the years that I’ve lost count of them. Frankly, as I told the caucuses I’m kind of looking forward to hearing more Bush bashing as the conventions proceed up the chain of command. The rage behind the impeachment resolution will be needed to fuel Democrats through the general election. Like their impulse to spend it will have to be restrained eventually in order for them to succeed.All of us were eligible to become delegates at the next level of conventions and I signed myself up to sit on the Rules Committee. I figure that this is the key committee for me to understand the organization of the DFL. We will meet at the AFSCME offices on Saturday. That could be interesting. I’ve taken special delight in beating up AFSCME’s local leadership over the years. Here’s one example.

I’m not too worried about it. I saw that Amy Klobuchar who won the DFL straw ballot for the US Senate Seat hands down has been bad mouthed mercilessly by her AFSCME local in an attempt to embarrass her as she campaigns for the Democratic nomination.

My Declaration of Lincoln-Democratic Independence

I’ve been a Republican for 35 years. I stayed faithful despite moving to one of the most aggressively Democratic regions in the nation. I stayed faithful through the Watergate fiasco and even ran as a Republican candidate in its aftermath. I remained faithful as the Reagan revolution marginalized my kind of Republican, the socially libertarian. I remained a Republican (although I found myself voting for more independent and Democratic candidates) as Pat Robertson sent his stealth delegates into party caucuses and the “Moral Majority” took control.In recent years I’ve ruefully stayed a Republican because there was no practical, independent party alternative.  I kept my temper by writing pointed criticism of Republican foibles and much worse in columns in a local tabloid.This year I turned double nickels. I’m 55 years old. For years friends have urged me to become a Democrat. Sometime in the last month or two it finally dawned on me that my points-of-view, even ones most Democrats would disagree with, would be far more generously received in the Democratic Party. I’d like to think, that being the majority of American citizens, we moderates still have some relevance. If the Republicans won’t have us, Nay, if they actively try to discourage and remove us from their ranks…well, there is only one serious alternative for us other than going off to sulk in a corner.  That alternative is the Democratic Party!  It has a rich tradition, wonderful heroes, and for those of us who do not regard the word “liberal” as an imprecation, an important legacy to build America’s future on.

Today I am a Democrat. I can not erase the last thirty-five years of my life so I bequeath my memories, fond and otherwise, to the Republican Party. Perhaps the GOP can find some use for them. I will not be going into the Democratic Party alone, however. I’m taking Abraham Lincoln with me. I am a Lincoln-Democrat.


The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."