Twenty years ago I attended what might have been my last Minnesota Republican Precinct Caucus. An hour’s search today through my old paper trail might prove it or might prove that 2004 was my final caucus. At any rate, I used the occasion for some high minded shaming in what was only my 3rd official column for the Duluth Reader. I hadn’t even settled on a final title for the column which is now called “Not Eudora” (meaning that this author is not the once famous Southern regionalist writer, Eudora Welty) I encouraged my new readers to offer better titles but eventually chose the one I had wanted all along.
As I prepare to write about my return to Republican caucuses last Tuesday for next week’s column I thought I ought to see what I’d written twenty years ago. Its not a bad column and its short at 750ish words. It was also a discourse about the FOUR official Minnesota political parties at the turn of the millennium.
I decided that instead of making you go to the link I embedded into the previous paragraph I’d simply copy the text and lay it out for the conclusion of this post.
Hair cut time….I’ll finish this when I am done. — All done. Now I don’t look Like Boris Johnson anymore.
Anywho…If I had any trepidations about attending the caucus they were unnecessary. I met 50 mostly maskless caucus attendees in what was once the heart of Republican East Duluth. It was fewer Republicans than the old West side Republican desert in 1976 when I addended my first GOP caucus in the YMCA. I found 13 people in it and I rejoiced. That wasn’t so bad until I noticed that they were meeting for about ten precincts. In this years once reliable 9th precinct there were 3 of us. That meant one less than the 4 slots available for the next round of conventions. I was an automatic delegate if I wanted it. I’ll be there with mask so long as there is some possiblity I could infect someone who could infect an unvaccinated infant. Republicans don’t care about that kind of collateral damage anymore where their RIGHTS are concerned. Pro Life my ASS!!!!!!!
AND FOR MY NEW FRENCH READERS: As with everything else in America there are 50 sets of rules on almost everything and no single national process. Minnesota is of one of about seven states who choose delegates for political party conventions starting with a local meeting in a “precinct.” Other states have statewide elections that choose delegates for delegates who will represent winning candidates for the national party conventions. I attended Minnesota’s caucuses faithfully from 1972 until 2002 (every other even year) missing only 1974’s caucuses when I moved to Duluth to begin teaching. After 2004 I began attending the Democratic party’s caucuses for a couple of election cycles. I agreed with so many Democratic voters and found their loyalty to the Republican Lincoln breathtaking. It was nice not to be outvoted 10 to 1 on so many issues. But I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t my party even though I was almost guaranteed to vote a straight Democratic ticket….(that means only for Democrats).
On Holding your Nose, published March 7, 2002
So, last Tuesday came and went and you didn’t attend your precinct caucus? Tsk, tsk, tsk! Reading this column will be your penance for turning your back on grassroots democracy.
Oh, you may be rolling your eyes, but you’re still reading. That’s a sure sign of someone who isn’t completely confident of their moral superiority. Congratulations!
Up to now you’ve patted yourself on the back for not sullying your pristine independence with cheap and tawdry politics. You sound like my Mother! The last time I ran for the State Senate she told me that she really wished I didn’t dabble in politics. Such a priss!
Politics is not a matter of depravity its just a matter of getting the cookies you want. The first sophisticated political act I recall pulling off was asking my Mother for cookies then seeking my Father out for a more satisfactory reply. It’s not all that different from trying to decide which caucus to attend. Who will give you the cookies you want, be they low taxes, social justice, or a patched pothole.
If you really want cookies, and not a diet, you should caucus with the DFL or GOP.
Neither is perfect. In the DFL I’d have to put up with being reviled for being a bland, white, middle class, do-gooder. In the GOP I only have to put up with being reviled for not being a bland enough, white, middle class, do-gooder.
Then there’s the vegan diet, otherwise known as the Green Party. While largely white, middle class, and do-gooder, it is not bland. Somewhere between kumbayah and a tear-gassing, these shock troops for vegetarianism, ecology, global peace, and organic farms are skittish about mainstream respectability. As is the case with other third parties, Green candidates are rarely much more than a spoiler, but even this has its positive side. When the major parties start drifting too far out into left or right field the third party candidates start pulling votes. When this happens and the major parties start losing elections they have to co-opt popular ideas from the upstarts.
It hardly seems worth mentioning the Independence/Reform Party since they didn’t hold a caucus in Duluth. Poor Indies. Their self-absorbed leader has been unwilling to spend his political capital to build a party. Soon they will take a flying leap off the turnbuckle, with their Guv, into a Hollywood sunset.
Last Friday representatives of the “four major” political parties were assembled on Almanac North to talk about precinct caucuses. When the Republican on the panel said that anyone who disagreed with the Republican platform ought to find another party to caucus with I took historical umbrage. Party members may not like having their platforms tampered with but without change fossilization sets in. Just look at the zigs and zags of the “conservative” Republican Party from Abe to Ulysses to Teddy to Herb to Dwight to Ronald. The “liberal” Democrats can boast a similar political Odyssey.
Even I have seen breathtaking changes in my lifetime. In 1972 the Minnesota Republicans had a pro-choice (on abortion) state platform. Had the Almanac North suggestion held true, pro-lifers would never have caucused with the Republican Party. Obviously they were not deterred by the platform they encountered but joined the party and rewrote it. Their appearance in the party invigorated it, rather like turning over the soil before planting. That was thirty years ago, however. Change will come again.
Today’s Democratic and Republican parties have platforms that only 15 to 20 percent of the electorate feel comfortable with. Fortunately for the rest of us, candidates generally require a majority vote to get elected. Unless they appeal to the public at large they will lose and their party’s precious platform will gather dust.
Still reading? If so, you precinct caucus non-attenders can still redeem yourselves. There will be primary and general elections this fall. Although someone else will have made the party nominations for you, you get to make the final decision.
Of course, you could write-in Donald Duck or not bother to vote at all. Even if you cast a serious vote you might find yourself having to choose between the lesser of two evils. If you didn’t attend your caucus you’ll only have yourself to blame. It’s not easy to cast a ballot while holding your nose.
Don’t worry though. If you crouch down low enough in the voting booth no one will see you doing it.
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com