Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Caucusing, and thanking those who give them 

I grew up in New Hampshire, where they did not have a Caucus Night for precincts. Everyone in a ward voted in the same church or school basement, you passed a neighbor perhaps in a line, and that was it. When I moved to Minnesota I went first out of curiosity. And, 'tis true, I tried both the Republican and DFL caucuses in my youth -- and I don't consider it a bad thing to learn the views of all your neighbors. (My former broadcast partner Michael Brodkorb gave me all kinds of grief over this.)

We New Englanders know a thing or two about participatory politics. Most of our towns have Grange Halls where a town meeting happens annually. Most of the town's major political decisions happen there. But it's not the same as a caucus. You talk about resolutions, things that matter greatly to you. You talk about candidates and maybe meet a neighbor who's decided to take the plunge and run for a legislative office. One of them may be sitting next to you tonight. We live in a republic, I tell my students, but there are places where democracy happens, and caucus night is one of them. Maybe the biggest.

But they don't happen spontaneously. There are people working hard to make that caucus happen. This year, for the first time, and as result of Mrs. S becoming part of the local party leadership, I've been able to see up close the work it takes to put on a caucus. And it's much more than I thought. Training conveners -- I'll do that for the first time tonight -- hiring the hall, getting maps so people find their precincts ... it's more than I had imagined. I spent a few hours making copies, running convention calls to other precincts, stuffing envelopes, etc., with several people I now can call a friend who I didn't know before. I have found it rewarding as well as tiring. And I know some of those friends worked many more hours than I did.

When you go to your caucus tonight -- and you should, no matter your party -- thank the people who work the registration table and the people who bring the caucus together. They worked hard to give you the chance to exercise the most democratic part of our political process.

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