Thursday, February 09, 2012

Grassroots cultivated at caucus

Some folks showed up over an hour before our precinct caucus was called to order Tuesday night. Either they were excited to vote in the presidential straw poll, or they relied on a postcard they received with the incorrect time shown! By 7:00 pm, when state law dictates the caucus is to be called to order, our convener had misplaced his agenda which specifies several items that must be addressed, also per state law. The room where we met had no American flag, but fortunately our convener brought a desk-sized flag for just that contingency.

The rest of the caucus went much more smoothly!

Our voting in the presidential straw poll reflected the statewide totals: Rick Santorum, 23 votes; Ron Paul, 15; Mitt Romney, 10; Newt Gingrich, 4. If anyone wondered whether the Tea Party is still relevant in Minnesota (or Missouri or Colorado), there's your answer.

We had over fifty persons sign in, plus one observer. In non-presidential election year caucuses, attendance is sometimes so low that we can't elect our allotted number of delegates. No such problem this year: we elected a full roster of delegates and alternates, who will represent our precinct at the first post-redistricting BPOU (Senate district) convention in March.

The youngest attendee will turn 18 in time to vote in November. Several Vietnam veterans were there, as was a Russian immigrant who fled Communism—only to encounter, to his chagrin, ever-growing statism from both American political parties. I recognized many from previous years, but as always there were also many first-time caucus goers.

Judging by the conversations, the top issues that brought folks out on Tuesday night seemed to be election integrity, the national economy, the right to life, and right-to-work. We had so many sign up to be election judges that we had to use a couple of pages from a yellow legal pad when the printed sign-up sheets were full.

In addition to the presidential candidates, several local candidates had letters, literature, or signs at our caucus: Congressman Erik Paulsen, Rep. Sarah Anderson, state Senate candidate Norann Dillon, and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

Resolutions to the party platform were mercifully few this year. My resolution to greatly streamline the platform failed on a close vote that required a division of the house. A resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to make Minnesota a right-to-work state also failed on a close voice vote. While I recognize the need for a party platform, I find the current platform too long and detailed, and the resolutions part of the convention agenda a marathon exercise in contentious hair-splitting.

Our biggest challenges will be, as always, fundraising and volunteer recruiting, and forming a new BPOU after the redistricting maps are released (by February 21). It seemed on Tuesday that there is enough dissatisfaction with President Obama and the economy, and positive energy from the Tea Party, to keep the grassroots fed and energized through the next nine months of conventions and campaigns.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Precinct caucus survival guide

The 2012 campaign season officially begins in Minnesota next Tuesday, February 7, at ground level with the grassroots of the political parties: the precinct caucuses.

I love senate district-level politics, but few people actually want to go to their precinct caucus. Judging by the plethora of YouTube videos on how to attend a precinct caucus for Democrat candidates going back for years, the Democrats and unions seem to be doing their best to get their folks out of the house every election cycle. That's because the caucuses are a prime opportunity to identify campaign volunteers, get their cell phone numbers and Twitter handles, and mobilize them for the long ground game to Election Day.

Plato once said that one of the penalties for not getting involved in politics is that you become governed by your inferiors; or as many have said, in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. If you are a conservative or libertarian who sat out the 2008 presidential election because you couldn't bear to vote for John McCain, or the 2010 election because you couldn't stomach Tom Emmer, how is that working out for you?

Since clearly the world is run by those who show up to the meetings, what do you need to know to influence the 2012 elections on caucus night? I thought you'd never ask!
  1. Figure out where to go. The Minnesota Secretary of State's office has an interactive precinct caucus page that helps you locate your caucus location, probably a school or church in your neighborhood. It's a good idea to bring this page with you in a printout or on your mobile device, because it will list your precinct number.
  2. Show up early. Caucuses for all parties in Minnesota will begin at 7:00 pm, but registration will begin around an hour before that to allow everyone to get registered. Aside from my earlier comment about people not wanting to attend their caucus, 2008 was a record-breaker, straining parking lots, site capacities, and volunteers. My senate district's precincts will be split among three sites on caucus night to accommodate the anticipated attendance.
  3. Get engaged. Meet your neighbors. Help party volunteers get your name and contact information updated.Volunteer for something.
The main events for the evening will be a Presidential straw poll (which, unlike a primary election, will have no bearing on how delegates are allocated to the candidates), electing delegates to the senate district convention, and debating changes to the party platform. See the always informative Senate District 42 website for more on what to expect on caucus night.

By getting involved in the 2012 campaigns, you'll help influence and elect the candidates you believe in, meet some very interesting and informed people, and have a lot of fun. It all starts on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Bread and circuses II

Business is a slave to profit, but politicians are slaves to politics. Why compete in a free market when, as StarTribune reporter Eric Weiffering says in his excellent analysis of public ownership of pro sports stadiums, businesses can "privatize their gains while socializing losses ("Go long to measure the true cost of a stadium," StarTribune, January 29, 2012). Pro sports teams and their cronies in the government are literally laughing all the way to the bank. In too many public-private "partnerships," the private owners get the profit, the politicians get the photo op, and the taxpayers get a perpetual liability.

No one has summed up the irresistible lure of bread and circuses better than this oft-misquoted yet cogent mash-up:
The release of initiative and enterprise made possible by self-government ultimately generates disintegrating forces from within. Again and again, after freedom brings opportunity and some degree of plenty, the competent become selfish, luxury-loving and complacent; the incompetent and unfortunate grow envious and covetous; and all three groups turn aside from the hard road of freedom to worship the golden calf of economic security. The historical cycle seems to be: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.[1]
Today we as a society are somewhere between apathy and dependency. If the cycle of bondage can be prevented from descending from abundance, or brought back to abundance, the 2012 electorate needs to send representatives to the state legislatures, the Congress, and elect a President with the collective will to put aside bread and circuses, and let free enterprise work so the people can put bread back on their own tables.

1. "The Truth about Tytler," by Loren Collins,, January 2009.