On Tuesday evening I attended my first caucus. Yes, I’ve lived here for over 17 years and had never before attended a caucus. Shoot me. When I first moved here I was working a job that sucked the life out of me, and had no desire to walk into a completely unknown situation with a bunch of strangers after a long day of work. Then I had small children. Then I had busy big children and a traveling peddler husband. And, it’s really damn cold in Minnesota. If an event requires me to pull on the dang snow boots and don the parka at the end of the day, I typically opt out if possible.
This year, however, I actually know one of the candidates running to serve in the Minnesota State House of Representatives. A first for me. I am excited about her candidacy. She asked me to show up and caucus, so I did.
In weeks leading up to the caucus, various groups promoted caucus training events, videos to watch, and other sources of information. None of the training events fit into my schedule, and my attention span is way to short for videos. But, I was assured I could figure it out as I went. I had a couple of civic minded friends in tow and arrived at my local middle school, ready for some EFFIN DEMOCRACY, KUJAS! (That’s Croatian. I’m trying to rein in my language and have resorted to cursing in foreign languages).
Then I was handed an agenda. A really, really long agenda with a set of rules on the back. I had failed to understand the definition of caucus.
A meeting. I was at a meeting.
Let me tell you how I feel about meetings, by way of providing things I’d rather do than attend a meeting.
- Root canal
- Plunge a crap filled, clogged toilet
- Clean up dog vomit
- Eat fish (I hate fish)
I am not kidding or being hyperbolic. Yes, that’s an unpleasant list, but one can simply face these tasks, get them done and move on. Efficiently.
Meetings, on the other hand, are like ships without rudders. Very, very sloooooow ships. Ships that take forever to get from point A to point B, now matter how brief and uncomplicated the distance is between said points. Ships that have to stop at each and every port along the way. Ships with too many captains, all of whom need to exhibit their expertise on each and every detail of the journey. Ships full of people who want to talk, talk, talk, talk, TALK. And, it often feels like, ships full of people who have NO DESIRE WHATSOEVER to get where they’re going and get off the dang ship.
Two hours after my precinct’s caucus convened, I left. And it wasn’t over yet.
I had some misunderstandings going in. I suppose the blame for that lies with me. But holy hell, it’s wonky. I think I thought a caucus was analogous to a primary election, in that we’d elect delegates who would eventually represent our precinct at the district convention- where they would vote for the candidate of the precinct’s choice. I thought this was all a step towards the winning candidate getting the party’s nomination. I’m trying to write this efficiently, but I CAN’T, because it’s altogether too convoluted.
Turns out the end goal is an endorsement. Then they will end up on the ballot in the general election.
Unless the other candidates decide not to abide by the endorsement. THEN, it goes to a primary. What in the actual hell?
I’m not describing this very well, and have undoubtedly gotten some details wrong. In short, I showed up ready and excited to participate in democracy. I left vowing to never attend another.
I’ll tell you now a large part of the problem was me. I’d just gotten back to town and had been home for less than two hours before it was time to go. I was tired, ready to be home, and probably shouldn’t have had that glass of wine on the flight.
There’s always a but with me.
The entire process just felt ridiculous. And, truth be told, somewhat EXclusive. A far more INclusive list would contain people unable to make it to a caucus (on a random Tuesday night at a set time of the evening): parents of small children, second shift workers, people with transportation issues to contend with, people who have to drive their kids to soccer or ballet or fencing or WHATEVER, people who’ve worked a long hard day and simply want to spend the evening home with their families instead of listening to people yap all night, people on vacation, people caring for dependent elderly family members, people whose dogs have separation anxiety and can’t be left home alone (yes, I’m getting far fetched here, but there was a time in my life when that would’ve been me). You get the idea.
Exclusive. Inefficient. Kinda pointless if it’s going to lead to a primary anyway. I do believe there was a time when this was a reasonable way to conduct party business, but it is long behind us. I think all involved have the very best of intentions, but this simply doesn’t work for me. On a whole lot of levels.