The point of the caucus system is to give party activists a voice in how the party’s business and nominations are carried out.
Of course, it lowers the definition of “party activist” so far that virtually anyone can stand up and be counted. In the GOP, it means you spend maybe ninety minutes (sixty in my precinct) taking care of the most trivial party business possible – electing precinct officers, voting on resolutions – and, finally, the endorsement straw polls.
In the DFL, of course, it means that you can show up, cast your ballot, and go out and get a latte before The Practice is on.
But the key point is that they – and the various types of primaries that other states use to determine their party nominees – are the parties’ mechanisms of publicly selecting nominees, courting public involvement, and carrying out their public business.
The other night, as people on both sides of the aisle noted, caucuses were flooded. On the DFL side, they were flooded with vote ‘n dash voters. On the GOP side, caucus sites had plenty of people show up who wanted to do the same; some left in a huff when they were told they actually had to stay and conduct Republican Party business; others – many, many others – stayed and participated, in the biggest turnout in recent memory.
It’s for the vote ‘n dash voter – the people with the short attention spans who want to make a simple, black ‘n white ideological statement and get out – that the Strib comes out today:
After more than a quarter-million Minnesota voters swamped Tuesday’s DFL and GOP precinct caucuses and encountered long lines, traffic jams, makeshift ballots and other logistical headaches, some wondered Wednesday if a presidential primary might be a better way to pick candidates.
Well, they do get a little more specific later on. Let’s continue:
Meanwhile, numerous caucus-goers, many of them first-timers who found the process daunting and frustrating, vented on blogs and complained to party officials. Some called for a switch to primaries.
On Wednesday, two DFL legislators introduced a bill that would establish a traditional primary…That kind of reaction prompted Sens. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, and Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, to announce their plan to decouple the presidential contest from the caucus system by the next presidential election cycle. Their bill would allow voters to participate in a primary similar to a general election without requiring them to be involved in the caucus process now run by political parties.
Rest said party caucuses would take place at a later date. “We are always looking for ways to make participating in public life easier and more accessible,” she said.
The results are predictable:
On Wednesday, DFL chairman Brian Melendez tentatively endorsed the new push for a primary. “It’s definitely worth talking about,” he said. “The e-mails I’ve gotten since last night from people I don’t know run strongly in favor of the primary.”
No big shock there. The more the system facilitates ignorance and a skin-deep familiarity with politics, the better the DFL does.
GOP chairman Ron Carey said he and other party leaders adamantly oppose “any change from our caucus system.”
If a presidential primary becomes law, “they can put it on the calender if they want … but it will remain a beauty contest for us,” he said.
Let’s put a cork in this deeply-stupid idea.