The Short Attention Span Assistance Act

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.
To which I call “Buncombe”.  Party business is party business. Who should pick a party’s nominee – people who aren’t involved in the party at all?  Remember – the general election is open to all; the primaries are (I’ll repeat myself) party functions.
Oh, there were logistics problems; finding, or even remembering, ones’ ward an precinct after two years can be daunting, and at my district gathering two very busy people frantically scanned sheets of tables to find them for the long line of caucusers.
(So fix the problem; give out photocopied maps of your district and let 80% of the people do it themselves!)
But – as usual – who’ll come to the aid of the ill-prepared, the uncommitted, the ignorant and the short attention span?
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.

Rest assured, party faithful on both sides; the DFL will be there, waiting to dilute your votes and sap your commitment with the masses of fair-weather participants for whom these measures are designed to make life easier!

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.

24 thoughts on “The Short Attention Span Assistance Act

  1. When I encountered the overflowing parking lot, the confusion of finding your precinct location, the SRO rooms, the lack of ballets, and the hours of working on party business, my reaction was a little different. I felt guilty that I hadn’t been doing this for every election and I felt gratitude for the people who had been doing it. I went up to every person who I could that was working at the caucus and thanked them for the efforts. I was also selected as a delegate for the SD convention in March. Time to start pulling my weight.

    This is grass roots democracy and it felt good.

  2. On the list of “deeply stupid ideas,” lets put letting the most ideologically extreme members of both political parties determine the two alternatives to govern 300 million Americans.

    Why do you hate democracy so?

  3. It’s, er, THEIR PARTY.

    Democracy is where EVERYONE votes for people from ALL the parties. If the bigs are too “extreme” for them (take that, Pat Buchanan), they get no votes.

    Why do you hate people so?

  4. MoN: Ditto.

    Clown: How DID the Clown Party primary go, anyway? Did they have to bribe you to come out with Cyclones tickets?

  5. At my caucus, the attendees are much more middle of the road then usually what the final platform is. So the current format encourages those with more diverse views to particapate.

    I wonder if the Democratic caucases are the same. Do these bring more moderates in?

    Another thing about caucus’ is that the parties get mailing lists….who can they hit up for money and more importantly, volunteers. Wonder how many vote and dash Obie people are going to say “yes” when they get called to run a phone bank.

  6. The Democratic Party belongs to all registered Democrats, not party hacks or activists with nothing better to do than take a day off work and sit around somebody’s living room. Same with the Republican Party.

    Man, Santana sure looks good in a Mets uniform, by the way. Daily News says he’s got a changeup that actually turns around and goes backwards before it gets to the plate.

  7. “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.”

    When we talk about deeply stupid, let’s not leave this blithely ignorant one off the list. While you CAN do this, 80% plus don’t DO this. We had 165 people, and we had more than 120 who stayed until 8:30 when we completed our review of referrendums, and people volunteered for the next level of caucusing.

    Mitch, so often what you say seems delivered with a sneer, yet you rail against ‘paternalism’ on the part of Democratic policy toward helping people who have low or no job skills, or who are starving. You pillory people for not being ‘smart enough’ to deserve to vote. Exactly why would anyone see it as wrong to offer an OPTION to vote for the principle issue and leave if you choose, especially if your time is short, OR stay and participate? It seems to me that the paternalism is yours, you want to control the mechanism and participation – you want to ensure they are ‘loyal bushies’ and exclude those who aren’t committed, by holding a vote at the end, oh, and then IGNORING that vote if you chose to. Yeah, deeply stupid is, as deeply stupid does, and anyone who would sit for 90 minutes to cast a vote that is meaningless, well, they sure have committed down… just maybe not quite how you mean it.

  8. Peev Mentions:

    “While you CAN do this, 80% plus don’t DO this.”

    That is fantastic news, however, form everyone I have been talking to that is clearly the exception. We had over 700/800 people show up. maybe 50 stuck around to caucus, and of them we had 35 delegate slots but only 23 actually signed up to be delegates.

    This time around, the DFL DID have closer to a primary, where as the GOP actually had a caucus.

  9. The Democratic Party belongs to all registered Democrats, not party hacks or activists with nothing better to do than take a day off work and sit around somebody’s living room. Same with the Republican Party.

    Right. And a newspaper’s editorial decisions belong to everyone who buys the paper, not a bunch of people who have nothing better to do than sit around in offices!

    If ones’ party and the decisions it makes matters to them, ninety minutes (and that only at precincts run by lesser convenors than I) once every other year isn’t too much to ask. People spend longer waiting for Barbra Streisand tickets or in the rush line for Prairie Home Companion or watching the season premiere of Lost or going to the theater to see American Pie III: The Naked Mile; is an hour every other February all that onerous to participate in ones’ chosen party’s process of running itself (and picking a presidential candidate is only a tiny part of that process)?

    Absolutely not!

  10. I think the current system is a pretty good compromise between the old method were party bosses decided who runs, and a primary where everyone goes to the polls, and if your name is “Anderson”, you’ll probably win.

  11. Mitch-

    The problem is that we’re trying to have a national primary to pick candidates and yet the process varies so much from state to state that you can hardly compare two states’ results. If Minnesota had a primary, would Romney still have won? What if California had caucuses instead of a primary?

    I’m all for having spreading out the voting over a period of time and having candidates campaign in different parts of the country and fight for votes in smaller states early on. But I would like to see a more consistent approach across the country. Let’s either all caucus or all hold a primary election.

    You do make a good point that many people (including a lot of the media) miss: this process of selecting candidates is not for the “people,” it’s for the parties. In the ol’ days it literally was the party leaders getting together in smoke filled rooms to make the call. Now, the process is more open and allows for more participation from the broader membership of each party. But there’s no reason (or right) for someone who is not a Republican or a Democrat to have a say in who that particular party’s nominee is.

  12. pee b says
    80% plus don’t DO this. We had 165 people, and we had more than 120 who stayed

    120 is 72.7% of 165 NOT 80%

  13. When I convened my precinct we ahd the straw poll right away and 100% of the caucus stayed until the end. And they were interested and involved.

    Chad has a point. Why should the republicans open up and let independents come in and determine their candidate like other states do? Hell, some douchebag like John McCain might get the nomination. Rediculas!

  14. A one term senator with no executive experience and the wife of a narcissistic sociopath who sold her soul and her honor for power.
    Good work, Democrats!

  15. Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see which one of ’em beats that old dude, won’t it?

  16. Republicans lost one of their biggest campaign points…fiscal responsibility…with the big spenders of the past few years. McCain may get that issue back. After all, just today, the Democrats came out with the platform that the taxpayers should buy more needles for drug addicts. Yeah, that will win elections for you. I’m guessing you already have the junkie crowd in your pocket (if not your medicine cabinet).

  17. The debate:

    Obie “Change”

    McCain “What the hell do you mean by that, you little pin head”.

  18. Kermit has a point:
    Chad has a point. Why should the republicans open up and let independents come in and determine their candidate like other states do?
    This was attempted a few years ago in CA. Basically you had the D’s trying to change the rules so that any voter could choose any party’s primary candidate. If it had passed legal muster (it didn’t) the majority D’s in CA would have been able to choose both the Democrat & Republican candidate. Not very sporting, but I guess it would have been more small-d democratic.

  19. # angryclown Says:
    February 7th, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    McCain. Good work, Republicans!

    Was that meant to be sarcasm, AC?
    You do realize, don’t you, that back in 2000 W was arch-neocon Bill Kristol’s 2nd choice for POTUS. He preferred McCain & only switched to backing Bush when it was clear that McCain had a problem nailing down the evangelical vote.

  20. Right, McCain’s an arch-conservative. Just like you wingnuts have been saying these past months.

    Hahahahahahahahaha! Hooboy…. That’s some funny shit right there, Dr. No.

  21. First choice of arch neo-con Bill Kristol, AC. I’m surprised you don’t remember who was backing who on the GOP side in 2000, and why. This is all common knowledge. How old are you, anyhow?

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