DFL Caucus vs. Primary

A fellow DFLer was complaining to me about the caucues. Complaining that it is an outdated process and that only the most active and liberal people go to the caucuses. That it forces people uncomfortable in meeting situations from being able to participate, and keeps people with children and busy lives from having a say. Those factors end up creating in his words, a “skewed” platform and candidate endorsement process based on a small number of people who can participate. I agreed with him. In fact the whole reason I started getting involved was because I wanted to inject a voice of reason and common-sense to a body I feel often ends up tripped up on an aggressive ideology set in the past.

But I continued thinking about it and realized that the exact same people that go to the caucuses now, and eventually go to the convention to determine the platform and endorsements, will be the same ones going to a convention if we have a primary system determining the candidate delegate balance.

I don’t know exactly how delegates are elected in a primary process, but I’m guessing it is a meeting. And I am guessing that meeting would consist of the usual suspects and the same basic process.

So rather than complain about the process, here are a couple benefits I see over a primary. The people that commit to go to a caucus, as opposed to staying home and watching “Lost” are generally dedicated enough to continue through the process, and are far more likely to stay involved in the party outside of the election season. It is during the off years that fundraising and organization needs to be running on all cylinders to ensure adequate resources are available during the election year.

In the caucus system, the candidates are far more likely to interact with potential delegates personally. I’ve seen all of the candidates multiple times, and they usually come to me, I don’t have to go far to see them. In a primary system, I suspect much more time is spent on image making and commercials. Name recognition alone doesn’t get a candidate enough among a knowledgeable base. Mark Dayton’s decision not to be on the straw poll ballot proved that Tuesday. He was afraid a poor showing would hurt his campaign. If it were a primary, he would likely have won based on name recognition alone.

The caucus system allows anybody who wants to be involved the access to be involved. I admitted above I don’t know how delegates are chosen in states that have primary systems, but if you showed up at my caucus, you could be a delegate. Additionally, you get to meet fellow DFLers. In my really “red” district, knowing somebody else who has the same ideals you have is important to keeping your sanity.

I like the caucuses.

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2 thoughts on “DFL Caucus vs. Primary”

  1. Having lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota, I think I like the caucus system in Minnesota better. The primary system does engage more people, but the local party meetings are poorly attended.

    Having said that, in fairness, Minnesota’s caucus process doesn’t actually mean much except in the presidential election. Beyond that, there’s still a primary here.

  2. High school civic books often mention Minnesota’s caucus system as a precious way to do things. We don’t have to declare a party, there’s a non-binding factor built into it… etc. People discuss issues and send resolutions. It’s very basic involvement.

    Once again, however, I was disappointed. I thought we’d get there at 6:30 and talk gub candidates (I believe in my choice, and I can be convincing). At 6:30 pm there were only two other dudes in the room and they had already voted.

    So, why do we advertise 7:00 when it’s really 6:30? Why isn’t a large, systematic agenda followed? Or is it…

    Plus I am TIRED of hearing that the caucus is for activists, or attended by activists. The DFL did a great job working to train precincts… but maybe we also need some kind of message which tells why we (everyone) should care about the caucus. Maybe we could list possible issues to discuss, hand out the DFL platform and ask for suggestions, etc. Something real.

    Think of all those Minnesotans who stayed home. If you thought Steve Kelley was a great candidate, stayed home, and then read the next day that he’s now dropped due to poor Straw Polling… it’s your fault!

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