Caucus for change: Being a leader on Super Tuesday

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What are you doing on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 5? You could catch Christine Rosholt crooning jazz standards at O’Gara’s Garage in St. Paul. Go to Magers & Quinn in Uptown Minneapolis and listen to Susan Wicklund read from her book about life as an abortion doctor. Or you could hang out at home, reading a good book or vegging out in front of “American Idol.”

For more information about the nuts and bolts of precinct caucuses, go to www.mnblue.com/precinct_caucus_guide.

To learn where your local precinct caucus is:
DFL Party: www.dfl.org or 651-293-1200
Independence Party: www.mnip.org or 651-487-9700
Republican Party: www.mngop.org or 651-222-0022
Green Party (March 4): www.mngreens.org or 651-288-2820

What is a caucus?

But if Minnesota’s major political parties have their way, you’ll be gathering with your neighbors at a nearby school, recreation center or other public building to talk about neighborhood, state and national issues, political party agendas and whom you’d like to see succeed George W. Bush. It’s Super Tuesday, and Minnesota’s holding a precinct caucus, the first step toward electing delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions. If you’re keeping count, on Feb. 5 Minnesota will join 20 other states that hold Republican contests, and 21 that hold Democratic ones.

The Independence Party also holds precinct caucuses that night, though they don’t hold a presidential endorsing convention. The Green Party of Minnesota, a minor political party, will hold caucuses on March 4.

All three major parties agree: Precinct caucuses are, at their core, neighborhood meetings. If you’re new to your neighborhood or to caucusing, don’t worry: Newcomers are genuinely welcome. If you’re not even sure which party to caucus with, the general rule is to attend the caucus of the party whose candidates you most often support.

Party differences

Still confused? Here’s what the parties themselves have to say. According to Laura Holzschuh Knudsen, Independence Party state secretary, “Most Minnesotans and Americans don’t fit in the national major parties. Our goal is to give [political] independents access to the system. If you want to support candidates who are independent of special-interest money and major-party politics, you will find a home in the Independence Party.”

The other two parties are equally passionate about caucuses. The Republican Party of Minnesota’s official statement: “Caucuses are the best way for conservatives to have their voices heard.”

The Democrats tout a message of change. “Democrats are ready to change the direction of our state and country. Precinct caucuses are the first step for Minnesotans to select the Democratic nominee for president,” said the DFL’s precinct caucus page.

What really happens?

Registration starts at 6:30 p.m., and you can simply vote in the straw poll for president and leave. But the parties hope you’ll stick around a bit longer. Caucuses start at 7 p.m., and though they follow Robert’s Rules of Order to help things run smoothly, most caucuses make it easy for newcomers to participate. Among the business conducted: elect delegates to party conventions (newcomers are encouraged to run) and party office; vote on resolutions (statements about issues to be added to party platforms); voice support for local and Congressional candidates.

Most important, any adult citizen who’s (legally) mentally competent and not a convicted felon can have a voice in something big. Whether you speak just a few words or give a speech or two, your voice will be heard.

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