Big Harry Deal  By Harry Welty
Published March 7, 2002

On Holding Your Nose

So, last Tuesday came and went and you didn't attend your precinct caucus? Tsk, tsk, tsk! Reading this column will be your penance for turning your back on grassroots democracy.

Oh, you may be rolling your eyes, but you're still reading. That's a sure sign of someone who isn't completely confident of their moral superiority. Congratulations!

Up to now you've patted yourself on the back for not sullying your pristine independence with cheap and tawdry politics. You sound like my Mother! The last time I ran for the State Senate she told me that she really wished I didn't dabble in politics. Such a pris!

Politics is not a matter of depravity its just a matter of getting the cookies you want. The first sophisticated political act I recall pulling off was asking my Mother for cookies then seeking my Father out for a more satisfactory reply. It's not all that different from trying to decide which caucus to attend. Who will give you the cookies you want, be they low taxes, social justice, or a patched pothole.

If you really want cookies, and not a diet, you should caucus with the DFL or GOP.
Neither is perfect. In the DFL I'd have to put up with being reviled for being a bland, white, middle class, do-gooder. In the GOP I only have to put up with being reviled for not being a bland enough, white, middle class, do-gooder.

Then there's the vegan diet, otherwise known as the Green Party. While largely white, middle class, and do-gooder, it is not bland. Somewhere between kumbayah and a tear-gassing, these shock troops for vegetarianism, ecology, global peace, and organic farms are skittish about mainstream respectability. As is the case with other third parties, Green candidates are rarely much more than a spoiler, but even this has its positive side. When the major parties start drifting too far out into left or right field the third party candidates start pulling votes. When this happens and the major parties start losing elections they have to co-opt popular ideas from the upstarts.

It hardly seems worth mentioning the Independence/Reform Party since they didn't hold a caucus in Duluth. Poor Indies. Their self-absorbed leader has been unwilling to spend his political capital to build a party. Soon they will take a flying leap off the turnbuckle, with their Guv, into a Hollywood sunset.

Last Friday representatives of the "four major" political parties were assembled on Almanac North to talk about precinct caucuses. When the Republican on the panel said that anyone who disagreed with the Republican platform ought to find another party to caucus with I took historical umbrage. Party members may not like having their platforms tampered with but without change fossilization sets in. Just look at the zigs and zags of the "conservative" Republican Party from Abe to Ulysses to Teddy to Herb to Dwight to Ronald. The "liberal" Democrats can boast a similar political Odyssey.

Even I have seen breathtaking changes in my lifetime. In 1972 the Minnesota Republicans had a pro-choice (on abortion) state platform. Had the Almanac North suggestion held true, pro-lifers would never have caucused with the Republican Party. Obviously they were not deterred by the platform they encountered but joined the party and rewrote it. Their appearance in the party invigorated it, rather like turning over the soil before planting. That was thirty years ago, however. Change will come again.

Today's Democratic and Republican parties have platforms that only 15 to 20 percent of the electorate feel comfortable with. Fortunately for the rest of us, candidates generally require a majority vote to get elected. Unless they appeal to the public at large they will lose and their party's precious platform will gather dust.

Still reading? If so, you precinct caucus non-attenders can still redeem yourselves.  There will be primary and general elections this fall. Although someone else will have made the party nominations for you, you get to make the final decision.

Of course, you could write-in Donald Duck or not bother to vote at all. Even if you cast a serious vote you might find yourself having to choose between the lesser of two evils. If you didn't attend your caucus you'll only have yourself to blame. It's not easy to cast a ballot while holding your nose.

Don't worry though. If you crouch down low enough in the voting booth no one will see you doing it.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com  

The editors are not sold on my suggestion for a column title. We've tried "Not Eudora," "Snow Kidding" and now this. Weigh in if you have a better suggestion for a title. Email harrywelty@snowbizz.com