4/05/2008

Bein' a Democrat

Today, Saturday, one of the first decent weekends of the "spring," I'm sitting on a bench in a Roseville high school waiting (for an hour past the announced start time) for the Senate District DFL Democratic caucus to begin. As Will Rogers said, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." We can't even start a county convention on time. Democrats are more like members of a rock and roll band than anything that resembles a political movement.

When I was younger, I put up with this kind of foolishness from my favorite rock bands, but I gave that up about the time I realized that I forgot more about the concerts I attended than I remembered. The whole concept of attending a "live performance" tends to diminish in importance when you realize that the moment is nothing more than another moment in a long forgetable life.

This is my second and, probably, last political caucus. I'm a two-time offender, on both sides of the political alley. In 1999, I stupidly attended the Republican caucus as a McCain supporter. I discovered the Republicans only put on a show of democracy because they think it is expected of them, but they don't mean it. The Minnesota Republicans had made up their minds to betray the nation in favor of Little George long before the caucus began and I discovered I was wasting my time almost immediately. There were, literally, no McCain supporters to caucus with in 2000. Like that national election, the "selection process" was rigged before it began. There were no other Republicans for whom I had a moment's interest, so it was a wasted evening (outside of the educational aspects).

I reprimanded myself for contaminating my life associating with Republicans (for the first time since I left my parent's home in 1966) and planned to never make that sort of mistake again. And here I am repeating history and setting myself up for more misery in 2007.

The reason I'm here is because Al Franken is running for the Minnesota US Senate. Yeah, Obama and Clinton are running for some damn thing, too, but I'm not here for them. Franken is the closest thing to an outsider running for office this year and the only guy I'd be even more likely to vote for is Eric Cartman. I'm that pissed off.

Finally, an hour and five minutes after the announced start time, this caucus gets underway. To remind us that we are in a race to impress the country with how patriotic we are. We did a flag idolotry moment and pledged our allegence to whatever gods were present in Minnesota that moment. I looked around and saw no evidence of supernatural powers that morning. Any self-respecting god would have moved things along more efficiently.

The high school pa system was, as all students would anticipate, a piece of crap. First, half of the cafeteria got a grossly distorted mess of a signal and the other half got . . . nothing. Some of us were bombarded with incomprehensible blast of noise and the others heard not a word or sound from the first two speakers.

So, after a 20 minute debate about how much time (5, 8, or 10 minutes) the two Senatorial candidates should receive before the caucus voted on who we’d send against Norm Coleman, Al Franken spoke for 10 minutes.

Al told us about his middle-class Minnesota upbringing and his wife’s Social Security subsidized poor childhood. He proceeded on to his single payer health insurance policy, his free trade positions, his public education beliefs, and his hope that getting out of Iraq and closing our torture chambers might restore the United State’s stature in the world.

Al was followed by a cast of local Democratic characters, all of who asked us for our vote and only a couple of who bothered to tell us what they were running for. R.T. Rybak, the ex-Green Party turned Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, stumped for Barak Obama and reminded us, painfully, of the Reagan revolution that turned this country into a corporate dumping ground, the Land of the 1%, and the scariest threat to world peace since 1938’s Germany.

Franken’s remaining opponent, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, spoke as effectively as had Franken about opposing the Republican right and their fascist corporate leash-holders. Unlike the Presidential options, Nelson-Pallmeyer and Franken make for a tough choice. They are both brave, powerful, sane, richeous candidates. Unlike their Republican opponent, Coleman, who is as corrupt, foolish, lazy, and cowardly as the monkey-boy he panders to, Little George.

For a while . . . I attempted to listen to these speeches and write about them. After an hour, my mind began to wander. Worse, the high school’s WiFi link was as spastic as is the quality of high school teachers. Eventually, about the time the school’s pa system started to work, the WiFi system crashed and even Google became too complicated for the Sheeks system to maintain a connection.

I’d hoped to do a “live blog” from the caucus/convention. However, it’s going to be live later in the day, maybe tomorrow.

Mostly, it’s true that democracy is a messy, inefficient system. It’s easy to see how people naturally slide toward organization and “professional” government; dictatorships or corporatocracies. They are obviously more efficient. They are professional because they pay themselves well for the piddly amount of work they do.

The caucus system, for those of you from modern states who hold crazy things called “elections,” is freakin’ nutty. It is a system designed to purge anyone with a life from participating in the Democratic political selection system. After an interminable number of speeches, rules read, and pontificating, the 400+ delegates do something called the “walking caucuses.” Or some such thing. Folks put up signs with brilliant titles such as “Franken Universal Healthcare,” Jack $$ for Education not War,” “Obama Peace,“ “Franken Obama,” “Vets for Franken,” “Uncommitted Ending Poverty by 2020,” “Clinton,” “Back Jack out of Iraq,” and such. After all of the slogans have been proposed, the large group separates into dozens of small groups in an attempt to put signage with political purpose. It is a nutty system and as fun to watch/participate as a Republican think tank trying to find an idea. I have spent drearier Saturdays, but I lived in Kansas then. The purpose is to, in our district, select 18 delegates to send to the state Democratic torture fest. Fortunately, there was a surplus of folks who wanted to do all this again in a larger forum. Remember Will Rogers?

Hoping to shorten my time walking around, I headed for “Franken Newbies.” I’d originally thought about going to “Franken/Obama,” but one of the Franken strategists was running the “Franken Newbies” group and I figured he’d have a better line on where I should be to best optimize my presence.

This was mostly a day miserably spent. Remember this when I screw up next, I did this for you, Wolfe. I am such an uncommitted Democrat that the Obama half of that walking group would have been a random selection. Participating in politics is an act of faith in humanity, the future, and democracy. In these dark times, I am as devoid of honest faith as any human may have ever been. I have never held much hope for our genetic deadend species. My kids and grandkids are the only reason I hold any hope at all. Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, Bush and Co. can drag the human race into extinction. Their whacky supporters fantasize about gods and happy hunting grounds and the wonderful 1950s and everyone acting morally except them, but we all know when we are dead, we’re dead forever. And, for most of the species, it’s good riddance. But I’m hanging on to this little bit of hope because I’d like my grandchildren to have at least as pleasant a life as I enjoyed.

I’m not sure who won the Roseville convention. Nelson-Pallmeyer had a lot of committed delegates and put together at least one very large group. He’s a good anti-war candidate. I was less impressed with Al Franken than I was with his wife. I had a short impression, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly positive. I suck in person, though. Maybe he was just as unimpressed.

It’s all over now and delegates to the state convention have been selected. I didn’t run for that opportunity. I stayed to cast a ballot for the representatives/delegates from our walking group and walked, myself, into a sunny beautiful day. I spent the rest of the day’s sunlight chainsawing chunks of a downed maple into firewood. It felt good to be cutting something into useful pieces.

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