Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Carol A. Hand

During the DFL (Democratic-Farm-Labor Party) caucus yesterday evening, chaos and excitement reigned in equal measure. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people crowded into the old high school in my working class neighborhood to vote. I arrived early and found my way up the stairs and down winding hallways to the small classroom assigned to residents from my precinct. I was early, signed in, and found a student desk at the back along the wall and watched as the room filled to standing room only.

It was clear that the facilitator, a large woman in her 50s, had no idea what to do. I noticed a good deal of diversity in the room – elders with canes and walkers and young professionals from diverse backgrounds. Most were looking at their ever-ready smart phones as we waited for the process to begin. With little audible direction, we were all given a small light-blue square of paper with the DFL presidential hopefuls listed. The young man seated next to me and I decided that our only task was to check our choice, both being careful not to intrude on each other’s privacy by peeking to see the choice.

After we “voted” we were told we could put our ballots in the cardboard box the facilitator was holding and leave. By the time I reached the box, it was already bursting at the seams. Getting out of the room was the next challenge. Hundreds of people were still waiting in the hallway to sign in and vote. And the DFL vote was overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders. Minnesota was a solid blue-blue state (even though it’s colored red in the image below).


Image: Map of U.S. Highlighting Minnesota (Wikipedia)

This morning I realized how exciting it is to live here in a land of hope. It’s surely not perfect, but people do share concerns for social justice and the environment even though politicians don’t often listen. I also realized I will never again be able to go back to forced party choices, NEVER. In the years left to me, I will live and vote my values.

For me, the choice this time around is clear. It doesn’t matter which names are printed on the ballot. I’ll choose whom to vote for and write them in if they’re not listed. I encourage others to do the same, even if their choices differ from mine. Chaos can be an exciting, liberating opportunity for meaningful change. The important thing is to think critically about the world we want to live in, the world we hope our children will inherit. From my perspective, the choices before me are simple – ignorant thuggery, corporate capitulation, or the uncertainty of personal responsibility. Others need not agree with my assessment.

We do live in interesting times. How we live is still a choice regardless of those who tell us otherwise. We can speak our truths and still be compassionate, hopeful, and kind.


Photo: Lake Superior (by Kablammo – Own work, Public Domain, Wikimedia)

This morning I wonder. What is the critical mass necessary for changing an unjust social structure? I don’t know. But what I witnessed last night gave me hope that it’s attainable.


Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

16 thoughts on “Wednesday, March 2, 2016

  1. Carol:
    Happy that you still post while working on your opus.
    Minnesota has maintained a progressive stand while sadly Wisconsin drifts from its remarkable and brave past. Maybe something about the waters – less tainted. Or the diversity – including Ojiwba, Nordic, African – an aspiring somewhat functioning plurality. Education – respected and promoted. Kinda’ like Lake Woebegone.
    While this primary has revealed an ugly side of human nature people like you and your neighbors make us, if not “great” (what a meaningless word), better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Steve. Although I would prefer to isolate myself and just write about the past, that wouldn’t be a responsible choice. There’s too much at stake these days. Not that I’m under the illusion there’s much I can do. But I still need to be present, take part constructively, and share the real hope of possibilities for change that I see.

      As always, I appreciate your observations and insights. 🙂


  2. Thanks again, for keeping your positive, hopeful messages coming. Old pappy and I will be posting a few comments on “Super” Tuesday and the election in general. Hope you also enjoy our silly thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience at the front in the Minnesota primaries. I like the way you sum up the choices before us:
    “ignorant thuggery, corporate capitulation, or the uncertainty of personal responsibility.” Bang on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t fully understand the ‘American’ system of voting, but its very nice to hear, for a change, of someone who has hope for the possibilities of change. It may not be an individuals weight that forces change, but together you can ALL be a driving force. Glad to see you are doing your bit and being part of the ALL.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love it that we have a candidate who is breaking the Washington mold (well, we have a few that are breaking the mold but only one that doesn’t make me lose my mind!). I’ll continue to cast my ballot for compassion, kindness, fairness, opportunity, and human dignity. It seems to be catching on…finally 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Our caucus was small … tiny. But I live in a tiny town. Eleven people registered, five immediately voted and left, leaving six of us to carry on with the rest of our caucus. Yet, this was our largest caucus attendance of all that I have participated in over the years. However, if we had instead had a primary election, 40-60 people would have come to vote. The caucus system disenfranchises far too many voices. Therefore, I submitted a resolution to abandon the caucus system for voting to select a candidate; or, more accurately, to select delegates to select a candidate. With little discussion, it was adopted unanimously.
    My resolution was also introduced by a friend in the caucus of our neighboring city (where all area caucuses were held, including ours), and it was nearly unanimously adopted there, too. Likewise, another friend submitted my resolution at the caucus of our surrounding Township, where it was narrowly rejected, probably due to lack of a clear understanding that the resolution also sought to preserve and even enhance opportunities for citizens to participate in our political process. The primary intent is to give everyone an opportunity to vote throughout a whole day rather than trying to cram a few people into a room that is too small to vote in only an hour.
    Our caucus-hosting city had only 185 registrants who voted. The surrounding Township had 98, and our neighboring Township had only 38. This, out of thousands of registered voters who otherwise could have voted in a primary election. This does not make for a representative democracy that is of the people, for the people and by the people.
    I had previously posted the text of my resolution in various places online in hopes that others in Minnesota might copy it and introduce it in their precincts. I don’t know if that happened, although a number of people did “Like” my posts on Facebook pages and groups. Hopefully it will work its way up through the process and something good will come of it. Minnesota has held primary elections in the past, but has shifted back and forth between the systems over the years.

    “Critical mass” is always a mystery. How many people does it take to care enough and act enough to make a real difference? But, I don’t think it can be measured only in numbers of people. It also has to do with the energy of the caring and acting mass; in other words, the momentum. The campaign of Bernie Sanders has built up both numbers and momentum, with a great deal of energy through enthusiasm and excitement, leading to real hope. So far, though, too many people still do not know him or know and understand what he stands for. The good news is that as people get to know him, they tend to be highly inclined to get on board and support him, and even show up at the polls to vote for him. This means that time is on his side in this election cycle. He still has time to gain recognition and translate that into support. Clinton, on the other had, was already well known and either well respected or greatly despised, depending on one’s perspective. Also, many of her supporters seem less than enthusiastic, with some even being apologetic for various reasons. Time is not on her side. She is not going to be able to significantly add to her base of support as the campaign moves forward. I am really hoping Bernie’s momentum will be able to dominate over time. I’m doing what little I am able to do to hopefully help that process along as best I can. Political revolution requires active participation, with each of us doing whatever we’re able to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very important issues, Carl, and well-explained. Your arguments in favor of a primary election rather than a caucus certainly make sense. I appreciated the opportunity to see so many of my neighbors last night, although there was little opportunity to meet many of them. And it wasn’t what I expected. A long time ago, Wisconsin experimented with caucuses. It was a day-long affair (I think on a Saturday) where people actually split up into separate rooms based on the candidate they were supporting. We were able to learn more about the candidates’ stances on issues. It also involved opportunities for critical dialogue and the development of platform suggestions. So I could argue this either way. The caucus of long ago was truly participatory democracy in action, although it could have been facilitated more effectively…

      I have often contemplated how many it takes to affect change in organizations or communities. But you’re correct. It’s not only numbers – it’s a clear, compelling vision and enough enthusiasm and commitment to keep people motivated for the long haul. This doesn’t always happen and it doesn’t work if it’s based solely on a charismatic organizer.


  7. I went to one caucus in Washington State before they adopted a primary system and my experience was very different. Instead of just “voting,” participants were encouraged to “caucus,” ie try to persuade others in the room why their candidate was the best.

    The caucus I went to was much smaller and was held in a private home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing this experience, Stuart. It makes a great deal of sense to provide meaningful opportunities for people to be better informed and engage in dialogue face-to-face before casting a vote.


  8. Having a choice as to how to vote is very different from having an influence in bringing about change. Presidents themselves are so constrained by the system they have to work with that it probably makes very little difference who is selected. Because people know that their vote makes very little difference they often make “feel good” votes that make them feel better but would not work out in practice. Others are happy to vote for policies that would negatively affect others as long as they themselves are not affected. Yes we “can speak our truths and still be compassionate, hopeful, and kind” but that is very different from participating in a system that will bring about positive change.

    Liked by 1 person

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