A Night at the Caucuses
Rarely do I visit a Democratic Party ("DP") caucus, but it’s instructive if you do. The details are telling. March 1 in Minnesota, in my small precinct – 63A, 12-2 or something – hundreds of people were trying to get into a children’s classroom that might hold 50 people max, most having to stand. The night was cold, but inside everyone’s heavy coats were hot. Lines stretched down the hallways, down the interior steps and out the building, as 2 other precincts were also voting in the elementary school upstairs. At 7:30 pm – a half hour after the caucuses were supposed to ‘convene’ – the line was still outside the building. Voting was supposed to end at 8:00 PM.
The DP ‘conveners’ had not shown up on time. Doors were still closed in 2 precinct rooms when I got there at around 6:30 – the time that people were told to show up. Our quiet convener – who had been doing this for 20 years – was overwhelmed by the crowd, and could barely make himself heard. Someone had to tell him where to stand so he could be heard. (Really?) They first had a tiny Folger’s coffee can –seriously – to hold the ballots, then figured out that might be too small and got a paper box from Cub. They ran out of ballots and ‘registration’ forms. They started using the school teacher’s paper…tearing it into bits … for ballots and registrations. Really.
I could have voted several times, as the ballot box was untended and not connected to the registration. There was no clear indication how or ‘who’ would do the vote counting, as I left before finding out.
Reports from around Minneapolis and St. Paul confirmed the same situation at other caucuses. Now at first this is all farcical, but then you realize the DP people are not naïve. They remember the flood in 2008, and should have been expecting the same. Nope. So was this incompetence or voter suppression or something else? After all, they might be hoping that people would just turn around and go home. Sort of like the Minnesota version of those perpetually broken or limited voting machines in Florida or Ohio in black or college areas. It didn’t look or feel good, and people will not forget.
After all, almost the whole Minnesota Democratic Party hierarchy – Governor Dayton, Senators Al Franken & Amy Klobuchar – endorsed Clinton. These are the ‘super-delegates.’ The appointed Party apparatchiks. Millionaire tee-totaler Mark Dayton; fake middle-class funny man Al Franken; war-monger Amy Klobuchar – all signed on to more full-blast neo-liberalism. They might have known that Sanders would take Minnesota. Representative Keith Ellison was the only one that broke ranks.
After the voting, delegates for each candidate were to be chosen and toothless resolutions were to be passed – for those who could spend the next 2 hours crammed in a small room. You see, those with iron butts are elected delegates to the next stage of the ‘process.’ I left before this, but pro-Clinton union people and pro-Sanders Socialist Alternative people were in the room, along with a majority of neighbors supporting Sander’s. The older women sitting at tables were somewhat startled by the crowd. I say toothless resolutions (in a sandbox caucus) because at the District and then State meetings, these resolutions are dumped or filtered out unless they correspond to what the hierarchy wants. As DP Chair Wasserman pointed out, the ‘grassroots’ needs to be controlled.
So is the Democratic Party really ‘democratic’? No. The DP is not a membership organization. It does not have regular meetings. It is obviously disorganized. Unions, socialist organizations and actual Labor Parties – like the Canadian NDP or the British LP –have regular meetings, membership, pay dues, have officers at meetings, generally follow Roberts Rules of Order, take minutes, vote on issues at meetings, etc. Nearly all directly elect their leaderships – except the Stalinist-derived ones of course. The working-class knows how to function. The DP doesn’t have these actual democratic structures or methods. The DP is party of elected officials. It is run by a cabal of powerful pro-capitalist politicians, basically un-elected to their posts in the DP, instead chosen by each other. The wealthy corporate funders of the DP, as every study has pointed out, have all the weight over crucial issues. It’s not the voting cattle, who have almost none. Much as they wish to believe otherwise.
The DP is a top-down organization that, after the McGovern candidacy, will never let the ‘grassroots’ take over. So ideas about building a ‘left’ in the DP have been a path to destruction for everyone who has tried it. Just ask the DSA or the CP. Sort of like going into a tunnel you will never come out of. Goodbye!
As these ‘meetings’ showed, the DP is a hollow shell occasionally flooded by people who will later be ignored. Thanks for your vote! It is not a living organization on any working-class level. It is made up of money and media and those who hold power. And ‘power’ attracts – sometimes absolutely. Which is why most present union and civil rights ‘leaderships’ still aligned with the DP leadership have sold their souls to power, not change.
No matter this mess at the caucuses, because evidently enough people did not turn around and go home. Paraphrasing a certain vicious speech about Libya by the former Secretary of State – a country now destroyed - ‘she came, she saw, she died politically’ - at least in Minnesota.
March 5, 2016