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Let’s bring new people to the political table: Attend your precinct caucus next week

Courtesy of the authors
Phyllis Wiener, left, and Shay Berkowitz

For many years, we’ve been fiercely committed to opening up space within our politics for those who aren’t already at the table – from folks of color and the LGBTQ community to women, immigrants, and more. For us this is not about achieving feel-good diversity. It’s about bringing the full range of perspectives, ideas and solutions into government.

This coming Tuesday, Feb. 6, we have an opportunity to caucus and take the steps needed to create a Minnesota that truly reflects the creativity, innovation and power of all our people. 

The past year has been very tough. If we’ve learned anything it’s that politics as usual won’t save us. Insider politicking, pre-ordaining candidates, maintaining a sense of entitlement to elected office among those who already have power and access – these things will not save us.

No change without change in the numbers

The revelations about the hostile environment that women face within the Minnesota Legislature make it blindingly clear that we cannot expect change on this front unless we change the numbers. We need more women in the Legislature, period.

As residents of 61B, we have been lucky to be represented by Rep. Paul Thissen. Southwest Minneapolis is fortunate that we will continue to have champions like State Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein. Their dedication to issues close to our hearts – the environment, health care, transit, education, LGBTQ equity, public safety, racial and economic justice, human rights and more – make us proud to have them represent us.

But there are voices missing. So when we have an opportunity to help elect progressive leaders who will fight for the issues we care about, and also make our Legislature more reflective of Minnesota, we seize it. For these reasons we are thrilled to have four viable candidates, of which two are women, running in District 61B for the Minnesota Legislature.

New candidates

South Minneapolis has also been represented by two outstanding leaders: Rep. Karen Clark (District 62A) and Rep. Susan Allen (62B). They too have been committed to equity and improving the quality of lives for all of us who live here. At the end of this year, they will retire, and already a number of new candidates have stepped up – including women of color and indigenous women – to advance the legacies of these two trailblazing leaders.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the chance to elect our first woman governor. Let’s seize the opportunities and move closer to building a Minnesota that gives voice and power to all our people.

We believe this is a moment in the history of our country and state where those of us already at the table should reflect deeply on our power and privilege. We encourage you to consider how you might best use your talents. The most meaningful thing we can do now would be to put our experience to work to help elect those who don’t already have privilege and access. 

This is what we plan to do. We invite you to join us at precinct caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 6 and together seize the opportunity we have.

Phyllis Wiener and Shay Berkowitz have been dedicated, lifelong activists for social justice in Minnesota and beyond.


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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by David Moseman on 02/01/2018 - 09:19 am.

    Is it the cash candidates need or the Causes?

    I agree that change is needed in our political system, but I think it is not candidates that matter but the causes. For DECADES I have watched as good people get elected only to not deliver on the issues that matter. Roe v Wade goes back to the early 70;s and is still a flash point.

    A group of 23 progressive organizations have put together a plan to put delegates committed to the issues into the State Party Conventions. That means they will not commit to any candidate but seek to be “Uncommitted”. This way any candidate elected will be beholding to act upon the issues and not the money that got them elected. Look for them at your Caucus.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/01/2018 - 11:12 am.

      Complete waste of time

      I’ve been through the caucus process (subsequent conventions, etc.) multiple times and that just doesn’t work. Either a candidate gets endorsed or he/she doesn’t. Its hard enough getting consensus on a person, much less on policies.

      Pick a candidate. Or better yet, go see a movie that Tuesday.

  2. Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/01/2018 - 10:55 am.

    End caucuses

    Caucuses are nothing more than blatant voter suppression. They are like an election, except that the time available to vote is severely limited, the places to vote are significantly lessened, and the time it takes to vote is increased.

    If you work nights, you are disenfranchised. If you can’t get childcare, you are disenfranchised. If you are in the active military – thanks for your service, but you don’t get to vote. If you are elderly or disabled and can’t stand in line for an hour or walk 10 blocks to the polls (both things I observed in 2016) you are disenfranchised.

    This article talks about underrepresented groups. Well, the answer isn’t trying to get them to the caucus. Its eliminating the elitist and un-democratic caucus process altogether.

    • Submitted by jim hughes on 02/02/2018 - 01:57 pm.

      I agree

      Caucuses are mostly an anachronism – and a social event for overbearing
      fringe dwellers. But how will we get rid of them and what will replace them?

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/01/2018 - 11:02 am.

    I remain ambivalent

    While activists are often the ones who, when they can get organized, move the political needle in one direction or another, they do **not** typically represent the general public and average voter very accurately. Right-leaning activists at a GOP caucus will tend to drag candidates and rhetoric (and party platforms) farther to the right than most voters will be willing to go. Left-leaning activists at a DFL caucus will tend to drag candidates and rhetoric (and party platforms) farther to the left than most voters will be willing to go. Sometimes sincere, driven citizens move the needle. More often, I think, they do not – unless they themselves represent a social or political movement that already has wide and deep support among the public.

    We may or may not be at that point.

    Meanwhile, to use someone else’s phrase, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

    If you go to a caucus, you’ll have to put your name on a mailing list (and include your phone number) in order to participate (unless caucus rules have changed dramatically since I last attended one). Once your name and contact information is on that list, be assured that the list will be manipulated, traded, sold to other interested parties, and otherwise used by an astonishing variety of agencies and individuals, all of whom will interpret your enthusiasm as, among other things, a willingness to financially support numerous social and political causes, many of which you had no idea existed. If my experience was typical, it will take you **years** to get off of mail and phone lists.

    I’m tempted every election cycle to go to a caucus, and then I remember the piles of fund-raising junk mail I had to recycle, and seemingly never-ending phone calls, all asking for money to “save the little children,” “save the nation,” “save the planet,” “save the universe from evil,” &c., ad nauseum. My lone experience with caucus participation, and the party registration required in order to do that, was so negative, so annoying, and for so long, that I’m pretty sure I’ll never do it again.

    • Submitted by Wayne Kantola on 02/01/2018 - 09:57 pm.

      Party driven events

      I couldn’t agree more. The last series of caucus/convention events I attended culminated in the DFL city wide convention that nominated Andy Dawkins for Mayor. Norm Coleman patiently worked through the process with the simple message “Party caucuses and conventions are populated by the fringe”. He went to the primary un-nominated, beat Dawkins and became Mayor. Maybe, having people that don’t represent “The Fringe” at caucuses will help move parties to the center, but I doubt it. And yes, both Norm and I are now Republicans, probably because of that experience.

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