One Person, 40 Votes
to: Average Minnesota Voter
St. Paul, Minn.
Dear Fellow Voters:
Voters of a certain age will remember the comedy shows of Sid Caesar. One of the featured skits would have a peasant running to the king yelling “Sire, sire, there’s a man out front who fights with the strength of 40 men.” “How is that possible?” asked the king. “Because he has 39 other men with him,” was the reply. So, too, in electoral politics: Some people’s votes count a great deal more because they have more people with them. That is the basis for a pending United States Supreme Court case, Evenwel, in which the court is being asked to determine whether legislative district apportionment should be on the basis of total population or total eligible voter population. This decision could have a profound effect on the way legislative districts are apportioned.
But we can all have a profound effect on the 2016 presidential election. That day will come not on Election Day—Tuesday, Nov. 8—but rather Tuesday, March 1, otherwise known as precinct caucus day.
Political parties can generally agree on very little, but the state chairs of the two major parties agreed that precinct caucuses would be held March 1. The reason the parties showed this unusual degree of bipartisan comity is to maximize the impact of our caucus attendees on the political process. March 1 is “Super Tuesday,” the day the most delegates are chosen for both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions. It is widely believed that the results on this day will determine what will happen at each party’s convention (the GOP meets July 18-21 in Cleveland, the Dems a week later in Philadelphia). It is at these conventions that the next president of the United States will be nominated, and in reality, elected. The general election in November merely determines which of those two individuals get to serve. Here, one person equals tens of thousands of votes.
So in actual fact, the important voters are the people who take part in the delegate selection process, an infinitesimal percentage of the voting population. Minnesota may represent fly-over land for both major presidential candidates, but the delegates chosen from Minnesota can have, and have had in the past, a decisive impact on who actually gets to run. The process is somewhat arcane, requires two or three separate conventions, and uses rules unlike anything one encounters in business or civic life.
So why should you care?
Too often our politics, hence our government, has been hijacked by extremists. Listen to the current political dialogue and what passes for serious policy debate. There can’t be very many readers of this magazine who believe that deporting all Mexicans and building an impenetrable wall is feasible—either practically or politically. By the same token, there are very few people in business who think that the proper role of government is to apply a religious test to who can either enter the country or remain here. Many of us (or our grandparents) would fail that test (the actions of Germany are a too-recent memory).
Of course, immigration and the proper role of political sanctuary in this country are serious policy issues that should receive reasoned discussion. But because the crazies get to dominate the nominating system, we have neither that debate nor legislative agreement in Congress on this issue. You should attend the precinct caucus and demand a change in this dialogue.
Let me give you another example. I assume that there are not many true Bernie Sanders supporters who read this column. To most of us, Sanders’ goal of adding $14 trillion to entitlement expenditures over the next 10 years seems like a bad idea. There are activists, often in the Democratic Party, who do not believe that ever-rising levels of taxation decrease productivity because government expenditure is a superior substitute for private economic activity.
Those of us in the business community who know better and have the experience to back up our views should attend our precinct caucuses and get involved in the delegate selection process. Failure to do this will continue to allow the government to drift in a financially irresponsible direction. If you don’t attend, you lose the right to complain. As in business, in politics it’s mostly about showing up.
By law, precinct caucuses start at 7 p.m. at publicly posted locations (check at caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us). Caucuses usually last several hours. These are the foundational meetings that start the process for delegate selection. I would also urge you to run for delegate and get as far in the process as you can—and just as important, speak up so the crazies can’t hijack the political process (of both parties).
By going to a precinct caucus, speaking up and participating in delegate selection you will not only, like the legends of old, fight with the strength of 40 men, you’ll have the whole electoral power of a state with you. That is the way for reasonable business people to take back their government.
Vance K. Opperman
Fellow Caucus Attender
Vance K. Opperman (email@example.com) is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.
For more information on caucusing, contact:
Minnesota DFL, Ken Martin (chair), 651-293-1200, dfl.org; Minnesota GOP, Keith Downey (chair), 651-222-0022, mngop.com; Minnesota Independence Party, Mark Meyer (chair), 651-998-9156, mnip.org.