A Night of Local Democracy: Lit AF

April 7, 2017

My first local caucus in Minneapolis this week was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

Hundreds of people crammed into a common room of the assisted-living facility hosting my ward’s caucus. This room had tragic brown carpet. In fact, everything was just very beige. We started 35 minutes late due to the mass number of people arriving with one volunteer at registration. By 7:35 p.m., the caucus chair steps up front and declares it’s only his second time running a caucus. We listen as he explains he had been assured “no one would be here!” followed by a nervous laugh.

No one returned the laugh.

The thought of leaving would’ve been a good one to have at that point. But I was being way too self-righteous about the whole thing. My brain was on fire like a frat boy yelling, WOO! DEMOCRACY! PEOPLE GETTING INVOLVED, IT’S LIT!

Fast-forward three-and-a-half hours, I’m having hot flashes in the sweltering common room and I’m not having it. Democracy, what a [insert expletive] [insert expletive]. Take me to Russia.

Little did I know, this was a YUGE deal and even larger in other wards. This kind of turnout in an off-year election (meaning there are no federal- or state-level elections) had never been seen before.

Scene from Minneapolis 2nd precinct. Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

At my caucus, a table of seasoned professionals (aka the old ladies) tried to keep order. They couldn’t even with the fresh new faces calling for “motions” and derailing a system they had down pat. Entire sections of the room were “out of order” on the regular. A younger participant calls a motion for a walking subcaucus after too many people raised their hands to be election ward delegates. Unheard of. The professionals were not happy.

I’m not about to explain the walking subcaucus. Google it. It’s why the evening lasted nearly four hours. I went straight to the “undecided” group as the “walking” began. I have no clue who’s running for Minneapolis City Council and I honestly can’t tell you what power the City Council even holds. (Education, FTW.) Luckily, I bonded about the whole ordeal with a former Pony in my ward as we figured out what was happening.

A walking subcaucus ends when delegates are elected. To end the madness, of course I signed myself up to be an undecided delegate for the Ward Convention later this month. I had been there almost three hours at that point, so why not? What was I doing there if not to get involved?!

Sometimes I just despise myself and the decisions I make. Total sign-up regret. Taking my seat, I instantly panic-Googled “What does an undecided delegate do?!”

Although I’m almost positive I’ve committed myself to an entire Saturday of joyless monotony inside a middle school, it was an amazing experience.

Arriving home at 10:45 p.m., I was happy I went. I learned a lot about issues in Minneapolis. Connections happened all around me. I spoke to the actual humans running for office. (Senator Al Franken, if you’re reading this, I would like to meet you.) There was even a tense moment when a campaign’s volunteers were huddled together at a table, all on their phones, looking over paperwork and whispering with serious faces. I imagined they were having a conversation similar to this one.

I wish I would have started doing this at a younger age. If I could go back five years and tell myself one thing, it would be to get involved — no matter how big or small the cause may seem. Insecurity and self-doubt are nothing more than evil mind tricks. Just show up, it’s that easy. No expectations necessary. Bring yourself, an open mind and a bit of curiosity.