This is a picture from a Caucus (
by Tony Petrangelo
Apr 24, 2013, 7:00 AM

Are Caucuses Stupid?

TC Daily Planet’s Sheila Regan thinks so:

I have to admit that until this past week, I hadn’t been to a caucus since 1996. I don’t remember much about that caucus, except that it was long and boring, it took place at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, and I remember listening to speeches of people that wanted to be delegates.

This past week, I decided I should probably go, as I’ve been covering some of the races for the Daily Planet. Besides, it seemed like the citizenly thing to do. I didn’t really “study up” about what to expect, but in hindsight I really should have. I mean, I knew a lot about the different candidates, but in terms of the actual caucus process, I was pretty ignorant. It was one of the most confusing and irritating meetings I’ve ever experienced.

She goes on to detail her experience in the recent Minneapolis precinct caucuses, which she found to be less than inspiring. Below I have summed up those reasons in the form of a bullet list.

  • No one knew the rules, kept changing the rules, and couldn’t explain the rules.
  • Redundant bureaucracy.
  • Fear of email and phone spam.
  • Actual phone spam.
  • Confusion and miscommunication.
  • Lack of information.

The points she raises are all valid points. I’ve experienced them all myself and for anyone who has ever been to a precinct caucus, the above list is pretty much par for the course.

The caucuses I have attended have typically not been very well run, have been plagued with misinformation, redundant and usually unnecessary bureaucracy, confusion and issues with the rules. Always issues with the rules. There are never not issues with the rules.

To be clear, none of these problems have much of anything at all to do with the value of the caucuses themselves. They are all issues with the implementation of the caucuses, with the end user experience of the caucuses, so to speak.

Full disclosure, I am not a fan of the caucus system, but I’m not a fan of the caucus system for reasons having little to do with the reasons that have been discussed so far in this post. The reason’s that have been discussed so far in this post are all things about the caucus system that can be fixed.

There is nothing fundamental about caucuses that would cause Sheila Regan to decide that caucuses are stupid. She had a bad user experience. Because user experience is a thing that most every business is trying in some way to improve, people are coming to expect more from the user experience.

The longer the DFL caucuses fail to address this issue, the more Sheila Regan’s there will be.

Note from Steve: The problems identified in this story are part of an elaborate hazing ritual that you must go through in order to prove yourself worthy to participate. You’ll probably have to go through it a couple of times to establish that you are serious. You will learn what you have to do in order to become a delegate; you’ll write out your resolutions (and your platform and candidate, if you have one) in advance, and you’ll show up a little early to schmooze.

Or if you are from a lot of places that aren’t so DFL dominated, you show up and put you name on the list and chances are excellent that you’ll be a delegate, because there is almost always room.

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.