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Our View: Our politics benefit from robust caucus participation

From the editorial: "In addition to helping identify and choose political candidates, those who show up to their caucuses select delegates to county conventions and bring up and vote on resolutions to guide their political party over the coming two years."

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2016 News Tribune file photo / Debra Taylor (right), building captain for the DFL caucus at Duluth East High School in 2016, helps people determine which precinct they live in and which room they should go to.
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With no presidential race and still in the grip of a deadly pandemic, Tuesday’s caucuses aren’t on most Minnesotans’ radar.

Our participation, though, in this early-on and important part of the political process rivals voting, as party officials remind us every two years. Caucusing is another of our civic responsibilities and duties as members of a republic and representative democracy.

Blah, blah, blah?

Fine, how about this: If you’re a Minnesota Republican, you can participate to help choose who from your party will run against Gov. Tim Walz. And if you’re a Minnesota DFLer, you can participate this year without even leaving your sofa.

In addition to helping identify and choose political candidates, those who show up to their caucuses select delegates to county conventions and bring up and vote on resolutions to guide their political party over the coming two years.

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“In my experience, starting at the caucuses and county convention helps an individual understand the process and be involved, which helps our democracy,” Roger Kittelson of Goodhue, Minnesota, a DFL candidate for Minnesota Senate two years ago, told the News Tribune Opinion page this week. “We know the majority of Minnesotans are independents, and that is a good thing. I believe we need voters that will vote for the candidates that will support their issues to move Minnesota forward. … Politics should be a debate, not a war.”

Caucuses are Tuesday at 7 p.m. Minnesotans are encouraged to participate to help enrich the politics that so impact our day-to-day lives and elected leadership. Robust participation in our democracy improves our representation and the feeling among more of us that our issues, wishes, and problems are being addressed.

In Duluth, the caucuses for Republicans will be in-person at Ordean Middle School, Duluth East High School, Denfeld High School, and Lincoln Park Middle School, as the News Tribune reported last week. Republicans in Duluth unsure which location to go to can find their caucus site at caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

For DFLers, caucuses will be virtual and contactless this year for the first time, “out of concern for members’ well-being as the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread,” the News Tribune’s Peter Passi wrote. Information and forms can be found at DFL.org.

The Senate District 7 DFL endorsing convention had been held virtually in 2020, too, just weeks after pandemic shutdowns began, and “we set a record turnout at that virtual convention,” Senate District 7 DFL Secretary Kevin Swanberg said in the News Tribune story. “More people participated in that convention than ever before. And for the DFL, democracy is about participation, (and) it’s about hearing from people who don’t always get a chance to speak up.”

But, countered Donna Bergstrom of Duluth, deputy chairwoman of the Minnesota GOP, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. “It does make a big difference. There’s just something about meeting in person with people,” she told the newspaper. “People will take precautions. … We’ll be fine.”

Our democracy will be better than fine with health precautions followed and safe, robust participation in Tuesday’s caucuses. Turnout depends on more of us getting it on our radar and making plans to be part of it.

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