Ready to caucus? Catholics, start your engines

| February 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

When her children were young, Jean Stolpestad brought them to caucuses to introduce them to the process — just as her mother did when she was growing up. Her mom was an avid caucus-goer and often exclaimed, “This is how we make change.”

That message stuck with Stolpestad, who has caucused since she was in high school and brought her own children to caucuses when they were young.

Today, Stolpestad is director of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Office of Marriage, Family and Life and a member of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) Life, Family and Health Care Committee. She also looks forward to caucusing with other Minnesotans starting at 7 p.m. Feb. 25.

“Caucuses are fun,” Stolpestad said. “I love it.”

Caucuses are an opportunity for people to endorse candidates for office, choose party delegates for district and state party conventions and present resolutions important to them to help influence their party’s platform. For example, a resolution might focus on the right to clean water or opposition to commercial gestational surrogacy.

Because only a small percentage of Minnesotans typically participate in caucuses, a determined and organized group can make a big difference — and that’s a big reason the MCC encourages participation, said Jason Adkins, executive director of the conference, which is the public policy arm of the bishops in Minnesota.

“We often complain about our choices and the positions of the parties, but here is a concrete opportunity to help shape the process,” Adkins said. “We should shape the parties, instead of letting them shape us.”

Stolpestad encourages people not to feel intimidated by a caucus. Many people are there for the first time, and others are ready to help.

“You likely will recognize a few familiar faces, too,” she said, “as caucus attendees are your neighbors.”

Despite deep polarization in today’s politics, it’s important for people to participate, Adkins said.

“Politics, in the mind of the Church, is a form of charity,” he said. “It serves the common good. It is a way to love our neighbor. It’s not optional.”

Everyone has gifts to share that no one else can, Adkins said.

“We are called to share that unique perspective as we order our common life together,” he said. “One way to do that is voting, but politics is more than one day in November.”

Stolpestad encourages Catholics not to fear articulating their principles in a caucus resolution. Gospel values elevate the common good, she said.

“As Catholics, we have a lot to bring and offer to the public square,” Stolpestad said.

MCC’s website, mncatholic.org, has an entire page and links to more information on the caucuses and March 3 presidential nominating primary.

The site includes easy-to-draft resolutions that reflect Catholic social teaching on such issues as the right to clean water, recognition of pornography as a public health hazard, opposing legalization of assisted suicide and opposing commercial surrogacy.

“We developed resolutions that can and should be used in either party’s caucuses,” Adkins said. “They all involve combating the throwaway culture, where persons are commodified and discarded, or where the gift of creation, such as water, is not properly stewarded. These are significant and interconnected themes highlighted by Pope Francis.”

Resolutions are a way to bring what’s important to people to the political process, Stolpestad said. It’s turning the wheel on the democratic process.

“It’s where things that matter can surface,” she said.


SEVEN STEPS TO CAUCUS

A caucus is an opportunity to influence a party’s platform. Participation is key. A caucus often is under two hours. Caucuses are run by volunteers using Robert’s Rules of Order. Below is the general outline of how to caucus, adapted from information provided by the Minnesota Catholic Conference. To read more, visit mncatholic.org/caucus.

1. Find “house districts,” precinct names/numbers and locations for Feb. 25 caucuses at Minnesota Secretary of State’s caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

2. Sign in at 6:30 p.m., then visit with neighbors.

3. The event should convene promptly at 7 p.m. Do ask questions along the way. Everyone is a volunteer, and often half the attendees are there for the first time.

4. Elect someone to run the caucus and elect a “precinct chair,” someone who will be active for the coming two-year cycle (or longer). Then it’s time to submit a resolution to influence the party’s official platform, which is the most powerful part of caucuses. (MCC has information on how to submit resolutions at mncatholic.org/caucus.)

5. Elect delegates. The number varies, but they will represent the precinct at the conventions that follow, from the Senate District level right up to the party’s national convention.

6. Straw polls or preference ballots often are taken. In a hurry? People typically can vote early and leave, depending on the rules.

7. Adjourn. It’s a formal step; people can leave whenever they need because the entire process is voluntary.


SUPER TUESDAY

Minnesotans get an early and important shot at nominating presidential candidates this year.

For the first time since 1992, the state is holding a presidential primary.

Minnesota joins 13 other states holding primaries on March 3, “Super Tuesday.”

People who can’t make it to the polls March 3 can vote early in person or by mail.

Two of the four major parties in Minnesota are participating this year: the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party and the Republican Party.

President Donald Trump is the only presidential candidate on the Republican ballot. Fifteen presidential candidates are listed on the DFL ballot.

Instructions for early voting, sample ballots and other information can be found on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website at myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us.

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