Political caucuses need to go the way of the dinosaur

Bye, bye Walter Mondale’s pie,
Drove a Subaru down the Fernberg & the antis are high.
The good old miners are drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day the DFL dies …

American Pie was not served at the DFL caucuses in Ely but the party did not have its best moment on Tuesday night.
Taken over by a small group of extremists bent on passing anti-mining resolutions, Ely’s results were vastly different than surrounding areas.
If this is the way the caucus system is going to work then we will join the ever-growing call for the political parties to do away with the present caucus system. Currently the caucus system is used for straw polls, to submit party platform positions and to elect delegates who advance on to the district convention.
In today’s fast-paced world, the caucus system is a dinosaur that has done more to alienate than recruit party members. Maybe the future will involve electronic participation. But what we have now isn’t working.
In Ely Rebecca Otto was the top choice in a straw poll. Statewide she finished behind Tim Walz. Of course if past gubernatorial elections are any indication the party endorsement can be the kiss of death.
When Tim Pawlenty decided not to run in 2010 (he may be back in 2018), the field was wide open on both sides.
The DFL party struggled with picking a candidate when it came to the state convention in Duluth. Our own Tommy Rukavina was even in the running but eventually bowed out and endorsed eventual endorsee Margaret Kelliher.
But Kelliher couldn’t survive the primary because she was taken out by somebody who didn’t even participate in the caucus system. Who was that? Our current governor, Mark Dayton. He basically thumbed his nose at the party until they endorsed him after he beat Kelliher.
Kelliher wasn’t the only party endorsed candidate to lose in the primary. But it was an indication of a system that is broken.
By and large people do not participate in caucuses unless it’s a presidential election. And in 2020, the state is holding a primary instead of a caucus, in part to keep a closer handle on how the ballots are cast.
Ely’s results Tuesday night will not be indicative of how the primary election will go this fall. This is a small group of extremists using a broken system to get their viewpoint out there.
But this doesn’t help the DFL party, which is already struggling with a monster sized tear down the middle over mining. While the few who bother to show up and participate at precinct caucuses and district conventions clamor for anti-mining platforms, nearly all of the DFL office holders in northeast Minnesota are diametrically opposed to their own party.
If anything this has helped the Republican party pick up ground in what used to be an iron-clad guarantee of DFL votes in northeast Minnesota. The presidential election of Republican Donald Trump and the numbers he pulled out of this area were astounding.
Democrat Rick Nolan somehow escaped with a victory where Trump put up record numbers. And how does the party faithful reward him? By pushing for an anti-mining candidate to challenge him instead of preparing for a general election battle this fall.
The day the DFL dies could be coming sooner than later if the extremists are allowed to continue the path we saw in Ely on Tuesday.