Hillary inched ahead of Bernie. Trump’s head was ahead of every red piece of meat for the soon-to-be released debate stage. We return to the snowy night and frosty stares of a populace about to put itself through a political meat-grinder. I’d been to a few caucuses in my brief voting life. Nonetheless, I vote in every election, no matter how small. In 2016 it seemed more important than any election in my life. The stakes were high, futures of children, of women, of immigrants, of blacks, of the disabled and LGB…. hung in the balance. They were casually, carefully placed before the windmills of justice and impaled with the tiny hands of a reality showman, a charlatan, a fraud, an infantile megalomaniac with a Napoleon complex. Members of minorities, winners of issues, benefactors of liberal strides (literally) I saw — at my parents’ knees — made in the late 60s and early 70s were in line to turn around and walk back to from whence they’d come.
It is a March night, early, when the snow’s begun its separation anxiety. My wife, not nearly as political, accompanies me on Metro Mobility to St. Louis Park High School. It is $3.00 for a half-mile ride that takes us to the site of our precinct caucus. We, I a Richfield home boy, and my wife who lived much of her life in SLP, have voted together since we moved from New Hope and registered in 2003. We live in precinct 14. I know my district and ward and can’t seem to stop the flashbacks from coming. Like a welcomed glorious willfully born Vietnam experience they come. They are of days spent in school lunch areas, years before I was a student, with my dad as he caucused. He usually went there, though, with a thought of going to the next level. But that was him.
Hallways congest to be emblems for districts. Signs direct us to rooms fit for our precinct. A woman at the door — who I know from our condo board — checks us in to the room. I’m thinking, I have not always agreed with her politics on the board, and hoped it would be better here. She slips us ballots naming Clinton Sanders, O’Malley, and De La Fuentes. Always curious, particularly in this field suspicious of interlopers, this last “Rocky” caught my eye. The man had pluck, tenacity of a La follette. De La Fuentes had been unsuccessful as a Reform Party nominee, as well as his self-made American Delta Party. Rocky now sought the Democratic nomination. That was the one and only time I saw the Rock. O’Malley had dropped out after Iowa and I was surprised to see his name. We each left our impression in the Sander’s box like no dramatic irony ever existed.
Tiny desks feel uncomfortably familiar. I had grown physically and mentally. I see the forum before me and act. I plan to act and get that less-Yippe Abbie H. spirit guide. Speakers, heads of district 46A go on about DFL protocol, Sander’s grassroots campaign and the perils of D.J. Trump. I had a prepared (by me) a statement to read. It was my resolution. I had filled out the form I found online and it was all official. I thought of the dissident democrats, among them my folks and many of the people in my book Ten Years and Change). It occurred to be how they broke away from the Johnson/Humphrey mold and wrote an anti-war resolution. I suppose that was asking a lot to stop something that was killing a generation, a population of by-standers and depleting money that could really be put to more constructive use. I had thought hard on my resolves. What did I want. What affected me and other I had brushed elbows with, been denied jobs with, been assumed to be such with, been underestimated with? I wanted a voice. I wanted someone to know that someone was pissed off, that some vocational worker who “advocate on our behalf” should nail some ADA ass to the wall when the law is broken. Now, is it a LAW or isn’t it? Only at the corporate level, where everything is politically correct, where everyone has a handicap accessible ramp up the company ladder, where the employers are close enough to the federal government that they fly straight, is the Americans with Disabilities Act enforced, to a fault. I was talking about the blue-collar sector, the fast-food, the pizza joints, the Targets where one usually sees physically or mentally disabled employees. In my abundance of experience, the files and files of entry-level jobs I’ve applied for (through vocational guidance), countless employers who told me barely plausible stories of why I was passed over for jobs I was more than able to do, I felt the “man” had consistently bucked the system. Discrimination went unchecked and the acronym EOE lost its power to spell.
The chair of our caucus begins hearing resolutions. Everything from a resolution involving the FCC to abolishing the Electoral College to getting rid of “super” delegates is voiced. When it sounds as if a spiel in ending, my hand shoots up, high above my constituents’ heads, like the guy with a cane might have something prominent to say. Finally the chair asks me to read. I suggest that the ADA is weak, ill-defined and not enforced with enough consistency to win it any credibility. I put forth a resolution that its violators be more effectively called out, at EVERY level of the job market and prosecuted to the extent the law provides. It is accepted, along with 134 others, and I feel I have exercised my right to bitch. Then the take volunteers, delegate positions at the next level of the democratic process in a presidential year. Many hands go up, including mine and my wife’s. By now the spoor of democracy, of vindication, of being a microcosm in a macrocosm has broken the cold windows’ seal. The State Senate District convention is at the school the following month. Again, the past comes flooding back. The spring morning in 1968, ’69, ’70, 1 or 2 where I sat on that lunch bench between boredom and curiosity. When the sun was bringing Richfield to life and hazing a still on the bare tile floor of the cafeteria. My old man was a student/teacher. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and what he needed to do to get there. I spend a few minutes straddling the lunch bench, I recall my past, and quietly gaze upon other fathers and their young sons. The sun and the tiles in the SLP cafeteria are the same, but the DFL handbook of by-laws has changed a little since 1968.
I (my wife has a prior commitment and descends to alternate status) enter the school’s auditorium. Annoying paper that are draped over the arms of chairs identify the various districts. We comprise 46A and B is in our midst. Districts from Hopkins, Plymouth, Golden Valley, New Hope are represented. The room quiets and the chair steps to the podium and, armed with a projector and transparency, asks “why are we here today.” With that he lets stand a well-known photo of Trump. That proved to be the only levity of the morning. The by-laws, item by item are discussed and voted upon. The paint on a wall could have dried, and I’d be there to watch it. (Now, on hindsight, I understand the need for such perseverance and scrutiny. It is the macro/micro deal that could come back (or forward) to bite. Exact wording may be instrumental in arguing cases like Trump’s first ill-conceived Muslim ban.) I mark the list, whittled down to 52, of resolutions I want passed. A simple yes or no vote send resolutions, including mine, on to the next level.
To be honest I am bored to tears. Part of me wants to go farther, to maybe make it to the DNC that July in Philly. And I really don’t know that you can nominate yourself. I had Metro Mobility coming in time. The convention would continue on into the afternoon. I had said I’d attend a friend’s party. My ride to that hinges on Metro. I wait, I flirt with time’s limitations, with my limitations, with the consequences of Metro’s cancellation. I weigh my option, the emotional cost benefit retrospective. I am not my pop, not graced at public speaking, a self-seller or a natural accumenical-ascender-of- levels in the democratic process. My two cents was put in the macro-political jukebox, hopefully my selection has extended play.