With participation at all-time lows and presidential races already decided by voters in other states, political party caucuses in Minnesota last week were practically meaningless -- which again makes us wonder why Minnesota doesn't hold an inclusive primary earlier in the game.
By the time Otter Tail County DFLers cast their ballots -- fewer than 100 of them in a county of more than 50,000 people -- Al Gore had already shoved Bill Bradley out of the race. Minnesotan votes didn't matter in the least.
While the Republican caucuses technically coincided with Super Tuesday, their nonbinding straw poll had no national relevance. News networks didn't even bother to report the results, instead focusing on important states such as Ohio, New York and California, where primaries were held.
Before Minnesotans had anything to say about it, their major-party presidential candidates were all but guaranteed. And even if they had wanted to go out and vote, many couldn't unless they joined a political party.
The caucus system, like the two-party system as a whole, is exclusionary by nature. Independent voters have no say whatsoever, and even party members are apparently disillusioned enough to stay home on caucus day.
Caucus defenders say their grass-roots gatherings are a chance to talk about issues and hear from the people. But there's no reason the presidential vote should be tied to those meetings, which are open to members only.
The general population of Minnesota, not just a handful of leaders and activists, should get its chance to vote in a presidential primary. It should be held on a date when its outcome would matter.
Such a move would be sure to boost participation from all Minnesotans. It would give everyone the opportunity to influence the campaigns. And it would finally rescue the state from political impotence.
-- The Daily Journal of Fergus Falls
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