Saturday, March 8, 2008

DFL Senate District 62: Convention or Marathon?

Yesterday, March 8th, was the Minnesota State Senate District 62 DFL Convention and I was a delegate selected to attend at our precinct caucus back on Super Tuesday, February 5th. Unfortunately my friend and neighbor was unable to attend due to an illness in his family.

As this was my visitation weekend and wanting to spend time with my teenage son, I suggested that he accompany me and afterwards we would go do something fun. After all, registration begins at 9:00 A.M. and we should be out of there by what, 11:00 A.M. or 11:30 A.M. at the latest? Well, guess again. We did not get out until nearly 4:00 P.M. and that was only after leaving early because, as Popeye would say: That was all me could take and me could take no mores!

We arrived at my father's alma mater, Roosevelt High School in South Minneapolis at approximately 9:25 A.M. and immediately knew that something was up when we had to park three blocks away. As we approached the entrance on 28th Avenue, we were inundated with supporters for Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, one of the three candidates running for the DFL Party's endorsement for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Norm Coleman and once held by Saint Wellstone.

I knew our district was known for its political activism and this was later confirmed when one of the speakers announced that more people turned out for caucuses in our one district then in the entire state of North Dakota. The registration line snaked through the school down one corridor, then another and another, then back again. After approximately 45 minutes, I finally received my credentials and then off we went to very last row of the balcony, where precinct 12-6 was being seated.

The first item of business was voting on the 138 resolutions that were passed by the various precinct caucuses. Yes, that number was correct, 138 freakin' resolutions! So many that we had to use the same forms you use for taking the SATs. The resolutions ranged from the profound to the absurd.

Falling into the latter category was a resolution that wanted to require the Administration and Congress to consult with state and local officials before negotiating any provisions of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Only problem with that resolution was something called the Constitution of the United States which gives Treaty making power to the executive and the advice and consent power to the U.S. Senate.

Another exasperating moment came shortly after the convention got under way when some clown made a motion to abandon Roberts Rules of Order. We never got to hear what the alternative was, anarchy? Luckily this motion was not seconded and in a rare moment of parliamentary economy, the convention quickly moved on. The same could not be said when well-intentioned delegates made various motions intended to speed things up only to end up slowing thing down in what would have been comical attempts except for their frequency. These are all good examples of why lawyers are still indispensable to the legislative and political processes, if for no other reason then to keep idiots from wasting citizens time and turning people off to the political system.

Perhaps the most frustrating point in the convention came during the subcaucus portion of the convention when 48 people proposed subcauces. If that wasn't bad enough, the person keeping track of the various groups on an overhead projector had apparently never heard of a time saving device called abbreviations. I mean, it was like watching old people screw.

A moment worth mentioning is when candidate for the DFL U.S. Senate endorsement, Al Franken, arrived too late to address the convention as we were already in the process of creating the 48 sub caucuses. Thankfully what could have been a bitter standoff was quickly resolved with a negotiated motion to allow each of the three candidates or their proxies an additional 5 minutes to address the convention. Al made the best of the awkward moments by walking the floor shaking hands before being allowed his five minutes to give a heartfelt and pragmatic speech before hurrying off to the next convention. In true Franken form, as Al was leaving he grabbed a floor mike and reiterated he had to go, acknowledging those in the balcony who had not already come down to the main floor. Then, after exiting a door stage right, he ran back in and yelled: "thanks for letting me speak!".

Also worth noting was former Senator Mark Dayton's passionate, almost spastic speech in support of Hillary Clinton, which in a district which went almost 75% for Obama, took a great deal of courage. After Dayton finished, everyone sitting in my section agreed he showed more passion in his speech on behalf of Hillary than he ever showed on his own behalf when he was our Senator.

Special thanks should go out to the people at Fire Roast Mountain Coffee Shop for providing the fabulous tamales and baked goods in addition to beverages as we really needed sustenance during this marathon affair. Thanks also to the affable gentleman from Northern Sun Alliance with his two tables of humorous, progressive shirts, buttons and stickers, which gave my son and I something to do during the longwinded speeches by local officials. Finally, a very special thanks to Bill Davis, our savior, who was brought in to act as surrogate chair to move things along and without whom we would still be there.

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