Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ben Franklin for the Colorado Caucus

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Colorado Caucus = Better Local Representatives

There are 3,000 precincts across Colorado where two neighborhood meetings are held in each of the 3,000 neighborhoods every two years in the Colorado Caucus. Many believe this process results in better neighborhoods and better local representatives. This video of how the Caucus works gives you a good general idea of what is involved. It is no quite right, the Democrats have a slightly different process for electing Presidential delegates every four years. Google "Republican" or "Democrat" Colorado for more information about the party of your choice. A good place to start is your state or county headquarters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Colorado Caucus? Isn't it just a waste of time? Wouldn't a Presidential Primary be more meaningful?

  This editorial by a long time Colorado political reporter and editor does a great job putting the light of reason on the Colorado Caucus and it's effect on Colorado politics:

Caucuses aren't for ciphers.
  October 6, 2002
  by Sue O'Brien, Denver Post Editorial Page Editor

cipher - a person or thing of no importance or value; nonentity - New World College Dictionary 

So, what will we choose to be: ciphers or individuals? 

Ciphers are faceless. They have value only as something to count - a signature on a petition or a vote to tally by machine. It's easy for ciphers to hide out. 

Hey, they're just part of the mob.

Individuals, by contrast, stand out. They take responsibility. And they rarely hide. 

We have a sovereign opportunity to become ciphers this November. 

One of the few mechanisms left in modern politics that rewards individual initiative - the precinct caucus - is on the brink of being eliminated in favor of a political nominating system that would let wannabe candidates get on the ballot only by collecting - and counting - petition signatures. 

It's a lousy proposal put forth by an otherwise admirable organization: the Bighorn Center for Public Policy. 

Now, I have nothing against getting on the ballot by petition. But why eliminate the choice - caucus or petition - that our present system provides?

It's not as though there's something inherently wrong with the caucus. And, even though these grassroots conclaves have seen declining attendance in recent years, there's a lot inherently good about them. 

Look around modern society. We have a woeful lack of what Harvard scholar Robert Putnam calls "social capital" - the dynamism that comes from doing things together and making community decisions together. 

Yet the spate of election "reforms" we're seeing these days almost seems designed to stomp out the last vestiges of community collaboration. 

"Voting and following politics are relatively undemanding forms of participation," writes Putnam in his influential "Bowling Alone." 

"In fact, they are not, strictly speaking, forms of social capital at all, because they can be done utterly alone." We can be utterly alone, too, when we perform the two other actions modern politics seems to want to limit us to: writing checks and watching attack ads on TV. 

We're systematically replacing "social capital" with plain old monetary capital. 

Colorado's traditional caucus-convention system, in contrast, rewards the shoe-leather and diligence. It provides a low-cost way for aspirants to work the neighborhoods, investing energy instead of dollars.

Recent proof of this pudding came in the race for the GOP nomination in the 7th Congressional District, where Rick O'Donnell captured first line on the primary ballot with a low-budget campaign that focused on traditional caucus and door-to-door campaigning. O'Donnell eventually lost the primary to the better-funded Bob Beauprez, but his achievement in getting on the ballot was impressive. 

But even more important than the caucus' benefits for candidates is its benefit for ordinary citizens. It's a vibrant neighborhood forum for hashing out ideas - the last remaining arena in which you can get on the first rung of the ladder toward political effectiveness by just showing up. 

I've covered precinct or town caucuses in Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Mississippi as well as Colorado. My favorite memory is of escorting a big-deal network analyst to his very first caucus in an American Legion hall in Iowa. 

This was a political expert well into his 50s, yet he'd never seen a caucus; primaries had always been his beat. He was blown away. For the first time in years of covering politics, he told me, he'd seen the true face of America. 

He was right. Caucuses offer a peculiarly intimate view of a community and its people. They'll amaze you with the quality of caring and thought participants bring to the discussion. And sometimes, if you're very lucky, you'll see new, young leaders find their first toehold in the process. 

Why is the Colorado caucus withering? First, because the legislature, in an ineffectual grab for national headlines, created a meaningless presidential primary that eliminated the headline race that once inspired much caucus activism. Second, because we're all getting good at sitting on the sidelines. 

The Kettering Foundation's David Mathews once reminded readers that the word idiot comes from the Greeks. Privacy, they thought, was akin to stupidity. "Idiots" were incapable of finding their place in the social order. 

Why bow to the trend of letting the next guy do it? Why sell out to letting money replace shoe-leather at every level of American politics? Why not keep the caucus as an open door to involvement, while continuing to provide the petition alternative? 

Bighorn's goal may be to increase the number of people peripherally involved in the process - but the initiative will never replace the quality of participation the caucus can provide. Good 
political talk … is where we recognize the connectedness of things - and our own connectedness. … 

Good political talk is also where we discover what is common amidst our differences. -David Mathews, "Civic Intelligence"
Sue O'Brien was editor of the Denver Post editorial page. See passed on not long after writing this. We miss her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

DRAFT-- Magna Carta Day Flier

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Neighborhood College? Self-directed learning groups are forming.

University of Denver Alumni Magazine

Thanks to the University of Denver for the plug in the new edition of our alumni magazine that just came out. It plugs the most current version of the idea to create small neighborhood groups for the purpose of education and strengthening the social capital in the neighborhood. Here's what they said:

They were kind to give me this small mention in the back pages that give highlights of alumni activity and milestones year by class year.

It makes it sound like my little book on startup is new, which is not the case. In 1994 when it was first published it expressed some very unique ideas, some of which have since been expressed in a more helpful way, the best in my opinion is Just Start (Harvard Business Review Press) which was co-written by the then President of Babson College.

To see my little book online just Google John Wren Daring Mighty Things and it comes right up. The Kindle version can be read online, or a paperback version can be ordered.

If you'd be willing to start a group in your neighborhood, we'd love to help you. Each Saturday at 10:30 a.m I've been holding a Google+ hangout for those engaged in the process, let me know if you'd be interested in joining us next time.

John Wren

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Colorado Caucus and the need for a neighborhood bipartisan praxis.

When it is functioning properly, each of the two major parties for each precinct has leaders who recruit block and/or apartment captains who welcome newcomers into the neighborhood and offer help when needed to neighbors.

These precinct leaders  meet with their block captains regularly, often in a once a month meeting where the district captain, county chair, sometimes even the state chair stops in and says a brief hello. One way of looking at this is Colorado Caucus as praxis.

The problem (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it) is that most issues in neighborhoods cut across party lines, things like problems with the street, street lights, trash removal, etc.

What if there was a third organization in each precinct that would function as the servant of the precinct leaders, that would be neutral on issues and candidates, but only serve to welcome newcomers and connect them with the precinct or block  party of their choice? The task of block worker and precinct leader, meeting monthly, could be thought of as a neighborhood praxis;

the practical - making judgements - praxis
This illustration is taken from this explanation of what is meant by praxis: 

Neighborhood precinct as praxis. Starting right now. The name may change. It may be best to be totally independent of the SBCC. But it is clear to me this will happen by the 2016 Colorado Caucus.

Please contact me if you are a supporter of the caucus-assembly system, if you aren't actively involved now in a political party, issue or candidate committee, and especially if you have experience as a precinct leader you'd like to share.

Contact me if you'd like to be part of this effort. I expect we will make a media release tomorrow and your thoughts about this now could make a big big difference.

Call me at the phone number below and leave a complete, confidential message. I'm the only one with the code to the voice mail box. I'll get back to you as quickly as possible, but it may not be until next week, so tell me your ideas on the voice mail message, I guarantee they will be heard and considered as we put together this new statewide neighborhood organization.

Thanks for your support.

John Wren
Co-founder, Save the Caucus (which defeated Amendment 29 in 2002 and then disband.)
Founder & CEO, Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
Founder, Neighborhood Praxis (working name, this is only use so far)
1881 Buchtel Blvd #501

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cause or effect? Do people learn to join in caucus states? Or is it just something in the water?

"...Primaries draw a very different type of voter than a caucus does. In a paper on this topic, Eitan Hersh shows that primary voters and caucus-goers aren't necessarily different ideologically—caucus-goers aren't more extreme or less tolerant—but they do differ on other dimensions, specifically political engagement. Caucus-goers are joiners. They're more likely to attend meetings and join organizations than primary voters are."