Monday, February 15, 2010

Week #1-- From John Wren. (Please post your thoughts as a comment below.)

First, take just a minute and introduce yourself to the "class" we'll be having here online each week. Please post an introduction of yourself below under "Introductions" (click here now, THEN GO TO TOP OF PAGE). This is optional, but I believe we'll all learn more if we know who is participating.

I'll be inviting guest "speakers" to make the opening posts with me each Monday (next Monday, John Skipper, author of "Iowa Caucuses"), both Democrats and Republicans who are willing to share about their party, auxiliary organization, or campaign. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Thomas Jefferson is often given credit for being the founder of the Democrats and Abe Lincoln given credit for starting the Republicans off. My friend David Fogel says he is sure that today they would join the opposite party! Lincoln and his concerns would be more in line with the Dems, Jefferson would be GOP, David thinks. (Do you agree? Why or why not? Post as a comment below if you have strong feelings about this or anything else that is posted here, especially if you disagree.)

Washington and Jefferson would have preferred that there be no political parties, but Jefferson finally saw that if an opposition party was not organized Alexander Hamilton's party would win every election.

We are better off with just two parties, in my opinion, the European system of multiple parties and back room deals just makes it harder for the common person like me to participate and really make a difference.

My neighbor Lyle Lindesmith taught me to love the Colorado Caucus.

In 1974, as a recently elected precinct committee person going door to door looking for a block captain on one of the few blocks in my precinct that didn't have one already, I met Lyle.

I was talking with everyone who was on my list of party members. I'd knock on the door, introduce myself, and ask for help. For years Lyle had led a 4-session class call "Action Class in Practical Politics." Each week he'd invite speakers from both major political parties, and students were give homework assignments of checking out their local neighborhood and county, reporting back to the class what had been discovered. Now I'm seeing if we can make it work for people here on line, thanks for being part of the test!

Lyle had been Executive Director of the Colorado Republican Pary, and with Jeane Toole they developed John Love from an obscure El Paso County Republican into Governor. Lyle went with Love to Washington when he was appointed Energy Czar.

Lyle asked me to help with what I think was the last session of the Action Class he ever led, it was at the old Petroleum Club and community activist Jeanne Faatz was in the class, just starting to think about running for elective office. She was soon elected to the state legislature, and now serves on the Denver City Council.

From time to time I stopped by and visited with Lyle at his business, Englewood Press on South Broadway, and he steeped me in his long-time political wisdom, advice that would have served me well if I'd paid more attention to it. Here's what I remember now:

*Make a decision whether you want to be a candidate for elected office, or if you'd rather be of service through party work. Lyle had learned from personal experience the two don't mix, that's been my experience, too.

*Party leaders, from precinct committee person to state chair do their job best when they stay neutral in candidate races. Let all the candidates bring new people into the party rather than compete for the party faithful.

*There are several ways to get involved: 1) Through the party structure; 2) Through auxiliary organizations; 3) Through candidate organizations. Lyle had Action Class members contact their local leaders in all three areas, look for opportunities to fill voids in their neighborhood.

You who are reading this now could become State Chair of one of the major political parties or Governor of Colorado if you'd take Lyle's sage advice to heart right now. What's the best next step for newcomers? I'll talk about that next week.

I didn't know Lyle very long, but he had a big effect on my thinking and he helped to launch many active citizens in both major parties. He passed away December 26, 1978 and I attended his funeral. There was never any recognition of his passing by the county or state party. Do you think it's too late now?

Assignment for between now and next Monday: 1) Read what is posted here; 2) Call county headquarters for the political party of your choice, get the names and phone numbers for your neighbors who are serving as precinct committee people, and ask them what is going on in your neighborhood. We'll ask everyone to share what they've learned here next week.

Suggested readings for this week:

For basic information about how the Colorado system works: Secretary of State website.

Week #1 Readings: "The Individual in Politics" and "The Political Party Organizaion." Download and print out for your own personal use.

Next Week: John Skipper, Author of "The Iowa Caucuses," and also surprise guests will be with us. Next week you'll be asked to share what you've learned about your own party through your contact with your county and precinct.

Now it's your turn. Post your thoughts below and also an introduction of yourself if you haven't already. You can post anytime through out the next week. Note: Post comments about the caucus system at the bottom of this post. Below see "Introductions" and "Events" please post there with a short intro of yourself if you want and events that are coming up. Then I hope to see you back here next Monday, February 22 for our guest "speakers" and a continuation of this online discussion.

If you've found this helpful, please email a link to this website along to your friends who might like to become more active citizens. They will thank you, and so will I if you'll let me know what you've done. John Wren (303)861-1447


John S Wren said...

It's clear to me that our wonderful grassroots, neighborhood system, the Colorado Caucuses, gives the common person like me the best chance of getting elected to public office. That's why it is disliked by the rich and powerful. Most public office holders don't like it either, it makes it very easy for a primary opponent to get on the ballot.

Just Anita said...

With regards to the Lincoln and Jefferson comparison, I would agree with David's statement only to the extent that both the Democratic and Republican parties have changed their original platforms. However to use Jefferson and Lincoln, as examples of "party leadership" in platform change serves as an injustice to the accomplishments of both men within our history.

Both parties are currently too polarized, and neither reflect the visions of their founding platforms, period. Therefore, I would debate that Jefferson and Lincoln are more in line with today's independent convictions than a reflection of changing party platforms.

Neither Lincoln or Jefferson feared challenging the "status quo" of their time. The two-party system we have today, relies on opposition to stay entrenched, creating "status quo". Both parties are basically corporations, acting as corporate vehicles for "change" - strength in numbers. Further, the party has become "our voice", and speaks for us. It's a distortion of the Democratic process; choosing a winner take all mentality to force change. Even good change will be opposed, when the minority voice feels suppressed by opposition.

The greater lesson to be learned with the Jefferson and Lincoln comparison would be our ability to look beyond loyalist rhetoric, and seek ways to break status quo. Neither the Republican or Democratic parties can do that for us.

John Wren said...


Political parties are like fire, or a lever. They can be used for good or bad. You talk about "Republican or Democratic parties can do that for us" as if they had a life of their own.

The problem as I see it is that too many just sit on the sidelines and jeer. How many unaffiliated candidates have any chance at all of getting elected?

Just Anita said...

A point well taken if you have a "match" and fuel to light the fire, and/or money to pull the "lever". We human citizens understand that both will be a little harder to come by with the SCOTUS ruling handed down from the Supreme Court.

Agreed - voter apathy is extreme. But apathy is the symptom, not the disease. We have been trained to look to others to answer our questions, rather than questioning our answers. We read what is in our comfort zone, and we dismiss what goes beyond our scope of reasoning. The question remains, "IS our citizens learning? I'm certain you get my point.

We've become a fast food nation in a sound bite world. We're an impatient lot, and we cling to what we know with intensity and resolve, rather than being curious about what we don't know. The parties and pundits are ready with open arms, comforting our woes, helping us to draw more lines in the sand, reminding us we're not the problem - the opposition is the problem. And yes, we bite: hook, line, and sinker.

As far as your question about unaffiliated candidates, there aren't many. Statistically, finding qualified candidates, and getting them elected, is equivalent to a snowball's chance in hell. If they do get elected, getting any legislative initiatives to committee is statistically even lower. Neither party acknowledges "independents" because they have gone outside of "party-line" politics. Where's the voter in that process?

I've only supported and worked on 1 Independent's campaign. That would be Bernie Sanders in VT - from Mayor to Senate in the 90's. Ask me again after Rep. Kathleen Curry's run, as an unaffiliate this election cycle.

Unknown said...

I agree with Anita to an extent and with John to an extent.

The reason for our political system is, just that, not everyone is going to want to participate so we have representatives doing the job for those in the sidelines.

The problem is the media. They aren't doing a very good job of keeping the masses informed and what they give us is pure yellow journalism and one sided opinions.

Just Anita said...

So true. The sad statistics reflect a media that is not independent, but corporate owned by a few with huge agendas. Mainstream Media outlets are no longer a source of information, as much as, info-tainment with it's own slant and agenda - $$ and ratings. Everything is cyclical. True, we live in a soundbite world, but we don't have to be microsecond girls (or boys), when it comes to validating our positions.

The days of cable info-tainment are waning. Frankly, the hype is giving many a headache. It's hard for me to listen to either side, when the percentage of what is verifiable and factual is signifantly low.

I tend to be the glass 1/2 full type, and have a lot of faith in the public majority's common sense. Look at the fabulous conversation's we've had on this site, thanks to John's passion and efforts. I'm all in favor of "censorship" with the remote control - power off!

There are so many ways to get credible information from the source; getting it second hand is almost, "archaic".

John S Wren said...


Back to Thomas Jefferson...

He said that given a choice of government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he would not hesitate to choose that later.

I don't think our type of government works very well without good newspapers.

Citizens just don't have the time to dig out the info on every representative and every issue.

Seems to me everyone should not only read but also subscribe to their local newspaper. When they are wrong, call them on it with a comment posted online and/or a letter to the editor.

Just Anita said...

Yes, Thomas J.,John Adams, and Abigail had some brilliant back and forth dialogue. TJ had a wicked pen, which brings a 'tinge of green' to my skin. I would have sided, and still side with TJ's assessment. But, the operative word in this discussion is "good".

I'm trying to follow the rest of your position's logic. What you seem to be saying is 'subscribe to and read the local newspapers, even if they're 'corporate owned and slanted', or believed to be 'wrong', and find the time to write to them, telling them so.

But you start by saying, people don't have the time "to dig out information". If there is 'no time' to dig for information in the first place, how does one qualify whether or not the newspaper/media source is "wrong"?

Would you agree or disagree that "civic engagement" requires an element of time?

John S Wren said...

Yes, it does take some time.