Sunday, February 28, 2010

Week #3-- From John Wren. (Please post your thoughts as a comment below.)

This week:

Catch up by reading Week 1 and 2 before going on with these new readings.

Read Week 3 reading Political Clubs and The Political Leaders Problems. (click here, print)

Read Precinct caucus tips, below.

Then please post a comment here, either a question on what you've read, information about a political club you know about now or find out about through your research as part of participating in this class. I'll post something about a political club or two, will ask others to do the same, so check back tomorrow.

Finally, in your comment please give me your opinion: Why aren't we getting more comments posted here? Real experts are standing by to give good answers to questions. What could be changed to improve the quality of the online conversation.

This week Phil Perington has agreed to be our "speaker." Phil has been very active in politics for years and has lots of expertise. I met him when a few of us formed "Save the Caucus" in 2002 to fight the misguided Amendment 29. I've asked Phil to give you a few tips about how to be effective as a newcomer in your precinct caucus, and then he'll answer any question you post here as a comment. Here's Phil:


#1 Each individual caucus makes their own rules. As a bonus, if an issue comes up that has either agreement or disagreement you all vote on it.

#2 Even if you are not registered as a member of the party conducting the caucus you are allowed to attend and be involved in the meeting, except for voting on candidates.

#3. You can submit a proposal for an issue near and dear to you for consideration of the Resolutions/Platform of the County Party. You are allowed to speak to the Caucus attendees on any matter being discussed, at any time.

#4. You can be elected as a Precinct Chair, Delegate to the County Assembly or volunteer for vacant positions within the Party. An excellent way to become more actively involved in Grassroots politics. In many cases first time attendees become an important volunteer or participant in a Candidates campaign or the Party structure. By attending your caucus you will hear and receive valuable information from the County, State and National Parties.

So have some fun and get involved in the Political system on a whole new level. Do you have any questions you'd like to ask me?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week #2-- From John Wren. (Please post your thoughts as a comment below.)

This week:

*Read the Week #2 readings: The Political Precinct and The Political Campaign (click here, print)
*If you haven't already join the "I'm a fan of the Colorado Caucuses" Facebook group. (click here)
*Read the John Skipper "talk" about the Iowa Caucus, the post your comments and questions.
*MOST IMPORTANT: See "What have you learned? Who are your leaders? What's going on?" below. Ask the suggested questions of your party leaders , then share what you find out as a comment by next Monday.

John Skipper is a career newspaperman who has covered presidential politics in Iowa for 25 years. His book Iowa Caucuses: First Test of Presidential Aspirations, 1972-2008 is not only fun to read it provides lots of insights into the process. In my opinion it should be on the bookshelf of every American who is concerned about the effects of big money and big power in politics and strengthen the best tool for fighting power and money, the grassroots neighborhood caucus-assembly system. It's my pleasure to introduce my friend John Skipper. Please hold your applause. :)

Good morning from Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation test for potential presidents of the United States, the Iowa caucuses. My purpose here today is not to pressure, persuade or exert some self-imposed sense of influence on you. Rather, I hope to share a few thoughts with you that will inspire a few thoughts of your own that you will be willing to share with others. And before you know it, you'll reach some conclusions that just might have lasting impact.

That, by the way, is a good description of the Iowa caucuses - a forum where well-meaning people gather, share some thoughts, listen to the thoughts of others and reach conclusions with lasting impact. If you don't think that works in Iowa, ask Jimmy Carter about 1976; ask George W. Bush about 2000; ask Barack Obama about 2008.

The national media often questions whether Iowa, a small, agricultural state that is 94 percent Caucasian, is really representative of the rest of the country - and should it be first in the presidential preference primaries and caucuses. My answer to that is that any state that is first would face the same kind of scrutiny. People would ask if Ohio or Michigan were too industrial or if New York or California or Texas were too big or if Colorado was too this or too that - I'll let you fill in that blank.

But here is what caucuses offer, regardless of pecking order. They are the last bastion of grassroots politicking in this country. During the campaigns prior to the caucus, candidates come to woo you. They meet you at your kitchen table or in your school gymnasium or at the fairgrounds. You get to see them, hear them, chat with them, ask them questions and get a feel for how they interact with people and how sincere or phony they are. Sometimes people challenge me on whether this is democracy in action or a republic and my answer to that is, let's not quibble over semantics. Instead, ask yourself how many countries in the world have a system as open as this is.

On caucus night, any eligible voter who wants to participate can come and offer their views about the candidate of their choice. The doctor, the lawyer, the rancher, the housewife, the sewer worker are all on the same playing field and, in this forum, it is a level playing field. Everybody gets their say. And then there's a vote. The presidential races get all the publicity but caucuses serve a lot of other functions. You get to choose who you want representing you at district caucuses, if you have them, and at the state convention. You also have a say on what you think should be in the party platform.

I'll conclude today by telling you a little story about the Iowa caucuses. In 1984, Senator John Glenn, the former astronaut, sought the Democratic presidential nomination. So in 1983, he campaigned in Iowa. He had an out-of-state pollster making phone calls in Iowa to try to find out how much support he had. The pollster, making random phone calls, contacted Mary Grandon, a housewife in Clear Lake, Iowa, a town of about 8,000 people. The pollster asked, "Will you be supporting Senator Glenn?" Mrs. Grandon replied, "I don't know -- I haven't met him yet!"

That's the power of the caucuses; that's the power of the people. I end where I began. Ask Jimmy Carter. Ask George W. Bush. Ask Barack Obama.

Thank you very much.

John C. Skipper has written a book detailing the history of the Iowa Caucuses. It is called "The Iowa Caucuses: First Tests of Presidential Aspirations: 1972-2008." It is available from McFarland publishers, or you can contact John directly at

John also has developed a Facebook page called "Iowa Caucus News" that keeps viewers up to date on events leading up to the 2012 caucuses and has a web page, www.iowacaucusbook,com

Do you have any questions for John about the caucus process? This is a great opportunity to get them answered by someone with years and years of caucus experience in Iowa. Post them here now.
What have you learned?
Who are your leaders?
What's going on?

One of the most valuable learning experiences is to call at least one county party headquarters (listed in the phone book or call your state party), get the names and phone numbers of your precinct committee people, then call and talk with one or both of them. Explain you're participating in this online class to learn more about the caucus system, then find out what's going on between now and the March 16th caucus in your neighborhood, and volunteer to help.

Take notes, then share what you've found out here by next Monday (Feb 29). Sharing helps you learn more from the experience, and it greatly benefits us all as we find out what is going on around the state.

I'm going to do this Monday (Feb 22) for my precinct for both the Dems and GOP and then post what I learn here in the next day or so to help get us started. Hope you'll do the same with at least one party. This can be one of the most valuable experiences of the Action Class in Practical Politics, I hope you take full advantage of it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me by posting that question here, or contact me directly at or (303)861-1447.

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


Please post a few words about yourself as a comment. Tell us who you are, what county you're in (state if you live outside of Colorado), what your political experience has been and your current affiliation. Finally tell us why you are participating, what you hope to learn and any other reason you're willing to be part of this. (This is optional, of course, you can be anonymous if you want. But it's been my experience that we'll all learn more from this if we get to know a little about each other.)


What's going on that other people who want to be more politically active might like to know about? Please post each event as a SHORT comment to this post, include a link to a website where more information is available if possible.
Publish Post

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We are now #1 listing on Google

Thanks to your active interest in what we are doing here, a search now on Google for "Colorado Caucuses" results in this site #1, top listing.

Good response to new, free online caucus workshop.

Over 100 people have RSVPd yes or maybe for the online workshop Action Class in Practical Politics that starts Monday.

A starter post will be put up here on this site each Monday morning with a link on Twitter, and it will be reposted on the Facebook group "I'm a Fan of the Colorado Caucuses" and those participating will be asked to repost it on any Internet site who they think might be interested. Highlights will be collected into an article each week that will appear in a print publication which will be announced next week.

Favorable publicity is expected over the next few days, and I'm very hopeful that together we can have a dramatic increase in the informed participation in the March 16th caucuses across the state. Evidence that we've succeeded will a renewal of leadership with fresh faces at all levels, from block workers and precinct committee people to district and county chairpeople.

Hope you'll join us! No RSVP is required, just come back here Monday morning. If you want to RSVP and share the fact that you'll be with us with your Facebook friends to encourage them to become more involved citizens, click on the above headline.

I look forward to seeing you back here Monday morning at 7 a.m. or anytime during the week. Post your comments here on this site (to make sure it gets included in our weekly aggregate print column) any of the other numerous Internet sites that will be carrying our "starter" post each week. If you have any questions or suggestions you'd care to share now, post them here as a comment or contact me (John Wren) directly at or (303)861-1447.

Together we can increase the informed participation in the March 16th Colorado Caucuses!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The new online Action Class in Practical Politics has nearly 100 people in it already, it's part of the Facebook group I've started "I'm a fan of the Colorado Caucuses." The class will be very interactive and we'll get the benefit of the experience of lots of people. It should be good, but will be better if you are with us! Link to the upper left on this page. (Pleave me a comment here or email me at John@JohnWren.comif you think it's a mistake to offer this on Facebook only.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

 I recently got an email from someone who shared why he doesn't share my enthusiasm for the Colorado Caucuses:

The Caucus process works for people who can attend at 7pm on March 16th. However, it excludes people: those who will be out of town for work; truck drivers who make up time at night; people who work the night shifts at: hospitals, police stations, fire departments, call centers, grocery stores, convenience stores, 24-hour businesses, 24-hour public services, janitorial services; parents with young children who need to get them ready for bed at 7pm; the elderly and disabled who have to rely on others to get to their caucus locations; etc. -- they are EXCLUDED from being able to participate in choosing their candidate. For the past few years, when I make calls to remind active voters about their precinct caucus, I've heard the reasons listed above at least once for why a voter cannot participate - and they are not flippant about it, but actually wish they could participate in some way.

As a political activist, I love the concept of getting together with my neighbors to discuss our candidates and platform. However, you have to admit that the caucuses, unfortunately, have become an exclusive gathering, so I can't really say I'm a fan of the Colorado Caucuses.

The fact that not everyone can attend is a shortcoming of the neighborhood caucus system for nominating to the primary ballot. So is this a sufficient reason to change they system or to not support it by helping to reach out to newcomers?

No, not in my opinion. To me it's like jury duty. It's a civic responsibility some of us need to take on some of the time. Those who can't attend the caucus can still participate in the primary election. And candidates who want can still skip the caucus and petition onto the ballot.

What do you think? Please take just a minute and post a comment here, OK?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Check out the Colorado Secretary of State website. They have finally put a link on the elections home page to the new Colorado caucuses page as we have been requesting that they do.

It's the #1 Google listing for "Colorado Caucuses" search as it should be.

This site is #2. :)