Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why Colorado legislators should vote NO on HB 16-1454. Please Share.

(Please share this with your Colorado legislators and urge your friends to do the same):

Save the Caucus! Vote NO on Colorado House Bill 1454.

The room is buzzing with conversation. Neighbors who may only have shared brief greetings in the past are now discussing pressing public policy issues and presidential candidates who will shape the nation for decades. 

Neighbors connect with each other at levels of nuance and depth that is nonexistent for passive subjects watching the nonstop chatter of today’s news media. They discover common ground that is translated into political action by their representatives at the local, state and federal levels.

This is the wonderful Colorado Caucus..  This is the grassroots of our representative democracy at its very best. In some 6,000 gatherings across Colorado citizens interact in an iron-sharpening-iron forums that challenge, enlighten, clarify. 

This is usually the Colorado Caucus, the wonderful grassroots system that has served us well since 1912 until recently. It was almost killed with a misguided experiment with a Presidential Primary for three election cycles, the test ended in 2004. It was never fully restored to health, and it has been under attack by powerful forces ever since 1912.

These forces are united by a single idea: to dupe Colorado citizens into reverting back to the pre-reform days, with party bosses having almost no oversight from rank-and-file party members.

If the Empire, in StarWars terms, fools enough into signing and then voting for Initiative 98, or right now Colorado HB 16-1454, our wonderful Coloradan grassroots will once again be replaced with the astroturf of a Presidential Primary. This is not a new fight.

Save The Caucus, a Colorado political committee, was first formed to do precisely that, to save the Colorado Caucus, which would have been killed by Amendment 29 in 2002. Despite being outspent 1400 to 1, Amendment 29 was defeated 60% to 40%.

The committee was formed by John Wren, Phil Perington, Frank & Sylvia Sullivan, Sharron and Ben Klein, , JoAnne & Dan Gray, Ruth Prendergast, Bill Armstrong and many others to fight Amendment 29, which would have killed what was left of the Colorado Caucus that had almost died trying to co-exist with expensive Presidential Primaries that were tried in 1992, 1996 and 2000. We fully re-adopted the caucus system in 2004.

Wren recently reactivated Save the Caucus with the Colorado Secretary of State and listed himself as registered agent. “Our intention was to be ready if a ballot initiative arose that would have the same impact as Amendment 29 in 2002, and that has now happened with the Secretary of State’s approval of the title of Initiative 98, the Trojan Horse legislation with a poison pill that could take either party back 100 years to the corruption that existed then that finally stopped with the progressive reforms adopted by states across the country.

Why is the Colorado Caucus worth saving? Here's what CU political scientists very familiar and experienced in it's operations before our experiment with the Presidential Primary has said:

“…(The Colorado Caucus— the unique Colorado system adopted in 1912) permits citizens to run for office even though they may not be the ‘pets’ of the party organization, and at the same time it discourages persons without any real stature and public standing from becoming candidates,” wrote Curtis Martin and Wallace Stealey of the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1967.

Caucuses are held every other year in 3,000 neighborhoods across Colorado, often in public spaces such as schools, and also in homes that are handicapped accessible. This is the start of a process that ends up with delegates going to the Democratic and Republican national conventions, where they will vote for a nominee for each party to represent the voters in the general election. 

At each neighborhood caucus, members of one of the major political parties vote for delegates to their county assembly. At the caucus and assembly citizens have the chance to persuade their neighbors about why their preferred candidate should be elected. A candidate must garner a minimum number of votes to be presented at the next level. At the county assemblies, some of those delegates will be chosen to go to the seven congressional district assemblies and others to represent the candidate at the state assembly April 16. From there, delegates are chosen for the national convention, where they will have a chance to choose their political party’s nominee for President of the United States of America.

Some say our Colorado Caucus is too complicated. It is true that to be a self-governing citizen takes time. The obsession our culture has with instant gratification is not healthy for our society when it comes to important matters such as who represents us politically. 

"I love the caucus process," Chuck Broerman, El Paso County clerk and recorder, told the Colorado Springs Gazette in February. "I really enjoy the fact that grass-roots people can get in and participate in the process and make a decision about who the candidates are going to be."

If there are bad leaders in the party or among elected representatives, the Precinct Caucus enables concerned citizens to begin a powerful process to set a new direction.  A Presidential Primary only allows the quick pull of a lever or check of a box, the opportunity to easily correct problems is lost, which is exactly why dictatorial party leaders hate our wonderful Colorado Caucus. 

People complain that our nation’s elections are dominated by monied interests. Our 6,000 Colorado Precinct Caucus gatherings are a powerful corrective to this domination. The Colorado Caucus enables those who feel powerless to have a voice and enter the political process. Apathy about governance disappears when the politically-poor find their voice and connect with neighbors. Many, many of these formerly silent citizens over the past 100 years have subsequently been elected to public office. 

“We're systematically replacing ‘social capital’ with plain old monetary capital (with primaries),” wrote Sue O'Brien in 2002. “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.”

Those screaming “Kill the Caucus” say the 6,000 neighborhood gatherings for a couple of hours every two years creates radicalization, but the opposite is true. When they are well led, which they were not this year, face to face discussion helps citizens realize the people they share their votes with are real human beings with similar life struggles, experiences and desires. 

Washington State has estimated changing from a Presidential Primary to a caucus-assembly system like the Colorado Caucus would save $11 million. Political parties pay for the caucus.

Cost of Presidential Primary— $Millions. The experience of shared humanity lost— Priceless. That is why it is so important that we once again Save the Caucus. Urge your Colorado legislators to vote no on 1454, it is a Colorado Caucus killer.

For more see Colorado Caucus News (click here) or call John Wren at (303)861-1447

John Wren is registered agent for Save the Caucus, a Colorado political committee. 1881 Buchtel Blvd #501, Denver, CO 80210

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