This past weekend at the Thurston County Democratic convention we were all done with writing our platform, almost ready to go home, when we considered one more resolution: to cancel the 2010 precinct caucuses. The reasoning behind the resolution, which ended up failing badly, was that this year’s precinct caucuses were too expensive, too stiff and too poorly attended to justify holding caucuses again during an off year.
While I understand why the resolution failed, I still think reforming our caucus system is important. In an non-Presidential year, the precinct caucus process is there to start writing the county party’s platform. People don’t typically show up because they see little at stake in simply writing a party’s platform. In an era of low participation and nearly non-existent turnout to caucuses, the process rewards people who stick through the entire process, not good or popular ideas. An idea only needs support among the few that show up to the convention, not the majority of Democrats in any county.
The caucus system decades ago, when people were politically engaged, when more people simply showed up, were an important way to ensure local interests where represented in state and national platforms. But, today, there are different ways to do things.
Thurston County and the 43rd LD both held topic specific pre-caucus issue forums to kick-start the conversation on writing the platform. I think we should pull the platform writing process out of the caucuses in 2008 and 2010 and do more of what happened in Thurston County and the 43rd. In addition to developing online tools, we need to move away from the stiff caucus/convention format to write our platform.
More conversation, more informal.
UPDATE: here is the actual resolution, for your reference.