Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On Pushing Back: People Power, Local Elections, and the 2017 MPLS Caucuses

***UPDATE: Give-a-Shit-MPLS's website is now live, and it's a one-stop shop for caucusing info.***

A few months ago, I worked with designer Olivia Novotny to create these zines, compact guides to plugging into activism and movement-building efforts. We've given out hundreds of them already, and I think the reason they've resonated with people is because they explicitly try to focus less on the power we don't have, and more on the power we do.

One vital part of that power-leveraging process is local politics. Here in Minneapolis, 2017 is a big year for city council races. I thought I'd share some resources related to that here, both so that my fellow MPLS people can get plugged in, and to look at our local races as one example of how important local politics are, wherever you live. A few points:

1. Acknowledging the Opportunity: Why This Year?
Of course, in a perfect world, we'd all always be engaged with city council, school board, parks commission and mayoral races. After all, they affect our everyday lives as much as what happens in Washington or our state capitols, and are often decided by relatively tiny vote margins. Local races are a power bottleneck, and we can do an enormous amount of good by paying attention to them.

This year, largely because of Trump and all of the fear, disillusionment and outrage that so many feel right now, more and more people are seeing local politics as the first vital step in pushing back. Progressive mayors and city council members are positioned to be a powerful line of defense against what happens on a national level, and can also do some proactive good on their own.

On top of that, we have some very sharp, committed, progressive people running in Minneapolis this year, not to mention a more diverse group (along multiple lines of identity) than ever before. This is a great opportunity to play offense, so-to-speak, and not just defense.

2. Knowing the Basics: Wards and Caucusing
First things's first: Minneapolis has 13 wards, so find out what ward you live in at this link. Just enter your address. And remember-- we don't have to be experts on every candidate running in every ward; if you figure out what your ward is, researching the candidates there should be pretty easy.

Caucuses are part of the process to decide the DFL endorsement, and are on April 4, 2017. This isn't the actual election, but in a place like Minneapolis (where there won't be any big GOP challenges to DFL candidates-- though there can be Green and Socialist candidates on the November ballot), it is an incredibly important step. One easy action step, right now, is to hold that date in your calendar, and commit to showing up. As one guide to caucusing puts it:
  • Our democracy is shaped as much by caucuses as it is by votes. Yes, we elect (indirectly or directly) candidates and pass issues by our votes, but the candidates we vote for, and the issues we vote on, are determined by the caucus, and the participation in that process is woefully small.

3. Getting Informed: A Few Links
One obstacle to getting involved is that a lot of us (myself included) don't always have any idea what's actually going on at the local level of politics. So I wanted to signal boost some great links that contain more information on candidates and races:

4. Taking Action: Concrete Ways to Get Involved
A few potential entry points for people who want to get involved:
  • NOC is having a North MPLS caucus training on March 18.
  • Our Revolution MN is having a caucus training on March 20.
  • It's not just about city council; check out MPLS Parks and Power, and their March 25 pre-caucus check-in.
  • Rock the Caucus arts event on April 1. A certain local MC/poet you may have heard of might be performing.
  • City-wide precinct caucuses are on April 4. That link lets you know where your caucus location is, once you've entered your address.
    • Additionally, if you find a candidate you like, they will probably have opportunities to volunteer, door-knock, or help out in other ways (and, as always, donations make a difference!). With caucuses just a couple weeks away, now is the perfect time to dive in.
I wrote this just because I didn't see anyone else compiling this info in a central place. If I missed something-- or missed any good link or resource-- please feel free leave a comment.

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