Martin: Caucuses a chance to get involved

Published 8:11 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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As part of a string of stops Tuesday, State DFL Chairman Ken Martin made a stop in Austin to tout the upcoming precinct caucuses and Super Tuesday presidential primary election respectively over the next two Tuesdays.

With the caucuses slated for Tuesday, and Super Tuesday a week later, on March 5, Martin said both dates are early opportunities to participate in what he sees as some of the most important parts of the democratic process, especially the caucuses.

“It’s a great opportunity for people here in Mower County and Austin in particular to have their voices heard; to participate in the political process regardless of political party,” he said. “The caucus and the primary allow people to have their voices heard.”

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While some in both the Democratic and Republican parties have been calling for elimination of caucuses in recent years, Martin is a fierce proponent of keeping the caucuses going strong.

He argued that they are an integral part of the process, especially at the grassroots level, because it opens the doors for people to be involved.

“I think at a time of heightened polarization, where the parties can’t agree on much, here in Minnesota, both David Hann, the Republican chair, and I agree this is the type of grassroots democracy that we want to preserve and want people to participate in,” Martin said. “It’s really important, right, for folks to know that in this state, we’re somewhat unique where an average citizen can come out and play a huge role in the direction of their party.”

“We really believe that democracy works best when people participate and how do you create a pipeline and ways for people to participate,” he continued. “There are all sorts of ways before election day for people to be involved.”

The importance of the caucuses is heightened because it is at these events where the ground work begins in shaping the direction the parties will go.

Martin pointed to his own time working with Sen. Paul Wellstone in seeing just how powerful this time of participation can be. Through Wellstone’s own campaign, Martin said people saw what this kind of dedication can inspire.

“He inspired all these young people to get involved in conventions and caucuses,” Martin said. “A lot of us came out and supported him and he was endorsed.”

Even for those who maybe don’t believe their voices can be fully utilized at causes, Martin gave the example of the Peace Corp, which got its start when a  precinct in Ely, Minnesota introduced a resolution for the program.

Later, it was championed by Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey and the bill was eventually signed by Pres. John F. Kennedy.

“That’s the power of caucuses, right?” Martin said. “All of us can be a part of something bigger than ourselves and change the state, the country and the world.”

At the same time, participation in the process mirrors that of community involvement. Over the more recent years, community participation has been going down, including Minnesota, which has routinely been at the top for voter turnout.

Once again, Martin turned to his time with Wellstone to illustrate the point of being involved.

“Paul said this, the future does not belong to the cynics or those on the sidelines,” Martin said. “It belongs to those who show up and believe in the beauty of their dreams. That’s the point. It’s never going to change if you don’t show up.”

To that point, Martin said that increased participation can only help lessen the deepening partisan divide by entertaining more voices with more ideas.

“Having more voice involved means hopefully we can tone down some of extremism, tone down some of the rhetoric,” Martin said. “Find common ground in this country again.”

At the end of the day, being a part of caucuses still gives Martin the same thrill now as it did when he first got involved.

“For me, it’s something I would never change,” he said. “It’s the only thing that guarantees normal people have a say in their party and not people motivated by money or connections.”