Friday, March 12, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When we vote next fall, most of the candidates on the ballot will result from meetings this coming Tuesday, March 16.

That's when neighbors who want to service in public office or who want to help other good people get elected will gather in Denver and across Colorado. The Colorado Caucuses consists of 6,000 public neighborhood meetings across the state, the start of the nominating process to the primary ballot and for electing party leaders for the Democrats and Republican.

My neighbor Lyle Lindesmith taught me to love our Colorado caucus-assembly system for nominating to the primary ballot. I learned from him it is the best chance the common person has for getting elected. It neutralizes the effects of big money and big power in politics. The system has served Colorado well since it was created in 1912 as part of the Teddy Roosevelt progressive reforms.

In 1974, I was 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. It was at one of those doors I met my neighbor Lyle. He invited me into his home and we had a long talk.

For years, Lyle told me, he'd led a four session workshop called "Action Class in Practical Politics." Each week speakers were invited from both major political parties, and the adult learners in the class were given homework assignments to check out the party of their choice in their local neighborhood and county, and report back to the class what had been discovered.

Not long after that first visit, Lyle asked me to help with what I think was the last session of the Action Class he ever led. The breakfast sessions were held in the old Petroleum Club dining room. Young community activist Jeanne Faatz http://www.jeannefaatz.org/
  was in the class, just starting to think about running for elected office. She was soon chosen for the state legislature, and she 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 some of what I remember:

*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 three ways to get involved: 1) Through the party structure; 2) Through auxiliary organizations such as the Young Democrats and College Republicans; and 3) Through candidate organizations. Lyle had Action Class members contact their local leaders in all three areas, look for opportunities to fill voids and be of service.

Now I'm trying to recreate Lyle's Action Class in Practical Politics for people here on the Internet, see http://www.COCaucus.org
, where I've posted the reading material from that original class, links to other sources of information, and weekly online "speakers" and follow up discussions where any question you have will be answered. You can join at any time and it's free.

You don't have to learn anything more than where to go March 16. Many successful political careers have been started by common people like me who just showed up. In my opinion, it's the best networking event in Colorado.
 
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John Wren has been a precinct committee person, district captain, and candidate for the state legislature, and on the board of a political auxiliary as both a Republican and a Democrat. He was part of a group called Save the Caucus that defeated Amendment 29 in 2002 to preserve our Colorado grassroots system for selecting candidates for the primary ballot. He is one of the founders of Denver Speakers Corner, where you can find him on the soap box each Sunday afternoon http://meetup.com/Denver-Speakers-Corner. He loves to talk with neighborhood groups, service clubs, and other forums about the Colorado Caucuses. Contact him at (303)861-1447 or John@JohnWren.com