Fight with facts, not with rumors

So, I deeply sympathize with the impulse to signal-boost when you hear about something horrible. In some cases it’s a really good idea. But it’s only helpful when you’re signal boosting stuff that’s real and current. 
This is particularly important when there’s a ton of stuff flying around.
Add to the signal, not to the noise.

If you’re reading a personal story a stranger has shared, I would suggest the following steps.

1. Find the original version. 
If you’re looking at a screencap of a Facebook post, go see if you can find the original Facebook post. If you’re looking at a screencap of a Tweet, go see if you can find the original Tweet. See if there’s more to the story in a Tweet thread or in the comments or subsequent posts. I’ll note that five minutes ago, I saw a post on Imgur that was a screen cap of a Tweet that was a real Tweet, but had been positioned to make it look like a response to something it wasn’t, completely changing the meaning. Context matters.
If you’re seeing a horrifying story from a person you don’t know at all, see if there’s anything else you can easily find out about them. Do you have mutual friends on Facebook? If you look at their FB and it’s wall-to-wall conspiracy theories, that matters. If they registered their Twitter account 15 minutes before they posted the horror story, that matters.
Take a few seconds to see if they seem like someone you’d believe if they walked up to you on the street and told you something important. Sometimes you can tell just from their broader social media that this person is not reliable. If that’s the case, don’t re-share. This doesn’t mean you should challenge their credibility (that’s generally a dick move. Not surprisingly, it’s been embraced by Trump supporters who want to believe that the surge in hate crimes is somehow being faked) but don’t re-share if you don’t trust the source.

2. Beware of the best story in the room.

Remember the Rolling Stone rape story that they had to retract? The journalist actually interviewed a number of women who’d been raped, but focused on the woman with the best story, the one with a wealth of horrifying details. Unfortunately, she was lying about many of the details.
The inherent problem is that the person who’s fabricating can always have the best story.
There are some amazing stories that are also true. But if all the details are practically cinematic, that’s a red flag.
3. If there’s something that sends up a red flag for you, trust your gut.
Or at least re-read the piece and think it through a second time before you re-share. Again, I’m not saying you should call someone a liar liar pants on fire because something in their story struck you as off! Just don’t forward it if you feel that sense of distrust.
Again, there is so much out there right now that is happening. You don’t need to signal-boost the stuff you have any doubts about. There is enough.
4. If someone is telling you a story about a thing that happened in their city, but they weren’t there and they weren’t a personal friend of the victim, the odds are super high that some of what they’re telling you is wrong. 
I’m saying this based on my personal knowledge of an incident in my town, and watching the stories about it shift and change before my eyes. The people telling the story are not lying, they’re participating in a large-scale version of the game of Telephone, and the results are about what you’d expect.
You don’t have to call anyone out, just don’t add to this problem by re-telling a story that was already third-hand or fourth-hand when it got to you.

If you are reading a news article that strikes you as important:

1. Check the date. OH MY GOD, PEOPLE. CHECK THE GODDAMN DATE.
If you’re looking at a source that doesn’t include any way to see if you’re looking at new news, or something from 2007, that’s actually a bad sign anyway, but try googling some of the details in the article to see what else pops up.
2. Check the source. 
Here is a list of left-leaning incredibly unreliable sites:
DO NOT SHARE NEWS STORIES FROM THESE SITES. If it’s a legit news story, you’ll be able to find it somewhere else. If they’re the only ones talking about it, do not trust the story. Needless to say there’s a huge list of similarly unreliable right-leaning sites and you shouldn’t share from those, either.
And there’s also a ton of full-on fake news sites. Some are supposedly “satire,” others are just fakey fake fake. If you’re reading something alarming and you don’t immediately recognize the source, Google the name of the site and see what turns up, or see if you can find the story other places.
3. Remember all the things that are easy to fake.
Newspaper sites can be fake. Twitter accounts can be fake. The blue checkmark is supposed to help you spot the real deal, but if you’re looking at an image-capture, both the little blue checkmark and the whole damn Tweet can be faked.
Have you seen that clickbait article saying that the next Star Wars movie is going to be filmed in a suburb of the nearest big city to you? It always has a URL that looks like the URL for one of your local TV stations (at least at first glance). Fake!
Photos can be faked. Or, quite often, it’s a real photo but it doesn’t actually show what the caption claims it shows. The huge crowd you’re seeing turns out to be sports fans, or people at an environmentalist march in Paris in 2012, or religious pilgrims. If you see an article with a photo, it’s frequently a stock photo and not a picture of the person in the article.
Videos can be faked. They can be edited to show things that look bad but have been taken wildly out of context. Or they can be clips from a movie, or from shows like “What Would You Do” where it’s real reactions but a staged situation. Or they’re from years ago and, like the photos, don’t show what the caption claims.
When we’re already on edge, when we’re angry and scared and uncertain, it’s that much easier for bullshit to bypass our usual mental security systems. This is much like how we are more likely to catch colds when we’re sleep-deprived, stressed out, and not eating right — our defenses are weak. Be aware of this tendency. 
4. Read things before you share them. 
Ideally, read all the way to the bottom. (If you’re sharing it so you won’t lose track of it — well, first of all, Facebook actually has a “save” feature for links that will do this for you, but if you’d rather share to save, just note that when you share.)
5. Signal-boost legit stories from legit sources. 
Find reliable but clickable sources when possible — a lot of people ration their NYT clicks and WaPo clicks because they don’t want to deal with the paywall. One of my favorite sources to share is NPR: reliable, trustworthy, free. If you want to share a NYT or WaPo story, sum it up in your share so your friends can assess whether it’s worth the click.
If one of your friends writes something you want to boost, be sure to note that this person is someone you personally know and trust. If you heard it verbally or they put it in a friends-locked post, and want to write about it publicly, make sure you have the details correct, and make sure your friend is OK with you sharing their story. 

If you actually witness or experience a hate crime:

Your first priority should always be protecting the victim. (Including yourself, if you’re the victim.) Don’t mess around with your camera if what you need to do is call 911.
If it’s over, and you’re a witness, tell the targeted person or people that you saw what happened. Tell them that if they want to report it to the police, you’ll be their witness and back them up. If they say they don’t want to call the police, give them your contact info in case they change their mind. (If you’re the victim and you’re surrounded by witnesses, hopefully they’ll approach you. It shouldn’t be on you to say “hey! please stick around so you can vouch for me that this happened!” But you should also feel free to make that request / demand.)
If you have the presence of mind to take a video, then do it. I can tell you right now that the odds of me ever shooting a video of anything in an emergency are close to zero. If you’re in a public place like a parking lot, you can check nearby businesses to see if they have a surveillance camera running that might have caught it. If you can spot a license plate, write down the number.
Nothing signal-boosts like media coverage. I asked a friend of mine who’s a journalist how to get a reporter to cover something that’s happened to you. She said that a police report is key; it’s a big part of how journalists sift out the bullshit. Even if it’s not something the cops are going to do much about, the fact that you made a report gives you credibility, since making a false report is a crime.
(When I say “not something the cops are going to do much about” I’m not saying that I think the police will ignore hate crimes. But if your report is, “someone pulled up in a car, jumped out, punched a woman in the hijab while screaming epithets, and then they jumped back in their car and drove away, and all I remember about the car is that it was grey or maybe black and I didn’t get a license plate,” they’re not going to do much with this because there’s just not enough info there to work with, unless the perpetrator gets caught later a block away doing the same shit to someone else.)
If you want press coverage of an incident, news websites generally have a “contact us” area. If you know a specific reporter who covers crime in your city, call that specific reporter. You can call a newsroom and ask for an editor. You will absolutely need to provide your name and contact information. If you want to be anonymous in the story, the editor may be okay with that, but the reporter will always, always need to know who you are if what you’re offering is your personal story. If you have witnesses, video, or anything like that, that will help.

Election 2016: Presidential Candidates Who Aren’t Going to Win

Aside from Donald and Hillary, here’s who’s appearing on the ballot in Minnesota:

Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley (Constitution Party)
Dan R. Vacek and Mark Elworth, Jr. (Legal Marijuana Now)
Alyson Kennedy and Osborne Hart (Socialist Workers Party)
Jill Stein and Howie Hawkins (Green Party)
“Rocky” Roque De La Fuente and Michael Steinberg (American Delta Party)
Evan McMullin and Nathan Johnson (Independence)
Gary Johnson and William Weld (Libertarian Party)

I’m just going to go down this list in order and tell you who these people are and what they stand for, with particular attention to whether they’d be a plausible candidate for you if you’re a Republican who won’t vote for Trump and can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton.

Continue reading

Election 2016: The Presidential Race

You knew this had to be coming. You knew I’d have to write about it sooner or later. I procrastinated as long as I possibly could, but here we are.

I’m going to just cut to the chase right up front and tell you that you should vote for Hillary. Your vote is your vote, and you can cast it for whomever you want — Jill Stein, your cat, Zombie Paul Wellstone. But here in the universe where we’re all actually living, there are exactly two people who might become president next January 20th. One of them is Hillary Clinton, and the other is Donald Trump.

Hillary is a smart, hardworking, imperfect Democratic politician. There are loads of perfectly legitimate critiques of her, many of which were made by Bernie Sanders during the primary season. She’s too hawkish, too cozy with the banks, not aggressive enough on global warming. She’s very willing to play politics, to take stands only when they become politically expedient. (“I could have backed gay marriage sooner,” the Kate McKinnon Hillary says to “Val,” played by Hillary, in an SNL skit from a year ago. “Fair,” Val/Hillary says.)

But anyone who makes it this far in politics is going to be imperfect and she’s also smart, capable, and (as anyone who watched the three debates can testify) made of fucking steel. (AMERICAN fucking steel.)

Also, she’s running against Donald Trump.

I am going to restrain myself from recapping all the things that are horrifying about Donald Trump, though it’s hard, and stick with the fact that he’s an existential threat to our democracy. I like having elections. I like having peaceful transitions of power. Even when my candidate lost, in 2000, in a genuinely sketchy recount, I remember thinking, “in some countries this sort of thing results in soldiers in the streets, and I am glad that we can argue over this without me having to worry about a literal civil war breaking out.”

Trump said in the debate last night that he wasn’t necessarily going to concede if he lost the election. Now, just to be clear about this, the whole “concession speech” routine is a tradition, and a ritual, and a courtesy, but it is not necessary. The person with the majority of electoral votes wins the election.  (If no one gets a majority it goes to the House, and hopefully this won’t happen because we haven’t done it in a while and no one really knows how that would shake out. It’ll be a mess. But it’s a mess that is provided for in our Constitution, we don’t decide this with a dick-waving contest.) But Trump has spent months whipping up his base. He’s repeatedly told his supporters that if he loses, this will mean the Democrats rigged the election. He has encouraged violence. He has re-tweeted stuff from literal neo-Nazis and has refused to disavow his literal neo-Nazi supporters and has blown anti-Semitic dogwhistles loudly enough to wake the dead.

And it’s not just liberals seeing this.

During the Republican primaries, I said repeatedly that I’d take Ted Cruz as the nominee over Donald Trump, because once someone becomes a major party nominee there’s a chance they’ll win, and while I found the idea of President Cruz absolutely appalling, I also believed that Cruz and I shared respect for certain bedrock American values. By which I did not mean things like Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Speech, but by which I meant, “ELECTIONS: HAVING THEM.” I trusted that Ted, if elected, would stand for election in four years and leave the White House if defeated. I did not have anything remotely close to that sort of faith in Trump.

If I had to vote for Ted Cruz to stop Trump, I would. So yeah, Republicans: you can vote for Hillary Clinton, because you have seen who this guy is. You have seen that he is dumb, first of all. He is ignorant and arrogant. He is short-tempered. You can bait him with a Tweet. You can bait him by mentioning the Emmys, during a presidential debate! He will shriek about how short-tempered his smiling opponent is and bellow about temperament and call her ugly names in front of a national TV audience. He has bragged about groping women (and over a dozen women have now come forward to vouch for his truthfulness there) and has made creepy, sexual comments about his own daughter. He lies constantly. He lies about things we all heard him say or do. He brags about not paying taxes, about not paying his bills. He is a bully, a cheat, a serial adulterer, and these are all things that are on the record in every possible way.

He cannot be trusted with any of the responsibilities of the U.S. Presidency, from the nuclear codes on down. Even if you actively loathe Hillary and everything she stands for, you risk losing everything this country even is if Donald Trump takes the presidency.

Anyway, I’ll be back in a separate post to write about the third-party candidates. My writeup will be heavily oriented towards Republicans and conservative voters who are appalled by Trump but cannot make themselves vote for Hillary. I’m pretty sure my fanbase is mostly liberal (with a few conservatives who read me because I round up a lot of info and that’s convenient) but hey, maybe some of you can use this information to try to pull a family member from Trump.

 

Election 2016: Minneapolis School District Funding Referendum

Minneapolis is voting on whether to extend an existing property tax levy to increase the funding of the Minneapolis public schools.

The actual question reads:

School District Question Renewal of Expiring Referendum Revenue Authorization

The Board of Special School District No. 1 (Minneapolis Public Schools) has proposed to renew the school district’s existing referendum revenue authorization of $1,604.31 per pupil, which is scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2016. The revenue will be used to manage class sizes and provide supportive services and activities for students. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would increase each year by the rate of inflation and be applicable for nine years, beginning with taxes payable in 2017, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law. Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Special School District No. 1 be approved?

BY VOTING “YES” ON THIS BALLOT QUESTION, YOU ARE VOTING TO EXTEND AN EXISTING PROPERTY TAX REFERENDUM THAT IS SCHEDULED TO EXPIRE.

So let’s start by talking about how school funding works in Minnesota. Unlike many states, we do the bulk of our school funding statewide, through our state income taxes. Districts receive money from the state based on the number of pupils they have. If you live in St. Paul but would like to send your kids to an Eagan school, you can do that as long as you’re willing to get them there — for the most part, you can send your kids to any public school in the state you’re willing to transport them to, although if a school is full up they can turn away the non-resident kids.

I’ve been looking for the information on the base funding per kid, how much comes from the state, how much comes from local property taxes, and how much comes from these levies, and I’m not finding anything that breaks it down in a straightforward way. Apparently the base funding is $5,831 per kid, but that gets adjusted up in all sorts of ways. As of a couple of years ago, Minneapolis and St. Paul were both spending about $14,000 per kid and at least one article I found said that about $11,000 of that came from the state.

One of the ways you can increase the amount the kids in your district get: pass a tax levy to collectively raise your own property taxes and give the schools more money. Which Minneapolis has faithfully done during the entire twenty years that I’ve lived in the Twin Cities.

 

This is actually a renewal of an existing levy, so if it passes, your taxes will not go up from this vote. (They’ll probably go up, because I think Minneapolis raised property taxes generally, but the amounts here will stay pretty much the same.) Money from this levy covers 13% of the Minneapolis Public Schools budget, and there’s a spreadsheet showing what each school gets, if you’re curious.

The number I really wanted to see is how much a typical homeowner contributes towards this funding each year. That information is in this PDF. If you own a house worth $250,000, you will pay about $315 toward the schools in 2016 (under the current levy), and you’ll pay $291 in 2017 under the proposed new levy. (I have no idea why that number is going down slightly given that this is a renewal of something that already exists? These numbers are estimates, anyway, but you get the general idea.) Obviously the amount you’d pay goes up or down depending on the value of the property you own. (And if you rent, you won’t pay it directly but like all property taxes it will likely get passed along in rent increases, though I’ll note that if the property taxes didn’t go up at all your rent would probably still go up if your landlord thought they could get more in rent.) The levy runs for nine years, after which they will presumably ask to renew it again.

There’s a website for the Vote Yes for Kids campaign. It’s pretty content-free. (The PDF I linked up above is a lot more helpful — so is this FAQ.) No one has set up a website campaigning against the levy, at least that I found.

I endorse a “Yes” vote, and I would vote for this if I lived in Minneapolis, because I always vote for these. Even though it annoyed the hell out of me that they claimed twice that they were going to use the money to lower class sizes and class sizes in Minneapolis stayed appallingly large. This time they’re saying that they use the money to “manage class sizes,” whatever the hell that means. (To be fair, after both my kids were through kindergarten, I think they lowered kindergarten sizes. And my kids aren’t in MPS anymore so I don’t know what class sizes are like these days.)

 

 

And then suddenly it was September

::wipes dust off blog::

So hey! Early voting in Minnesota just started, which means I am overdue for getting started with this year’s election blogging. But before I get started with that, I really feel like I should mention that back in August, like over a month ago now, I won a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for Cat Pictures Please. I have no idea if there are people out there who read my blog here but do not follow me on either Twitter or Facebook, where I gleefully and excitedly jumped up and down right afterward.

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Me with my Hugo. Photo taken by John O’Halloran, Ohana TyeDye Photography

The star-and-moon batik jacket and skirt belonged to my mother. It was her favorite dress-up outfit for years and years. When my sister and I cleaned out her closet in July, Abi suggested that I wear it to the Hugo Awards as a way of having her with me. When I got dressed for the Awards Ceremony, I also carefully stashed a couple of Kleenex in the pocket. Every single time Abi or I checked the pockets of anything our mother had ever worn, there were a couple of tissues in the pockets. She wanted to be prepared! (My Grammie has the same habit. She always wants a tissue in her pocket, sleeve, or the little carrier bag of her walker. Or ideally all three.)

The Hugo rocket is currently sitting on the buffet in our dining room. I will eventually find another spot for it, but here’s the thing — as you may have guessed, we are cat owners. In fact, we got a new cat in June.

cassie

Our newest kitty, Cassie Fluffypants

One of our cats is sufficiently large that he managed to (accidentally) shove a literal stone sculpture off the mantelpiece a few months ago. The Hugo rocket is heavier than you might expect but it’s also a bit top-heavy and I really don’t want it to get broken. Where it is, it could get tipped over but it’s not going to make a six foot fall to the floor.

After winning, I got interviewed on MPR, which was awesome, and I got quoted in a Salon article, which was cool, and Chuck Tingle called me a “True Buckaroo” (and bitter conservative puppy John C. Wright called me a “graying spinster,” which was bonus levels of hilarious because Ed and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in July! Actually, we briefly acknowledged our anniversary, promised ourselves a lovely meal out, and … still have not taken it because our summer was ridiculously busy.)

I always have this weird idea that things will calm down a bit once school starts. This is a patently absurd belief. Not only does school mean my kids’ activities all ramp up again, September is also when BOTH of my daughters have birthdays. Molly turned 16 this year, and Kiera turned 13. Plus I got called for jury duty — I actually initially got called for the week of WorldCon, but I got a deferral until September. That was the week of the 12th through the 16th, and I actually got on a jury. Jury service was extremely interesting but surprisingly exhausting. (You have to sit and listen to people for long periods of time.) Molly does Mock Trial, so I’d actually been in Ramsey County courtrooms before to watch her team competing — it was very odd being in that same setting for real. Also, the prosecutor started out his opening statement in almost the exact same way that the Mock Trial kids do. (He was very young. I totally bet he did Mock Trial back in the day.) All the jurors took things very, very seriously — no one tried to evade jury service by trying to make themselves sound biased, and no one tried to rush through deliberations to get the heck out. I might write more about it later — I’m allowed to say whatever I want now that it’s over — if people are curious.

During voir dire (the part where the judge, then the lawyers, get to ask you questions to try to filter out the people they don’t want), the Defense lawyer asked us each to share some personal detail about ourselves. I’m not sure what her goal was in doing this but it gave us all stuff to chat about in the jury room, which was nice. (You’re not allowed to discuss the case among yourselves until it’s over and you’re deliberating.) Anyway, for my personal detail I told everyone I’d won a Hugo Award in August. One of the other jurors had actually read the story! Which was very cool. (And the judge’s clerk told me afterward that he and the judge were going to look up my story now that the trial was over. I hope they liked it.)

Anyway! I will be be back in a bit to start blogging about the 2016 election. In the meantime, I’ll note again that if you live in Minnesota, you can find your ballot at the Secretary of State’s website — both a list of candidates (that includes links to websites when available) and a literal sample ballot so you can see how it will look. You can send away for an absentee ballot right now, or go in early and vote right now. (They call this “no-excuses voting.”) The two things on my own ballot that I legitimately don’t know right now how I’ll vote on: a school board special election (someone quit their seat) and a proposed constitutional amendment on how we pay state legislators. Honestly, every other race I already know how I’ll vote — but writing about this stuff is fun, so you’ll get my full take, barring any unforseen disasters.

 

Crossing the Streams

When I run into someone in the Twin Cities who says “oh my gosh, Naomi Kritzer? I am a huge fan of your work!” they always, every single time, mean my political blogging. This is true even when I’m at a Science Fiction convention.

Outside the Twin Cities they mean my SF/F. (Not that this happens all that often! But it has happened at least a few times.)

Fundamentally, I ought to have two blogs for people to follow: one that’s all the SF/F stuff, one that’s all the political blogging. Despite the fact that blogging sites recognize this as a thing people want to do, and try to make it easy, I totally don’t have the logistical and organizational wherewithal to do two blogs. I don’t know how my friends with multiple pen names pull it off.

 

Minnesota Caucuses: FAQ

So I want to address a couple of questions that I’ve been asked about caucuses (or seen people asking about caucuses) over the last week or two.

Q. Do I go to my polling place? 

No. Find out your caucus location here:
http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us/
and note that Republican and DFL caucuses are in completely different locations. Don’t go to the wrong one. A vote for Marco Rubio cast at a DFL caucus will be snickered at and filed with the other oddball votes and spoiled ballots. Ditto a vote for Bernie cast at a Republican caucus.

Q. Do I have to stay for the whole meeting?

No, you don’t.

If you’re a Democrat, you can go, sign in, get your ballot, cast it, and leave.

If you’re a Republican, you can leave after balloting, which is the first item of actual business on the agenda. Exactly when that will happen is a little uncertain, since it depends on how long it takes to get everyone signed in and for the convener to get things going. But if you want to leave once you’ve handed in your ballot, you can do so.

Q. How early can I come and get a ballot / how late can I come and still vote?

If you’re a Republican:

The caucus should convene at 7. The ballots will be handed out as the first order of business; my helpful Republican contact thought that at most caucuses this would probably happen at around 7:15. I would recommend that you try to get there at the beginning of the meeting.  Once you’ve handed your ballot in, you can leave. If you arrive late and they’ve finished voting, you are out of luck.

If you’re a Democrat:

According to the DFL’s official call (which you can find here) you can get your ballot as early as 6:30, when they start allowing people to sign in, and they need to keep balloting open until 8 p.m.

The actual language from the official call is in section II.B.4., on the fourth page of the PDF. “4. Preference Ballot. After registering by completing and signing the precinct roll, each eligible attendee will be given a ballot on which the attendee can indicate a preference for President (including uncommitted status). Balloting shall begin when registration opens and shall end one hour after the caucus convenes.” (Caucuses convene at 7 p.m.)

Following the precedent of polling places, if there are people in line at 8, they are supposed to keep balloting open until everyone’s gotten a ballot.

For either:

I mentioned this before but it bears repeating: before you head to your caucus, make sure you know your ward and precinct numbers. If there’s a huge line outside the school building, probably the bottleneck is not “signing in and getting ballots” but “a bunch of people are consulting the ward map to figure out which classroom they should go to.” If you can find another way into the school, you can head straight to the classroom where your precinct is meeting. There will undoubtedly be another line outside that classroom, but at least this one will be indoors.

Q. I’m a Democrat and in a hurry. What is my best strategy for getting in and out quickly but still being able to cast a ballot? 

Here is my suggestion. My recollection from 2008 is that the lines were at their worst between 6:45 and 7:15 as everyone got sorted out, sent to the correct room, and signed in. I would aim for 7:30 as the best compromise between “standing in the endless line” and “possibly getting delayed and not making it in time.” If you want to cut it a little closer, you could aim for 7:45, but bear in mind that parking is likely to be extremely annoying.

Even arriving late, you may still have to wait in a long line. They are expecting attendance to be extremely high this year.

Q. So okay, I actually am fine with either Bernie or Hillary but I am really not fine with Trump. I am thinking of going to the Republican caucus instead, and voting for Marco Rubio, even though I am definitely planning to vote for the Democrat (either Democrat) in the general election. Can I do that?

Short answer: you’re not supposed to, though it’s unlikely that anyone would stop you.

Longer answer: when you sign in for a caucus, you are affirming your overall agreement with the principles of the party you’re signing in for. Whether you’re comfortable doing that when it’s not true is really between you and your conscience (or between your conscience and your ability to focus on statements in the Republican platform that you agree with.)

In theory, if someone is in a caucus who really doesn’t belong there, the person who knows they don’t belong can challenge their participation. And, you are caucusing with your neighbors, so if you routinely put up yard signs for DFL candidates, someone from down the block might out you as a liberal. I think the odds of this happening are actually really slim, because Minnesotans in general are not a confrontational bunch.

Far more likely: you’ll run into a neighbor you’ve never discussed politics with. And they’ll get all excited when they see you and say, “oh, wow, I had no idea you were a fellow Republican!” and then going forward they’ll want to chat politics with you and you’ll either have to admit why you were in there or live the lie forever. Awkward. 

Finally, you have to write down your phone number when you sign in. And you will get endless calls hitting you up for money not only for the eventual Republican presidential nominee but for any Republican candidates in tight races. (Note: signing in at a DFL caucus will also get you a bunch of phone calls, of course. I spent a period of about three years fielding endless calls from both parties, and in my experience getting fundraising calls from my own side is not a whole lot less irritating.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: The one thing you really truly may not do is go to more than one caucus on Tuesday night. Caucusing twice is illegal.

(I am not sure if there are any Republicans out there considering crossing party lines to caucus with the Democrats, but all of the above information applies in the other direction: you’re affirming agreement with the principles of the party when you sign in, you can theoretically be kicked out if someone realizes you’re actually a Republican but that’s very unlikely to happen, and you might run into a neighbor who is super excited to realize that you are in their political camp. And you’ll get badgered for money for Democratic candidates.)

Q. Don’t we have a primary in August? Can I just wait and vote in that?

We have a primary election in August but it is not a presidential primary. This is your one shot at participating in the process of selecting a presidential candidate.

The August primaries are for Minnesota races, like seats in the legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. (And you can, and should, participate in that election.)

Q. I am a [CANDIDATE] supporter and I’m pretty sure that if anything goes wrong, that is [OTHER CANDIDATE]’s dirty tricks and/or the party establishment conspiring against us!

[heavy sigh]

This is a system run by the political parties using unpaid volunteers who attended maybe a two-hour training.

Things are going to go wrong. The lines are going to be horrible and that is not due to a conspiracy by anyone; it’s just what happens when you have to get hundreds/thousands (depends on the location) of people through a narrow bottleneck and sorted out into classrooms, over the course of about a half hour, using a process that almost no one is actually familiar with.

I am sure that the local DFL party leaders have preferences between Hillary and Bernie, (and the local GOP party leaders have preferences between Rubio, Kasich, Trump, and Cruz) but their #1 priority on Tuesday night is to build the party. They want to get you through that doorway, writing down your name and phone number and affirming your support for the DFL (or GOP) alongside your neighbors. They care about that far more than which presidential candidate you vote for, because they’re not just in it for the presidential race — they are deeply aware of the importance of the other races, not just this year but two years from now.

No one from either party wants to keep you out of the process. The problems you will inevitably encounter are not the result of malice. It is incredibly difficult to build organizational competence at running a complex event when (a) you have an all-volunteer staff and (b) this ginormous event happens either once every four years or once every eight years. (Caucuses are held annually, but a caucus when it’s just the wonks showing up is basically a completely different event.)

Q.  Caucuses are terrible. Who do I talk to about switching to a Primary?

I would suggest e-mailing your State Senator and State House Representative. To find out who those people are, you can check here: http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/districtfinder

You can also try e-mailing the Minnesota Secretary of State, Steve Simon, since his office runs elections in general: http://www.sos.state.mn.us/

Finally, you might consider introducing a resolution at your caucus to have Minnesota implement a Presidential Primary election rather than relying on party caucuses for this purpose! The DFL resolution form is here; the Republican form is here.

Print it and fill it out before you go to your caucus. (You will have to stay for more of the meeting if you want to introduce a resolution.) You don’t have to use fancy language: “Minnesota should have a Presidential Primary” is a perfectly acceptable action item. When you speak on behalf of your resolution, bear in mind that the people at your caucus will include at least a few people who think caucuses are the greatest thing ever (so “caucuses suck” may not be very convincing), but even fans of the caucus system will often agree that it’s a problem that caucuses exclude all the people who have to rely on absentee ballots to vote in elections, from immune-suppressed cancer patients to deployed members of the U.S. Military.

My recollection from some years back is that one sticking point with primaries is that the state pays for elections, elections are really expensive, we don’t do any other elections in March or April that we could just piggyback the presidential primary with, and just overall, the State of Minnesota would greatly prefer to just stick the parties with the cost of running caucuses rather than shouldering the cost of running a primary election. But this could be changed, and I’m pretty sure it would be up to the legislature.