Caucus Day: The Fightin' Fifth!

I'm going to risk feeding the trolls and provide one last political post about the caucus today here in Washington. Then it's nothing but a steady diet of videogames and mountain biking posts. I promise. Keep in mind, I live in a pretty rural part of King County, 25 miles outside of Seattle, in the foothills of the Cascades. My development is large, but the district is comprised primarily of a number of small towns that have less the 5,000 people. Much farmland and forest. No cities.

I went to one other caucus in my life -- 4 years ago. It was in Bellevue and there were barely 25 people there. And that was in a neighborhood with tens of thousands of people.

Today, in a much more sparsely-populated area, over 700 people packed the cafeteria at the middle school we were at. Of the 35 people in my precinct who attended (I didn't see my neighbors and am sure most were at the Republican caucus) I was the only one who ever attended a caucus before today. I'd also point out (for the sake of my anonymous Hitler-bomber) that I was also the youngest. I'm 32.

Parking was a major issue. I pulled my Element up onto the grass, as did many other people. Others had to park at another school and be bused over. The caucus started at 1:30 and by 12:45 there wasn't a seat left and we were all standing shoulder-to-shoulder hovering around the tables in the cafeteria.

I saw a white guy who must have been nearing 70 years old with an Obama sticker on his shirt. I never thought I'd see the day...

There were two African Americans in the crowd of 700 people, a handful of teenagers, and then a gradual increasing in numbers as you move from young to old. A sizable portion appeared to be in their 30's and 40's, but many, many more people nearing or already at Senior Citizen status. The only demographic missing was what I'd classify as the "middle management white guy types". Like I said, most of the Snoqualmie Ridge residents were probably at the Republican caucus. Either that or out skiing with their kids.

The way a caucus works is that everyone writes down their name, address, and the name of the candidate they endorse. These numbers are then counted, we're given a few minutes to talk it over and try and convince people to change their mind, then another final vote is taken.

After the first round of voting the numbers for my precinct were as follows: Obama 31, Hillary 2, Uncommitted 2.

One of the two African American ladies I saw at the caucus was in our precinct and when the numbers were read aloud I saw her scan the faces at the table -- the many old white faces of a well-to-do neighborhood -- and she briefly started to glow. She too never thought she'd see the day...

Our precint was given 4 delegates and unless Hillary ended up with 8 or more votes, he was getting all four of them. So it was time for the Hillary people to try and convince us to switch sides, but since neither of the two Hillary people wanted to speak we asked the uncommitteds to speak about their concerns. And one of them did. She was an older woman, somebody's grandmother no doubt, and she said she admires Hillary a great deal but is afraid of a "Billary" run white-house. She likes Obama, but is concerned with his lack of experience.

So it was time for the Obama people to talk on his behalf. One woman talked about Hillary's ability to generate so many strong opinions and such hatred as a reason to avoid her. Some talked about just general party strategy and that McCain would have a harder time beating Obama. The conversation shifted to Obama's lack of experience and the point was raised that none of us know whether or not Obama will be a good President or whether or not he'll get anything done, but the feeling at our table was that we're all willing to take that chance. Obama might be a dud. He might be all style and no substance and might not be able to translate his buzzwords of "hope" and "change" into practice and, yes, the crowds might simply be falling in love with the rockstar status he's created. But the vast majority of us felt that this was the right time in our nation's history and he was the right person to take that chance.

Then another lady, probably at least 70 years old in age, asked to talk. She was clearly the elder statesman of our precinct and she said that the reason she was voting for Obama was because she had lived a long life and seen her generation do a lot of good (and some not-so good) and that she remembers how thrilled she was back in the 60's when the previous generation decided to finally pass the torch to JFK... who was younger than Obama is now. And she said that after decades of waiting, the right person has finally come along to receive the torch from them. For her, she said, this election is a changing of the guard.

We did the mandatory second round of voting shortly afterwards and although neither of the Hillary supporters changed their vote to Obama, one of the uncommitted's did and Obama won our precinct 32 to 2 with 1 undecided.

This caucus process is very time consuming, a bit archaic, and in general, weird. And it's clear just from the discussion I overheard at some of the other tables that it must be kept within the party. I have no doubt fist-fights would break out if we decided the general election through caucuses -- can you imagine the Bush vs Kerry election being decided this way? But considering that we're raised believing we must keep our votes private, I think it's very refreshing to see neighbors come together for the sole purpose of discussing politics and the state of the country.

I got picked to be one of the four delegates from our precinct to attend a couple meetings in April and then, I suppose, if I really wanted to I could try to become one of the actual delegates who would represent the district in Denver in August. Oh, I might be in Denver in August, but it will be as I pass through to visit my brother in Boulder. I'll leave that leg of the process up to the junkies.

And now back to our regularly-scheduled programs. Expect a post about Culdcept Saga on Monday. And maybe one about a Chinese New Year 10-course banquet on Tuesday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My congrats to the fine Dems in WA. As a long-time GOPer, I too admire Sen. Obama. I remember the excitment of JFK, and met him once in NYC. It really was a changing of the guard...and big ideas.

I also don't know if he'll make a good president, but if Sen. Clinton should prevail, I'm doing what I did not do to evade the draft during Viet Nam war...I'm moving to Canada!