Saturday, February 9, 2008

Caucusing in the other Washington

well, thought I'd tell ya'll a little about caucusing, since many of you won't have the chance to participate in one any time soon.

Around 12:45 pm we left our house, and could see dozens of our neighbors walking to caucus sites around the neighborhood. There was a pretty palpable energy among all the caucus goers. We lined up outside of the democratic location, a local elementary school, and noted that there was no line outside of the republican site! In the line there were lots of families and couples, young and old, though mostly white middle class (that's the demographic of my neighborhood). It was neat to see everyone with their kids, and taking photos of the children at their first caucus. Once we got inside it was pure chaos. We were shuffled into the cafeteria, and there was a much larger than expected crowd so we barely fit. Several precincts chose to meet outside or in an adjacent gym as it was difficult to hear anything.

Upon finding our precinct group (finally) we signed in on a registration sheet and wrote down our names, address, phone number, email, race (optional), disability (optional) and sexual orientation (optional)--the last three are to determine how well minorities are represented by the caucusing process, b/c there is much concern that minorities and disabled folks are not well represented. Then we wrote down which candidate we came to support.

At 1:30, we recited the pledge of allegiance and then a script was read to explain how everything would work. Then our precinct had to elect a captain, secretary, and vote tallyer. I was the secretary because I was sitting next to the guy appointed captain, who was appointed only because he was somewhat willing and had been to a caucus before unlike the other 65 people in our precinct. So the ad-hoc leadership team moved to the front of our precinct crowd of 66, and tried to figure out what to do. We read through all the instructions in our envelope, and figured things out as we went along. Our first count of the votes showed 53 for Obama, 10 for Clinton and 3 undecided. We announced those, and then I figured out that Clinton needed 7 more voters to win a second delegate. We announced that.

Then we split into 3 groups, according to designated candidate and elected one person to give a one minute speech about the candidate. After those speeches, we chose to spend 10 minutes respectfully talking with neighbors about the candidates. Everyone swarmed the three undecided voters, and I stood guard over the sign in sheets because I didn't want them to go missing in all this chaos. I should say that in the same room, at least 5 other precincts were going through this same process, which made things pretty kinetic. After 10 minutes, we had to practically remove the Clinton supporters from the undecided voters. Then we opened up the sheets for revision, and one undecided person switched to Obama; also two late comers were allowed to vote in the final count, so we ended with 56 Obama, 10 Clinton, and 2 undecided. Then we elected delegates to represent each candidate (5 for Obama, 1 for Clinton) at the district level convention in April.

We left around 2:45 and I have to say it was a very unique and engaging voting experience. I do think it marginalizes some folks, particularly people who do not speak English proficiently, people who are low income and/or working on weekends, parents of young children, elderly folks, and people with disabilities. So, I can't say that I think it is a very fair way of doing things. For example, Bryn had to work today, and I doubt that her employer (Whole Foods) allowed her to leave to participate in this two hour process. I don't know that yet, but you can imagine that most people working minimum wage or hourly jobs with no benefits are not going to be able to participate in this process--I don't think that is fair. So, while I had a great time participating, meeting neighbors, and feeling the energy of the crowd, I couldn't help but think about those that the process excludes.

I did put my vote down for Obama. Why (you didn't ask...)? It's not that I think he is perfect, but I do think he has an incredible way of inspiring people to get involved and interested, not only in politics, but also in the country and the local community. I think he has a way of getting people to be passionate about change and passionate about actively doing something to make this country a better place to live, work, and raise a family. I can't say that I really vote based on what a candidate says about his or her policy ideas, because I think those rarely line up with what takes place after a candidate is actually elected. And I don't think the lack of follow through can always be blamed on the candidate; we do live in a democracy and the President / elected official cannot always do what he or she promises to do, because we have a system of checks on executive power. Anyway, so I think for me the biggest draw to Barack Obama is his relatively clean slate (again, he's not perfect; but none of them and none of us are, either) coupled with his ability to truly inspire people, especially young people. And those young people did come out today to vote for him, so it goes beyond just being a celebrity to actually moving people to action. I think that young people need to feel inspired by their leaders, we need to feel hopeful that what we do and think matters to someone. We, as the future of this country, are facing many obstacles: graduating and entering the workforce during an economic crisis, a shrinking middle class (and it really is shrinking; I've done that research), a world that is full of conflict (some of which are perpetuated by our national policies), the dim prospect of social security for our generation, a huge national deficit, overseas competition for jobs we are qualified to perform, a tarnished image in the international political arena, the destruction of our environment, and the rising cost and declining value of a college degree. I don't mean to sound doom and gloom, but I do think that those of us who are in the generation that must push for these issues to be addressed--if we want a comfortable middle/old age and a comfortable life for our children and grandchildren--need to feel like someone can help us find the solutions to these issues. And I think that Barack Obama is that person. Amen.


Mr. Fob said...

Well stated--both your critique of the caucus process and your reasons for supporting Obama. My precinct had 108 people attend, many of them college students there to vote for Obama. This is yet another reason he should be the Democratic nominee: he gets 18-25 year olds to vote, and come November that's what it'll take to stop McCain.

And here I assumed from your blog mascot that you were a devoted Republican! (Okay, not really.)

LAY-ah said...

thanks for the insight lady. miss you much.

Dos Blessed said...

Vote Knopf 08!
great insight.