Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Caucus 2008 ...debrief

Whew!! What an amazing week....I helped make it happen in my little corner of the world. I worked along side amazing dedicated Democrats who volunteered untold hours and put sites together all over Whatcom County. (attendance was up 278%. 3477 in 2004, 9674 in 2008)They trained all of us volunteers to manage our sites (mine had 13 out of the 119 precincts) and run our precinct caucuses. And thanks to the generous donations of great Democrats who suited up and showed up and said “I'll help cover caucus costs”, I had a daunting task ahead as the party treasurer. On Monday morning 3 enthusiastic Obama supporters showed up ready to pitch in. Wow!! They assured this ole gal “no big deal.” It's a big deal to me cuz I get to enjoy the garden as spring approaches and everybody likes me better when I get to do that.

I will even be able to handle the calls that continue to trickle in at our office. Most are the disgruntled or lonely or both. We have been receiving the blame for what I believe belongs at the Secretary of State's office. There is so much confusion(no accident in my opinion) about the primary and the caucus. The Democrats in the state of Washington have always used the caucus to select our delegates to move to the presidential nominating convention. The primary came about as an initiative to the legislature in 1988 and passed in 1989. The Democratic party, a voluntary association, makes the decision how we choose our delegates. It is not an election! (The election happens in November.) Democrats from all over the state met this spring and again chose the caucus. This is the only thing that makes sense for us because we are an open primary state and do not publicly record our party. We would have no way of knowing if Democrats were the ones selecting our nominee to the general election if the primary was used.

Two similar calls I received had very different conclusions. Both times I spent a fair amount of time explaining the situation and how common it was for us to be confused. One ended with woman klucking at me repeatedly and saying “wait till I tell my husband.” Another woman finally said “well I guess I'm going to have to just come down there and see if there's something I can do.”

It is my opinion we need to end this spectator democracy and take our democracy back and the caucus moves us in that direction. We can make it better. And we can build the community necessary for our children and grandchildren's future. Yes we can!!!

and I just recieved permission to post this from a hard working Barack Obama supporter......

Dear everyone:

I completely understand why many of you prefer a primary and your frustration with the current system. If you think I'm being facetious, imagine me being the site leader and chair of my precinct of 198 people in a building designed for 65.

I won't deny that there are advantages to a primary. More people can vote, more time is allotted to accommodate schedules and mail-in ballots are an option for everyone rather than just some.

Now please humor me while I talk about why I love caucuses. While the conservatives talk of the demise of the family, it is the demise of the community that is the real concern. Most of us don't know our neighbors and are far too busy (and too isolated by computers and televisions) to take the time to know one another.

The caucus is above all a chance to gather with local folks. It encourages us, not just to talk about candidates, but to talk about ISSUES, something rarely mentioned in the press. When we attend caucuses, we can bring a resolution about any damn thing we want. These resolutions form our county, then state, then national platform. You have a chance to create the political party you want it to be.

This opportunity, time consuming as it is, happens ONCE every four years. Ask yourself, is two hours every four years really too much time to get a chance to know who shares your neighborhood?

On to delegates. You already know that every state sends delegates to the national convention, and those folks decide the party's candidate.

In a primary, you are still choosing delegates, not voting for president. However,you're looking at a set of names of folks you've never heard of before. Who will really represent your candidate? Who is only out for their own advancement? Who is undecided? You have no way of knowing.

Not only that, but who gets on that ballot? Activists like me, folks. And I tend to believe that activists like me shouldn't be the only ones getting to go to the national convention.

In Washington State, we have an affirmative action goal for our national delegates. We read this at every caucus and encourage people to choose folks who represent diversity. Yesterday my precinct chose folks who were Black, Asian, Pacific Islander and recent immigrants. But the most moving story was a new friend of mine who shyly stood up, introduced himself, and announced that he is transgendered.

I could tell he had never spoken these words out loud to a mixed group of people. I hugged him afterwards as did others. He was one of the first delegates chosen.

And when it was all over, folks looked around, smiled, and asked how we could keep in touch with each other. That plus this wonderful moment of coming out made the entire lengthy, sweaty process more worthwhile than any damn ballot I've ever completed.

Stephanie Kountouros

Whatcom for Obama

No comments: