Caucus Round Up 6:
(note: for those interested, the notes from my talk at the Abu Bakr Mosque yesterday `Palestine: 1800-1917′ appear just after the Caucus Round Up entries. Just scroll down a bit).
1) turn-out was even larger than expected (latest stats suggest almost 15% of registered Dems — a near-record and more than 2x 2004 — showing how low standards have slipped);
2) whether by plan or incompetence, the massing of precincts into ‘vote centers” was an even greater boondoggle than in past, cramming folks into small and often hot rooms, thus leaving impatient new voters and elderly vets to whims of whomever ran the caucus;
(3) registrations and credentials were seldom checked and verified for eleigibility, opening the proceedings to more partic! ipants but also to possible fraud and vote-stacking;
(4) party insiders/hacks took advantage of rules and mechanics to browbeat cranky mobs into quick straw votes for presidential front-runners’ personality contest in a rush to report (inaccurate) results to eagerly superficial media, thus
(5) thwarting efforts to organize the remainder around uncommitted delegates committed to raising issues like war and health care at district-county conventions (although Ned broke through in his precinct, or so I hear);
(6) this had the effect (again, method to madness?) of stifling discussion and deliberation with neighbors over resolutions, no matter how “nuanced” or exaggerated; and therefore
(7) leaving platform/policy in the hands of the DLC-dominated appointees and the presidential nomination to the unelected “super-delegates”
(8) and neglecting any real debate over the candidates for other open seats (e.g., Udall v. Green Bob Kinsey for Senate)
i.e., pretty much pro-forma, but lessons to be learned are:
1) organization may be based on enthusiasm and even knowledge but discipline and a plan make the difference between winning and losing, so
2) it pays to talk to party-goers before-hand and round-up support in advance
3) taking thge levers on the apparatus ultimately matters, but requires more time, commitment
4) while some argue this all shows the wisdom of moving the caucuses up earlier and earlier, the leapfrogging has actually made the votes of those who waited more valuable;
5) a statewide or regional primary will only accelerate the trend favoring monied interests who can buy TV and other media (and thus the corporate media’s role in picking “credible” candidates and excluding others from the debates a la Kucinich)
6) the better alternative is not to scrap the caucuses but to decentralize, make them more neighborly and democratic, consultative and deliberative as fora for dis! cussing issues, selecting candidates and organizing
Caucus Round Up 5: Nancy Fey
At the caucus for precinct 413 which Rob and I attended there were at least 5 times (106) as many people as in 2004. It did make discussion difficult with so many people but it is also true that no discussion was asked for by the precinct captain. However, Rob and I presented planks to the precinct captain on the war, healthcare, impeaching Cheney and adhering to the Geneva Conventions including no torture. He read them out loud a couple of times; no discussion was called for, and then we voted. They all passed though the antiwar one was so close hands had to be counted. It was all done in an hour. I agree that a plan would be useful; at least we took a list of platform plank topics. Part of the problem for me was not being able to anticipate the setup or the rules so that I didn’t know how to maneuver since I’m not a fast thinker. It was interesting to be there.
Caucus Round Up 4: Bob Ross
Lois and I went to the caucus for precinct 421. There were 74 voters milling around and it was a little confusing. Perhaps “herding Democrats” (or better yet “herding peace activists”) should replace the older expression “herding cats” in the lexicon. This was the first caucus for Lois and me as well as many if not most of the other people attending. Even though I had talked to Ned earlier in the day and looked at the Democratic Party website, like Nancy, I couldn’t really anticipate the setup or the rules. This is from the Democratic Party website:
In 2008, we are asking that a Presidential preference poll be conducted as the first order of business after the election of the Chair and Secretary, and immediately report those results to your County Party Chair, so that the County Chair can report the county results to the State Party to report to the press and media by 9:30 p.m. on caucus night. ” (” immediately” is underlined in the original, the press and media is underlined by me)
Originally there were 4 uncommitted voters, 23 Clinton supporters and 46 Obama supporters and 0 for Gravel. At this point Lois and I switched from uncommitted to Obama the final tally was 24 Clinton 48 Obama and 1 uncommitted. Someone was asked to speak for Obama and someone else spoke for Clinton. What I didn’t realize was that I could have stayed uncommitted and tried to persuade other voters to switch and if I failed to get the 7 more uncommitted voters needed still become an Obama supporter. This is in fact what Ned was able to do, though in his case I think he only had to persuade two voters to switch (and he is married to one of them). Dennis is now the uncommitted delegate from Ned’s precinct which broke 4 Obama, 2 Clinton, 1 uncommitted. Pharlain’s precinct in Sunnyside also broke similarly 5 to 2. I had printed out the 17 pages of the 2006 Colorado Democratic platform which was surprisingly progressive calling for universal health care and the investigation and if appropriate impeachment of Bush and Cheney. We passed a resolution proposing that the 2006 Colorado platform be adopted as the 2008 Colorado Democratic platform. The precinct captain (obviously a Progressive party hack) then read through the resolutions of the Colorado Progressive Democratic principles which he had brought with him. All of these passed with near unanimous voting. My daughter’s precinct also passed the Progressive Dem’s platform. Guess its a good sign that these passed, but obviously the 2006 Colorado platform has had little if any effect.
Caucus Round Up 3: Chris Kendall:
Precinct 513 met at Horace Mann Middle School, along with about 5 other precincts. There were so many people from 513 that they had to send us all to another gymnasium, which we weren’t authorized to use. There were at least 150 of us. By unanimous acclaim, we elected the woman who stood up on a table to bring us to order our caucus chair. We took a straw poll immediately for president, dividing about 7 to 2 for Obama, with 7 uncommitted voters. Then we took 10 minutes for discussion, which was barbeque style, with several people from each side gathering around the uncommitted voters and trying to talk them into flipping. In the end, each side got 3 or 4 to come over, and we took our binding vote, 29 for Clinton, 122 for Obama. Then, before the vote for Senator, a representative for Udall was introduced and gave a 5 minute speech extolling his virtues, after our caucus chair had spent a few moments describing what a parcel of evil the likely Republican challenger for the seat happens to be. No mention was made of any Democratic challenger for the nomination, and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know of one, either, or I would have brought the critter up. A voice vote was taken immediately, which was unanimous for Udall. Before selecting delegates, the chair announced that anyone who was not interested in being, or voting for, the delegates, was free to go. Of course, we were free to go at anytime, but about 130 people took this as a cue, and left the gym. There were barely enough folks left to fill out the delegate and alternate lists. I didn’t put myself forward, as I already have a commitment for March 8.
(note: there are two more `Caucus Round Up’ entries below, one from Cheryl Kasson, the other from myself)