Saturday, February 09, 2008

Being a Part of the Process

Can't remember if I've ever posted about politics here before.... Here goes.

I attended my precinct's democratic caucus today at my local high school. I'd never been to a caucus before. I always thought a caucus was some sort of old fashioned throwback they used in places like Iowa. Probably served hotdishes at them....

Wrong in so many ways, and I am so glad I went. Turnout was huge. Excitement was everywhere. People scrambled to figure out what to do. When we divided up into our precinct groups, we got down to business.

(To get an idea of the look of it all, head to this post on the West Seattle Blog. The first two pictures are from the caucus at my own school. Also note the 32 comments in the 2 hours following the post, as caucus goers shared their results)

First, we had to elect a leader. We did. Somebody (actually a group) read through all the instructions in our packet. It was kind of like being on a jury. Except we had 45 adults crowded into a high school classroom. About 90% of our group had never been to a caucus before.

After a group counted everybody's initial declarations, it was announced Clinton 13, Obama 31.

Anybody had a chance to speak for up to 60 seconds. About a dozen did. I spoke briefly as a long time third grade teacher who thought the right candidate was the one who would change the lives the most for those kids as they grew up. (Had to be there to know who I thought that was - sorry).

Then everyone was asked if they wanted to change their candidate preference. Nobody did. One woman who had not decided was asked if she had a preference. She said Obama. Holy crud, I thought. How different this process was from stepping into a private voting booth.

We split up into two groups to select delegates. The Obama group got to choose 3, the Clinton group chose 1. Those delegates will go to a couple more gatherings - at the county and then the state levels - to represent us.

I personally knew or recognized about 1/4 of the people in the room. Pretty good, I thought, for city dwellers these days. All those summer block parties...

In the end it was a fantastic experience in participatory democracy. On the way out, I stopped with several others to watch a very spirited precinct in a lobby area of the school still going through the 60 seconds to speak about their candidates. So much passion. Everybody clapped for everybody (well, most of the time).

I walked home with a new acquaintance neighbor whose daughter is best friends with one of the kids in my classroom. A small world, brought even closer together by this chance to participate in a unique experience.

(I recommend In Praise of Chaotic Caucuses by Eli Sanders for a well written description of the caucus process)

1 comment:

David said...

Being in a voting state I never really understood how a caucus works. Now, from reading your experience, I understand. Thank you!

I know I would enjoy the excitement of the atmosphere you described but I still think ballot voting is a fairer way to select delegates.