Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
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"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007

The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Monday, February 11, 2008

One Hundred and Eleven

That’s how many Democrats showed up for my precinct caucus here in Seattle on February 9 at the Oddfellows Hall in Ballard. Four years ago we had thirty-six, and thought it was a big turnout. And this time, I was attending as Precinct Committee Officer and had to chair the meeting. I came armed with a large rubber mallet from my tool box to use as a gavel. I needed it.

But more important than a big stick was the help of my fellow caucus-goers. One elderly man (older than me, anyway) took the initiative to help pass out sign-up sheets and pens to the crowd, and ended up taking over most of the task. Another collected the sheets and checked that everyone had marked a presidential preference. The precinct captain for Obama at first came across as a bit over-assertive, but soon became an invaluable assistant to me and the tally clerk. Chairs were at a premium; I gave mine up to the secretary.

(The photo above shows a different precinct caucus at the Oddfellows Hall. They had 132.)

Counting took some time. With the tally clerk, secretary, and two assistants working at it, each vote was counted twice by two people. Then came the one-minute speeches (without timer) for each candidate. Captain Anne stood on a chair and gave a prepared speech for Obama. A volunteer spoke impromptu for Hillary. And I gave an impassioned oration in favor of “Uncommitted” as our only hope of leveraging some genuine progressive promises from the two corporate hotshots. Needless to say, I was wearing my John Edwards button, no longer for the man but for his program.

On second ballot, I don’t think anyone on the H & O Railroad changed votes. Obama made a big splash with four delegates to Hillary’s two. This turned out to be fairly typical of the 36th District, where Obama was more heavily favored than even in the rest of Washington State. On a national scale, of course, H & O are still in a dead heat for delegates. It ain’t over yet.

And what did I do? To begin with, I had been assiduous in reminding people as they signed in that “Uncommitted” is a perfectly valid choice. A fair number of people took it, and I am now the official uncommitted delegate from my precinct to the Legislative District caucus in April. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a brokered convention in August.

I have to say my inexperience showed. The Obama captain might well have done a better job of running the meeting, but I managed to get all the important things done. Now that I’ve gotten involved, I really like caucuses better than primaries. I met 110 of my neighbors (including at least four from my condo building whom I already knew), and we spent the afternoon doing real politics together. And caucuses, unlike primaries, let you vote for “none of the above,” as I did. It was a wild afternoon, and I wouldn’t have missed it. I say with good old Tommy J: I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending to too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.


shadocat said...

Little Molly went with her auntie to the Kansas caucuses. The had originally expected 100 people there, but over 2000 showed up! The whole proces sounded fascinating; made me wish we had caucuses across the state line here in Mo., instead of a plain old primary...

NOLA radfem said...

I love caucuses. I did several of them over the years I lived in WA, although where I now live, it's primaries. As you point out, it's doing real politics with your neighbors. I hear people saying what a drag it is, that you have to spend hours, but I loved it.

Jana C.H. said...

And you don't have to spend hours at them if you don't want to. Ours started at 1:30, ended at 3, and many people left early. Some signed in, marked their presidential preferences, and left, just as if they were at a polling place. Perfectly legit, at least in Washington.

A lot more left after the second ballot, though my head was in such a spin that I forgot to tell them that doing so meant they could not vote for their delegates to the Legislative District caucus. That was my biggest error, in fact.

We were supposed to end on the dot of three, but I and a few others had to hang around an extra fifteen minutes to finish the paperwork. That part was absolutely crucial in order for the delegates to be seated at the next level up.

The attendance in the 36th District was two and a half times what it was four years ago, and that had been an amazingly large turnout. I wonder what it'll be like in 2012, assuming we have any sort of democracy left.

Jana C.H.
Saith Will Cuppy: Nero did not fiddle while Rome burned because the violin had not yet been invented. He played the lyre and sang of the Fall of Troy.