Caucus, schmaucus " when do I get to vote?
These days I’m feeling a little bit like Archie Bunker, that ironic icon of warm intolerance, selective bigotry and cockeyed homespun wisdom of TV days gone by.
Confronted with endless political stories, advertisements, appeals on the Internet, you name it, I and my imaginary Archie have gotten to the point where our frustration and confusion have taken on almost solid form, and our complaints have a wheedling, spoiled-brat kind of tone.
But then I comfort myself with the thought, “At least I don’t live in Iowa or New Hampshire,” the kind of thought I often have, about many places.
Can’t you just imagine our fictional ol’ Archie, sitting on his favorite barstool stretching a weak, warm beer into an hour-long meditation on life, when in walks a candidate looking for his vote.
“Aw, Jeez, not another damned handshake, backslap and sermon on how this guy or that gal is going to turn this country around and make it all right,” he tells his buddy, the bartender, as The Candidate begins his circuit of the booths and tables, leaving the bar itself for last, sweating profusely in the close heat of the tavern, eyes darting hither and yon in search of a welcoming smile.
Yep, I can see it and hear it now, just like I was there.
That’s because we’re all there, figuratively speaking, although most of us won’t get the kind of close-up, handshake-across-the-table treatment they get in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nope, most of us get an avalanche of misleading newspaper ads and spoon-fed cliched sound bites on TV, all calculated to convince us that one hopeful or another has the biggest heart, the toughest outlook, the best plan to frog-march us into an uncertain future.
To be fair, here in Colorado we have precinct caucuses coming up in February ” Feb. 5 to be exact ” when we will join a beefy lineup of states on what has been dubbed “Super Tuesday,” even though there will be nothing that super about it.
Our caucus system is a rather arcane rite, and one that you can’t formally take part in unless you registered as either a Republican or a Democrat caucusite before Dec. 5, 2007. If you’re among the great Independent unwashed or the horde who didn’t sign up by the deadline, you can still attend and learn all about the process, in the hope that next time around you’ll pay a little closer attention and can join “the in crowd” at the table for 2012.
Colorado’s caucus system dates back to a raft of political reforms engineered, I think, by Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, a way to bring political maneuvering out of the smoky backrooms and into the light of a new day. Seems as though it kind of worked, if not completely, since every two years the caucuses usually are attended by a familiar band of political junkies and party stalwarts.
Chatting with a friend on the phone the other day, I mentioned the caucuses coming up and he chirped back, “Oh, yeah? So where do I go to vote?”
When I gently explained that he can’t “vote,” in the traditional sense of the word, he asked, “So, what’s up with these, what did you call them, caucusites? Isn’t that some kind of Biblical bunch of outcasts or something, had control of the Holy Land way back when? Is this some kind of religio-politico thing?”
“Well, no, not exactly, you’re thinking of the Canaanites,” I responded weakly, unsure how to take all this.
Warming to his topic, my friend cackled on, “Or maybe they’re some kind of extinct beast, caucusauruses, yeah? They ruled the world at one time, then a meteor came out of space and blasted them all into dust and echoes of campaign slogans.”
“You’re getting warmer,” I encouraged, enjoying the turn the conversation had taken, even as I grew slightly pensive at the willful ignorance it implied.
“So, if I go to my local precinct, whaddya call it ” hog-cackle?”
“Caucus, it’s called a caucus,” I interjected.
“Whatever. What do I get out of it?”
“Well, aside from the satisfaction of participating in elemental democracy, you might get some free munchies, or a cup of coffee, but not much else,” I said.
“I’ll think about it,” he commented, turning somewhat surly at the idea of political activism without an immediate reward. “Not much else usually happening on a Tuesday, anyway.”
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