Behind Democratic caucus doors
Aspen, CO Colorado
Every three and a half years or so, I really care about politics. I try to care as much the three and a half years leading up to it but things get in the way ” powder day after powder day, live music, another day in paradise. But I think it’s better to care some of the time than to not care at all. I was watching the Democratic debates on YouTube, when suddenly it occurred to me if I really wanted to be informed, or at least aware, I should watch the Republican debates as well.
I braced myself. “John McCain makes my stomach turn,” my mother says. “If we have another smirking warmonger in the White House, I’m moving to Canada.” She gets really worked up about politics, but I admire how much she cares, all the time.
The Republican debates took place in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The candidates were very well-spoken and educated. I learned that McCain was “Reagan’s foot soldier,” “timetables were the buzz word” in Iraq, and his included at least another 100 years; I saw how someone might call him a smirking war-monger. I enjoyed Ron Paul’s outburst on Iraq: We never should have been there in the first place! Iraq never attacked us, a fact which seems to have escaped whoever voted for the war. You go, Ron.
The financial issues always are a little cloudy to me. A client of mine told me: “Financially, I’m a Republican, but morally, I’m a Democrat.” I found something to relate to there.
I’m not a big fan of raised taxes, and I don’t like seeing them used to paint shiny new lines on Main Street (no one drives in their lane anyway); I think making same sex marriage an issue on par with national security ” or an issue at all ” is embarrassing, and I don’t see how voting on it is going to educate poor kids or address illegal immigration or help me find health insurance for my pre-existing condition. Candidates who believe abortion should be illegal except in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the mother make me want to move to Canada. We’re still talking about abortion? What year is it?
After comparing the candidates, issue to issue, I reaffirmed that ” for better or worse ” I’m still not a Republican.
But which Democrat? Obama’s enthusiasm, humility and sense of humor appeal to me. Hillary doesn’t have much of a sense of humor and seems either defensive, or offensive, when someone disagrees with her. Obama seems strangely able to keep his cool. When dealing with different viewpoints, he remains even-keeled and open-minded.
But they both have their strengths, and I looked forward to attending the Democratic caucus before making my decision.
First and foremost, I heard about the fabulous free food. But I also was curious about how a caucus works, and I wanted to hear what each candidate’s fans had to say.
It was a pretty darn cold caucus night. I ran the five blocks to the location, stopping short at the back of a long line of people standing outside. The room already was packed! Freezing, but impressed at the incredible turnout, were my first two sensations.
Until I got inside. It reminded me of the Wall Street trading floor, at least how it looked in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” People packed in, moving in strange shaped circles, yelling and pushing to find a chair, find their precinct, find the back of the food line (me).
My friend waved me to the front, where she miraculously had found her way, and I pulled the always scary “excuse me, pardon me, I’m with her” ” in the gondola line on a powder day that could get ugly. But we made it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get out of the food line. Total mayhem, me eating with my plate stuffed against my chest and someone’s coat sleeve dripping Marshman’s delicious penne alfredo.
“You know, you shouldn’t eat that,” said an elderly gentleman at my elbow. “Why not?” I asked. “It’s fattening,” he declared. I assured him I’d be all right, promising to ski it off tomorrow. More shoving and crowd movement. I hoped this wasn’t an indication of how Democrats would behave, if elected. “Maybe we should check out the Republican caucus,” I said to my friend. “Might not be as crowded!”
Finally, the speeches began. Gail Schwartz on the state of the state, democratically speaking, voting records of Udall versus his less environmentally-friendly competitors, and then, it was time to caucus. Our precinct captain stood on a chair and projected. The first order of business was the straw poll. We could vote for anyone who’d ever been on the ballot in this first vote; we’d vote again in 10 minutes. I didn’t understand the point of voting for someone who no longer was running, but I’d really liked John Edwards and thought it would be cool to be able to vote for him at all. I never did get to hear from Hillary’s camp; maybe we all had been here too long for discussion.
The captain looked at our sea of raised hands, four fingers waving in unison for Precinct 4, and then he roughly counted. Thirteen hands for Clinton, around 67 for Obama. All those white hands, all voting for black Obama. Pretty cool, right there. But did our captain get an accurate count? Good enough for the straw poll, apparently. I hoped this wasn’t how they decided the last presidential election.
No worries, because the straw poll simply determined which candidates had at least 15 percent of the vote; the final vote now was between Obama and Clinton. Captain called our names ” take the sheet, vote, sign your name, hand it back.
Claustrophobic grumbles were heard; we’d come to the mountains for fresh air and wide open spaces, neither of which were well-represented at the moment. But still: the clutter and throngs of people, passionately outstretched hands and constant buzz; it was exciting. We were here because we cared.
It’s time to care again, and good news: Next time you vote, it’ll be in the privacy of your own voting booth, with a curtain and your own ballot and pen. Whatever your party, whatever your beliefs ” you just need to care.
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