Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caucus Chaos

Hey, slap a sticker on my jacket, I caucused yesterday!

This was my second caucus; since we moved across town last year, this was my first time caucusing in our current precinct. There were 21 of us in our precinct: 20 for Obama, 1 for Clinton. The lone Clinton supporter was delightfully good-humored about the fact that the percentages, when applied to our allocated number of precinct delegates (7), gave all the delegates to Obama and none to Clinton.

I enjoyed the hands-on feel to the caucus; I liked chatting with neighbors about politics for a few minutes, hearing voices raised passionately in other precinct caucuses smashed into the same elementary-school library. I was impressed by how many people crammed into the building. And when the caucus organizer asked people to raise their hands if this were their first time caucusing, probably about three-quarters of the people present raised their hands, to whoops and applause from the rest of us. It felt very personal, and intimate, and very much like the core root of democracy.

Still, just as in 2004, I was a little taken aback by how chaotic and disorganized the process was. When I showed up at the elementary school where 7 or 8 local precincts were meeting to caucus, I was told we were all gathering in the cafeteria to begin. In the cafeteria, folks were sitting in their precinct groups, but the signs were taped to tables and thus invisible from a distance. It was all but impossible to squeeze through the crowd of hundreds of people in order to find the right precinct. And I was one of the lucky ones who had already registered to vote and had known my precinct number! If you didn't already know it, you had to go scrutinize a single map taped to one wall, and there were reports that the map was incorrect, anyway. I'm still unsure whether I was supposed to have shown my voter registration card to anyone; nobody asked to see it.

And I must admit that as much fun as a caucus can be, I still don't quite think it gives everyone a voice. I think of that lone Clinton supporter in our precinct, whose choice is not represented on a statewide basis. His fraction of a delegate doesn't get to combine with the other fractions of delegates; they all just get rounded down and shunted out. So I guess a statewide vote would be a bit more fair, after all, even if it doesn't cultivate a sense of community the way a caucus can.

Anyway, I caucused and volunteered to be a delegate to the county caucus in April. That will be a new experience! Then I walked back down the hill to sit and cuddle with my Chloe. She had her knee surgery on Thursday, and it went as well as can be expected. Her entire leg is shaved, hip to ankle, with a long line of staples holding her surgery incision closed. It looks bad, but I know she should be getting back to normal just in time for sunny weather and outside play!