Wow. Last night I participated in the Idaho Caucus in Latah County. What an amazing time!
Typical citizen that I am, I considered not going since we were having another snow storm here. But I sucked it up and drove across town to the fairgrounds, where the caucus was being held in the exhibit building.
I had to park about a block away. I suppressed an internal whine about slogging through the snow, and memorized the shapes of the cars parked around me, in case my car was covered with snow again by the time I got back. I knew it was going to be crowded because this is such an important election, but I had no idea how crowded!
I got there at about 6:30 p.m., and there were lots of people there. By the time it started at 7 p.m., the number of people in that little building had quadrupled. And it was hot. Snow storm outside, sauna inside.
While we waited for the caucus to start, the Latah County Democrats band played music and gave out Mardi Gras beads — this being Mardi Gras, as well as Super Tuesday. I didn’t even have to flash my boobs to get the beads. :)
I am a great people watcher, and I saw a wide variety of people tonight! I saw many people I knew from my former working life in the legal world. It was nice catching up with some of them. There were children too young to participate in the caucus, obviously brought there by parents introducing them to the experience. There were Yuppy-types, and Professor-types, your average local-types, and more old hippies than I’ve ever seen gathered in one spot, since I left the Bay Area. I had never seen old women with dreads before. Cool.
Finally, it started. The largest group by far was the Barack Obama group. They took up nearly the whole building, while the Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Uncommitted groups were squished against the back wall and into the corners. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the next largest group was the Uncommitted. Then the Hillary Clinton supporters, and the smallest group were the John Edwards supporters.
I was so proud to see so many of my fellow University of Idaho students at the caucus. It turned out most of them were in the Obama group, and they were very enthusiastic — and LOUD! I was in the Uncommitted group, and our first order of business — other than trying to hear ourselves over the Obama group — was to declare ourselves not Uncommitted, but Unconvinced. The second order of business was electing a Chairman of our group. Three people stepped up for the position, and spoke very well. The ancient hippie bowed out because he was losing his voice, and the grad student said he just wanted to give a speech (it was a good one), so we chose a very well-spoken man named Cass as our Chairman. We found that most of the Unconvinced were Dennis Kucinich supporters.
Next, the Chairman from each of the groups went to the front of the crowd and gave a speech in support of their candidate. The Hillary Clinton group went first. I was surprised that the speaker was very lackluster and passionless. She seemed to think that because it was about damn time for a female president (and it is), that this was the greatest criteria. She went on and on about how experience is WAY more important than charisma. She brought up the war in “Eye-rack,” which was a mistake, since her gal voted to take us there. Ok…
The John Edwards group went next, saying that he had merely suspended his campaign for president, not withdrawn it. He had good things to say about John Edwards. I wish he were still running.
Next, the Unconvinced had our say. Cass gave a great speech about how most of us were Kucinich supporters, and how disgusting it was that Kucinich was kept out of the debates, and our media is choosing our candidates for us. He spoke about how we want true Progressive ideals and more radical language in the party platform. A lot of the Obama group applauded for that, so we invited them to come over to the Unconvinced side. No takers.
Finally, the Obama group spoke. It was a good and passionate speech about taking this country in a new direction, and how the youth in this country were going to help take us there. They were an energetic group!
After the speeches, the Chairmen of the various groups visited the other groups, giving short speeches, trying to lure people to their groups. The Clinton chairman had no luck whatsoever among the Unconvinced, and since they were lagging behind us with 7% of the votes, to our 8%, we tried to convince them to be Unconvinced. They remained true Hillary believers.
In order to send a delegate to the next level, we had to have 15% of the vote — and we didn’t have that much. Most of us decided to change our votes to Obama, in return for Cass being elected as a delegate for their group, so he could influence the writing of the platform.
From the talk I heard, if Kucinich had had a place in the caucus, we would probably have gotten some of the Obama people, and likely all of the Edwards people. That would have given us our 15%. Frustrating…
Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I had a great time. It was heartening to see so much interest in the election process, by citizens of all ages — especially on a night with such crappy weather — and in a state where Democrat votes don’t seem to count for much.
I urge everyone to get out there and participate in the election process. Vote in your primaries. Volunteer to make phone calls for your candidate. Drive people to the polls on election day. Be a poll watcher.
Be a citizen who participates in the governmental process in this country. You might learn something, and even better, you might make this country a better place.
Only two inches of snow on my car….totally worth it.
(The picture is at the Ada County caucus in Boise, not my county.)
UPDATE: There was a huge turnout in the local counties for the caucuses. I’ll list the results by most populous county to the least populous county.
Nez Perce County: 472 people voting. Obama 75%; Clinton 25%
Latah County: 1152 people voting. Obama 80%; Clinton 20%
Idaho County: 164 people voting. Obama 72.5%; Clinton 26%
Clearwater County: 84 people voting. Obama 68%; Clinton 32%
Lewis County: 17 people voting. Obama 41%; Clinton 59%
All of the counties reported greatly increased participation in the caucuses over the 2000 and 2004 elections, except in Idaho County, where they were having a blizzard.