Monday, February 11, 2008

Get Rid of Washington's Caucuses!

Washington Democrats are in the unusual position of having BOTH precinct caucus meetings AND a primary election. But the state Democratic Party has decided to ignore the primary results entirely, and allocate delegates based on the caucuses only.

This is disenfranchisement. And the system should be scrapped. I advocate going to an ordinary primary election with proportional allocation of delegates.

On the way to my meeting, at Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Center, I stopped into Ken's Market to grab a sandwich and a drink. Five people were working there; they didn't get to caucus. They didn't get heard. Next door, the bookstore and the bakery were open; their employees didn't get to caucus. Across the street from the center, Starbucks and Red Mill Burgers were open. In fact, all the shops were open, all over the neighborhood, the city, the state. That's thousands and thousands of people who don't get to have a say in who the nominee is.

One of those Saturday workers who didn't get to vote is Mrs. Fnarf. She and her cow orkers held a pretend caucus at work. 6-2 Obama.

At my caucus, an elderly woman mentioned her group of friends, none of whom have computers and none of whom knew where to caucus. Our caucus had moved from its 2004 location. They were too frail to come, anyways, and even if they had, the ones in wheelchairs could never have made it up the stairs to the third floor.

When this woman called the party hotline for help, the phone was busy, and the voice mailbox was full. She called many times. She finally got a neighbor to help her find her caucus.

Now unfolding is the scheduling snafu of the party. I'm an alternate delegate, and my little certificate has what turns out to be the wrong date for the County Convention on it: Saturday, April 19th. Unfortunately this conflicts with the Jewish holy day Passover (Erev Pesach). So they moved it to Sunday, April 13th. That's what I was told by my PCO at my caucus, at least. Turns out they moved it again, to Saturday, April 12th, but only in King County.

What we have now is a system where many of the people who want to participate are unable to do so, and many of the people who are able to can't figure out how to do it. Our nominee is going to be chosen by fewer than 10% of the registered Democrats in the state; the numbers participating is embarrassing even by the standards of an off-year school levy vote, and this is, as they continually remind us, the most important election ever.

Now, a lot of the people complaining about the caucuses are Hillary Clinton supporters. Barack Obama has done extremely well in caucuses across the country; they give him a clear advantage. Clinton has done better in primary elections. But I'm not a Clinton supporter; I caucused for Obama. But I would much rather hear from the two million or more of my fellow Washington Democrats than just rack up points for my man. I don't think it's fair.

I don't think it's democratic.

Get rid of the caucuses. Go to a primary election.


povertyrich said...

"What a miserable anti-democratic sack of vomit you are."

That's an awful harsh thing to write about someone you don't know.

My "fuck you" was intended for able-bodied whiners who just can't bear to be inconvenienced when compared to my sick-as-fuck roommate who walked, exhausted and in pain, down to the caucus site to register his preference.

No one at my caucus site had trouble getting in to participate. There was a woman in a wheel-chair signing up when I showed up. If that's not the case at your site, maybe your issue should be with your site, and not with the caucus in general.

I have an idea! Volunteer in 2012 to help make sure everyone can vote! Start up a citizen's group to help the elderly and disabled caucus. Make sure your site is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act!

I like the caucuses because they force people to get down and dirty with their Democracy. You know, participate. I think that's a good thing.

I like caucuses for the same reason I hate mail-in ballots. We don't need any more degrees of removal from our government, our society, and our neighbors. That is profoundly undemocratic.

Call me wrong. Call me vomit if you want. But don't fucking call me anti-democratic. Because nothing is further from the truth.

Fnarf said...

I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your "fuck you". I don't think I did. You are STILL holding to the "I'm all right, Jack" point of view; if you can't make it to the caucuses, tough. You're still saying that the hundreds of thousands of Democrats in this state who work during the caucuses don't count. That IS anti-democratic. Democrats want to hear from everyone.

povertyrich said...

That is not at all even remotely close to what I am saying. That's what you believe I'm saying.

Frankly, I think Caucus Day should be a state holiday and Election Day should be a Federal Holiday. I've believed that for years.

Since that's not likely to happen, I'm fine with allowing people with legitimate reasons (work, disability, etc.) to vote in the caucuses by absentee or proxy.

But just because some folks don't like to hobnob with the unwashed masses, or can't be bothered to give up a couple of hours of their Saturday is no reason to abandon the very fine, extremely Democractic tradition of caucusing.

Fnarf said...

Why do I have to keep repeating myself? PEOPLE WORK ON HOLIDAYS. People work on Christmas day. You think the fire department, the police department, all the grocery stores, and the malls shut down on ordinary holidays? What century do you live in?

Mr. Poe said...

The century where the fire department, the police department, all the grocery stores, and the malls shut down on ordinary holidays.

I mean, ooobviously.

Anonymous said...

I went to the Democratic caucuses for Washington State, and I was extremely impressed with the level of discussion that was occurring in the room. I studied legal history during law school, that is how democracy worked during the early years of our nation, and after having seen it in action I believe it is a great way in which to keep our democracy vibrant and out of the control of advertising alone. In that respect, it is far more democratic than anything else that I have seen.

At the same time, I agree that primaries require less of a time commitment. Caucuses can present a problem for some people (health problems, child care, lack of transportation, etc.), particularly in our rural counties. I believe that we should make as broad of an effort as possible to allow people to take part in the process, which certainly argues in favor of primaries.

Having a primary with no delegates tied to it was confusing to the populace and boneheaded in general. I think that the way that the Republicans split their delegates between caucus results and a primary was the best option out there. Maybe we will take that option next time. I certainly hope so.


sexy said...
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