Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Caucus Craziness

The caucuses held out here in Colorado's front range were woefully unprepared for the number of attendees who showed up. Our caucus had to be moved from a classroom to a school gym to accomodate the great numbers of people who came. Of course, it was as about as organized as a spelling bee organized by illiterates. It took the caucus chief (or whatever he was) over half an hour to figure out that several hundred people were not going to fit in an average sized schoolroom. He also seems to have never used a megaphone before - whispering several inches behind the mouthpiece as he recited the rules - which served only to create annoying feedback that drowned most of what was said.

The huge numbers were overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama. My precinct had 63 for Obama to 17 for Hillary. Unfortunately since we only had three delegates to the state convention they were split 2 for Obama and 1 for Hillary (I was chosen as an alternate for Obama). The differences between the supporters was stunning as well. The Obama folks were a cross-section, young, old, male, female, professionals, students, mothers with small children, retirees. And while the Obama folks were celebratory, the Hillary supporters for the most part has an expression that said 'I think I just bit into a rotten egg.' The Hillary folks did nothing to dispel the image that she is the favored candidate of what seemed to be primarily over forty women with a politico or two sprinkled in. Now I know that is not the case, but got no hint of it with the sample that was on display.

Well as frustrating as it was at times (and believe me there is no reason in the world why every caucus should be replaced with a primary), it was also exhilarating to gather together with so many people who came together for the same political purpose, much like the feeling I have had attended some political rallies. It is also exciting to be taking part in what could well be the creation of a new Democratic majority. You could practically here the tectonic plates shifting as in state after state without a lock-down dominant Democratic political establishment (and even in a few with one), Obama's supporters swept aside the old party guard: Colorado, Idaho, North Dakota, Kansas, Alabama, Alaska and Utah.

That is the promise Obama brings to so many people - the ability to capitalize on John Dean's 50 state strategy by challenging Republicans everywhere because he is the right person to present the core Democratic positions in a way that does not polarize but rather speaks to our common concerns. Hillary, whether you judge it to be her fault or not, simply has (a) too much baggage and (b) has too often allowed political calculations to trump what should be decisions of conscience and principle - not only in the health care debacle in 1994 but as recent as the vote to go to war in Iraq and her votes to in essence authorize war with Iran (by declaring a part of the Iranian military a 'terrorist organization' therefore subject to military action).

Obama has always opposed the war, both when such a position was unpopular and now when it is the majority view. But the larger point is not that Obama is uniquely virtuous, the point is that like other great Americans like FDR, MLK or the dead Kennedys, he can reach people and get them to rethink their allegiances by appealling to their better natures. None of these people were saints, but they were able to channel and facilitate a movement of people coming together for the common good, and not simply fighting to retain the larger half. The Democratic Party has to grow if it is going to accomplish any of the goals it has set for itself. I don't see that growth happening under Hillary, instead there will likely only be score-settling on both sides.

Obama is the messenger who can help us transform the Democratic party into the majority party for the next half century by once again making the government the servant of the people, a people energized and aware of the strength they have when they come together and do not settle for the tit-for-tat of establishment politics.