Raucous Caucus

Friday night after I came home with a delicious Red Mill chicken sandwich in my weary little hands, I was thumbing idly throughThe Stranger and being glad I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to do it with, I noticed that the next day was Washington State Caucus Day. The paper gave information about how to do it and the number to call and everything. After some ado that involved finding my voter’s registration card (it was pinned to my bulletin board underneath my mom’s birthday card from when I turned 27) I discovered that my Caucus Location was in fact just down the street from me, at the church where I usually vote and which happens to be hosting the happening Tent City for the next coupe of months. No excuse not to go, right? I spent the rest of the evening eating pizza with artichoke paste and watching my beloved Y Tu Mama Tambien, which always makes me have impure thoughts that center around running off to Mexico and hooking up with multiple hot boys. And by the way, when the hilarious Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights comes out and you are all drooling over the luscious Diego Luna, remember that I saw him first and have dibs, okay? Okay.

The morning came as it always does and I rolled out of bed and into the first clothes I stumbled over on the way to the bathroom and made it out the door and down the street and to the caucusing place. There were Krispy Kremes, which I totally ate but have decided that I don’t like very much. Too sweet. I dithered about getting some hot chocolate down the street and waited, with a special brand of genius that is all my own, until the very moment when the big old crowd actually split up into precinct groups. I had to run around freaking out about where I was supposed to be, all the while repeating to myself in a weird sort of loop the phrase “Let’s see what the boys down at the precinct have to say about that.” Bad cop shows (which I don’t even watch) are the only other other context in which I’ve heard the word “precinct” uttered, so you can understand my confusion. My precinct was in the basement.

It was all very confusing. You get into precinct groups and you’re supposed to vote for a candidate, except you already have voted for a candidate when you walked in with your Krispy Kreme earlier and signed in. So they count the votes and there’s some guy with a calculator intoning the exact percentages each candidate needs to get fifteen percent of our vote. At one point there was some heated discussion about how many people were actually in the room, even, which you’d think a bit of simple arithmetic would solve, but no. Still, it was pretty straightforward even though I wasn’t entirely sure what would happen once the candidates got fifteen percent.

So then we had to talk about what we liked about the various candidates and someone said he liked Edwards because he was a good speaker and someone else said he thought Dean would “heal the nation because he’s already a doctor” and about eight Kucinich fans said that they had no illusions about his getting the nomination but that they wanted to get his values on the Democratic Party agenda and also they were voting their consciences, and then the rest of the people said that they were voting for Kerry because he had foreign policy experience. I said that the Republicans obviously had no bones about running an insane candidate so why shouldn’t the Democrats (referring to Dean, who got my vote, which clearly didn’t help him much). I never thought he was that insane, personally, but this might be because I don’t have TV. So the three top runners in our precinct (“Send him down to the precinct, boys!”) were Dean and then Kerry and Edwards. Kucinich was a very close fourth. We were supposed to change our votes if we wanted to, so that we could send delegates to the Convention who would be stumping for a particular candidate instead of one Dean delegate and two undecideds. I didn’ t want to change my vote so I left after about an hour of discussion because I had to go to the library and to get a haircut from Zan.

It was pretty interesting I guess, and it certainly did a lot in terms of serving my self-righteous tendencies, you know, like, there I am Rocking The Vote in a caucus state, which I had known absolutely nothing about three days previously. I had some compunctions about participating because I didn’t feel I knew enough about the process, but then I thought that was a dumb reason not to do it. I mean, it was down the street from my place, how could I not? If Kerry gets the nomination, as it looks he will, I’ll certainly vote for him and against Bush in the elections, so I don’t know if my being there and voting for Dean had any huge impact, but still. The spirit of the thing, and also I feel so helpless in the face of this administration, and it’s inspired me to be a little more politically active because does everyone remember how sickening it was in November 2000, waiting for the votes to be counted? Remember the hanging chads and the lawsuits and the butterfly ballots? I’m from Miami-Dade county and I kept feeling as though I should apologize to the nation for my hometown and then later for the entire state. I freaked out then and I don’t want to freak out again this year. I sometimes have doubts about what one person can do to change politics on the national level…I mean, one ordinary person because clearly John Ashcroft has done more than his fair share…but I think I better get as involved as I can now anyway because I can’t do four more years of George W. Bush, I just can’t.

The other thing was the makeup of the crowd. I don’t live in the rockingest neighborhood or anything so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the other caucasers. They were almost all white middle-class, middle-aged people who talked about McGovern and Carter a lot. For a while my precinct talked a lot about how we all hated this administration and how terrible they were and so forth, and while I agree with those sentiments (or could you not tell?) it seemed a bit of a waste of time. And I sense that there’s some sort of analogy to be drawn with the Democratic party as well, somewehere in there. People were certainly passionate about hating the current administration but no one, I noticed, was really passionate about any one candidate for the nomination. Most people talked about electability and getting W. out of the White House and maybe that’s enough, maybe that will work, but I don’t know. And I supported Dean, and like I said I’ll support Kerry if he gets it, or whoever gets it, but I’m not all “I really believe in this dude.” Maybe you don’t have to have that, maybe it’s na´ve to want to believe in a fallible person in a fallible system, but it would be sort of nice.

I just realized I’m not even politically informed enough to go further than that. Seriously, I need to stop this entry right now and do some research and next time write like I know what I’m talking about. I have a sense that this is going to be one of those years where reading The Nation and talking to my other liberal friends about how much everything sucks just isn’t enough.

Otherwise my weekend was the kind of long and quiet one that I particularly enjoy. I watched movies and made lentil stew and chocolate biscotti and thought about my trip and cleaned the bathroom and generally enjoyed myself. In fact, going to the caucus was about the most raucous thing I did.

Update! For a coherent and intelligent synopsis of the caucus process that does notinvolve doughnuts, may I point you to Monty’s version of events.

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