Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Democratic Caucus, Colorado-Style

I went to a Democratic Caucus tonight. 

Boy, was it a strange experience. 

Colorado doesn't have primaries anymore. And from what the Brick says (more on this later), the Republicans didn't vote on presidential candidates, anyways.

But the Democrats did. 

(Thanks, Wikipedia.)

Picture the scene at one of Douglas County's Democrat caucuses: a cafeteria in one of the local high schools. It was absolutely jammed, crammed and stuffed with people. Just the line to register (I got there late) was at least 75-100, all ages (though most were older than 40, I'd guess), colors and economic status, based on the clothes they wore. Practically everyone had a cellphone, though -- and they weren't hesitating to use it.

Party members who obviously had been there before were buzzing around the crowded aisles, talking others up. Many were, like me, clueless as what this milling batch of humanity were doing -- and where we were supposed to be. After one false assignment, I finally shoved my way through the crowd to my precinct table, to sign the attendance list. One of the guys seated at the table was griping: 'Only four showed up at the last caucus...how come 24 people came this time?!?'
     Gee, Buddy -- did you want us to leave?

Very few election posters or fancy signs -- only precinct reps waving their numbered white notebooks at each table. Any seats were jammed with sweating people -- the rest of us stood around, straining to hear what was being said.

The row-deo (think "ow-dee-oh") continued after the meeting officially started. The guy running things was an older, bearded man energetically chewing gum -- whenever anything weird happened, he'd just chew harder. (At least he used a microphone, so we could hear what he was saying in between.)

A younger guy in a dark pink polo shirt spoke on behalf of Bernie Sanders: 'We want a change in Congress, a change in the Capitol...vote your passion.'  (Plenty of cheers, both before and after. Moderator chews away steadily.)

An older man in fancy striped dress shirt, tie and nice trousers spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton: 'I'm a doctor, my wife was Bill Clinton's personal nurse.' (Polite clapping.) Some comments about healthcare. (A few hecklers started yelling in the back...nervous chewing speeds up.) 'Hillary has all this experience...'  (More shouting. Chewing intensifies. People tell the hecklers to shut up -- 'not now!')
    'And that's why we support her.' (Lots of cheering and applause...chewing relaxes back to normal speed.)

Then we voted. No discussion, but no one could have heard much anyways, with all the talking going on. My precinct went 9 for Hillary, 15 for Bernie...but based on some fractional calculations, both got a delegate. (I still don't get this, but it's typical of Colorado politics. The Denver Post calls it 'complicated.') How did the other precincts at my caucus vote? Who knows -- it sure wasn't mentioned at the meeting.

Then it was time to appoint delegates, ask for precinct officers, volunteer for election judges. More chaos ensued. Lots of talking, people trying to figure out what their precinct captain was saying. (I'm not even sure how our captain became one...and I was standing there!) Then in little more than an hour, it was over. We were thanked for our service, and everyone left -- fast.


Ironically, the Brick was at the Republican Caucus for Douglas County. (One of the other Democratic Caucuses was held at his high school -- and some Republicans accidentally got in the Democratic registration line. Go figure.)
     He said his meeting was just as chaotic...but no voting. In fact, they were told that delegates could vote for anyone they wanted to. (Ours were definitely separated as Bernie and Hillary people.) Plenty of protests about that, but it didn't change anything.
     Here's the kicker: the Brick was elected as a delegate for our precinct. Good for him!
     (Yes, I am sleeping with a Republican.)

Daughter #1 went to the Denver Democratic Caucus. She got appointed as a Bernie delegate for her precinct. Good for her!

And I just found out -- Daughter #2 went to Nederland's Democratic Caucus! (No, we didn't plan this.) I wonder if we're one of the few families in Colorado that all went to Super Tuesday.

Colorado is one of the few states that have gone both ways in elections -- its 'purple' status means that it's voted both Republican and Democratic.   (Denver and Boulder tend to be much more liberal, skewing the rest of the state, which is heavily conservative.)

Summary of results of the 200020042008, and 2012 presidential elections:   States carried by the Republican in all four elections   States carried by the Republican in three of the four elections   States carried by each party twice in the four elections   States carried by the Democrat in three of the four elections   States carried by the Democrat in all four elections    (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Bernie Sanders officially won in Colorado tonight. I never saw a Clinton button at the caucus...but there were a bunch of 'Bernie 2016' buttons and t-shirts on the people attending.
     In case you're wondering... I voted for Bernie Sanders. (I have a lot of difficulty with Mrs. Clinton's repeated dishonesty. I'm not the only one struggling with this, either.)

Having both Daughter #1 AND the Brick as delegates is going to make for plenty of interesting discussion around the dinner table these coming months. Frankly, I stay out of most of it. In spite of my affiliation, I tend to vote for the person, not the party.

But if the squirrelly, unfocused atmosphere we experienced tonight was typical around the country...
     We're in deep trouble. And it's only going to intensify.

Maybe Marge Simpson was right, after all.


gocrazywithme said...

Thanks for the insight into this weird process. I'm glad to hear there was such a good turnout for the caucus, but I think this year would have been a good year for turnout at a primary election too. Heard on the radio this morning that the caucus process saves Colorado millions of dollars over primary elections. Too bad there were so many voices left unheard (but I'm glad about how it turned out!).

Cindy Brick said...

I only wish it was easier to participate -- and understand exactly what was going on. I got the uneasy feeling that the Democratic leadership in my county had already called the shots and made the decisions -- we hoi polloi were just there for validation.

I'm hoping I was wrong in that perception.

Thanks so much for writing.

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