All Saturday's Parties

Clearly, the unprecedently high turnout at the Washington Democratic Presidential Caucus on Saturday was due not to fervent opposition to the Republicans or to the stellar nature of the Democratic candidates but rather to the undetermined nature of the Democratic race on the day of the caucus.  If the delegates had been more unevenly distributed, I doubt even half of the participants would have attended.

Four years ago in one of the bluest districts in the state, 24 voters showed up at my caucus to allot five delegates.  This Saturday, deep in the heart of Darkest Bellevue, 49 voters assembled to allot their five delegates.  I asked the PCO how it had been in her precinct 2004, and she said less than a dozen voters had turned out.

Despite the overcrowding, the organizers ran a smoother operation, and the sign-in and tally went off in short order.  The initial tally:


The PCO invited each candidate’s caucus to put forward a speaker, and the Clinton camp was represented by an older woman wearing a Red Hat festooned with buttons and a T-shirt with a silkscreen of the SF Chronicle front page announcing Clinton’s husband’s 1992 electoral victory.  She spent her minute describing Clinton’s ostensible experience and connections with international leaders explicating the worthless cavils that Clinton issued when she voted to give Dubya a blank check.  A younger woman asked to speak for Obama and she, too, highlighted her candidate’s international perspective.  The voters found both of these testimonials somewhat inapposite and quickly focussed on how each candidate would fare against McCain.  The final tally:


Four delegates were allotted to Obama, one to Clinton.  Amusingly, of the Obama supporters who stayed that long, only three (including the PCO) stepped up; the roster was only filled out when the PCO warned that otherwise the missing delegate would go to Clinton, and Red Hat was still hovering.  Once again, I signed on as an alternate.

Comfortingly, everyone I talked to said they would vote for the Democratic candidate in November, whomever that turns out to be.  It was almost like a party.


So Say We All

The candidate whose positions most closely conformed to mine was John Edwards.  He correctly identified the corruptions of our corporatist government, made combating inequality a centerpiece of his campaign, and was convincingly contrite about his early support for this maddeningly stupid war.  He was the best candidate in a delightfully strong field, and I was sad to see him drop out.

I am previously on record as opposing casual participation in the candidate nomination process.  Nevertheless, "they set up the rules," so if the Washington State Democrats are gonna let a pleb like me participate in their caucus, I won’t surrender the field to others who don’t share my distaste.

The differences between Obama and Clinton are slight when compared to anyone the Republicans would nominate, but they are there.  Most significantly, Clinton’s positions and voting record on the war and the expansion of executive power are dismaying, and the contrast with Obama is stark. As these are key issues for me, I support Obama for the Democratic nomination.  From her statements and actions, it is clear that Clinton’s only objection to the Iraq war is that Richard Holbrooke wasn’t in charge of it.  Furthermore, this was her opinion not only in 2002 but through 2008, as well.  This demonstrates that Clinton shares her husband’s (and her husband’s advisers’) conviction that foreign affairs are abstract concepts that don’t affect elections.  In short, Clinton has an ambitious domestic agenda and is willing to accommodate Republicans and neo-cons in order to enact that agenda, leaving messy international problems to the Best and the Brightest.  I am not, and I doubt Obama is, either (at least not to the degree Clinton is).

And what of that domestic agenda?  Almost all Democrats agree that we have an historic opportunity for genuine health care reform, and I even think Clinton’s proposed plan (at present) is marginally better than Obama’s proposed plan (at present), but not so much as to outweigh other issues (and neither plan is as good as Edwards’s was).

I don’t pretend to any proven ability to judge "electability," but I can say that when he speaks Obama is qualitatively more inspiring than Clinton.  Clinton may know her stuff, but when she speaks she’s preaching to the choir.  Of course, this is another reason why amateur demographers and pollsters like me shouldn’t have a voice in candidate nomination; we should be asked (in the general election) who we like, not who we guess other people would like.

On Saturday, I’ll go to my first caucus in my new precinct, and I’ll let you know how it differed from four years ago.