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My political career limps further along 
2nd-May-2004 01:27 am
I'll start with the box scores. No wait, I'll start with the time I got up: 8:30am. I think I had maybe two hours of sleep (some combination of being on a stupid sleep cycle at the moment and, well, general stupidity). The caucus was scheduled to start at 10am; I figured I may as well be semi-organized and show up early. Total contents of stomach: one jelly doughnut.

So, naturally I get there (Hazen High School in Renton) and find the parking lot nearly full with huge lines waiting to sign in. Actually, no, it was huge lines waiting to get name tags. For some reason no one understood, the nametag line was distinct from the precinct signin line; you get to the front and of course they have to verify you all over again because of course it's a different group of people, they're doing everything on paper, etc. This probably also had something to do with why it took so long to get to the initial delegate counts.

Generally I was prepared to cut them slack, since it's all volunteer labor on a shoestring and evidently this turnout went way beyond expectations --- which somewhat surprises me since they knew way back in February what the overall numbers were going to be and that they were shattering attendance records even then. On the other hand, I guess there must normally be huge amounts of attrition in this process; with 690 delegates elected, maybe they were only expecting 200 to show up. Or something. I don't know.

As it was, they booked a high school auditorium capable of holding about 500 or so. The place was packed. And it took a few hours just to get through the seating of alternates and the inital delegate counts (they were doing everything on paper, the only computer hardware in sight were the two laptops they were using to collect the names of folks who wanted to run for CD delegate so that they could run over to kinkos and print the n00 copies they'd need of the various ballots). During the course of the day various people kept repeating, "No really, it's always this inefficient; democracy is messy."

And to be fair, I'm not entirely sure I would have been happier if they'd had a bunch of Diebold machines sitting around. On the other hand it seems like the county has these scantronic thingies that sit around for most of the year collecting dust; how hard would it have been to bring them out?

Which annoyed the folks who thought this was going to be just like the precinct caucuses and that therefore they'd be out of there by 11am. There was some acrimony.

And now for the box scores.

   %   initial
   %   final
In particular check out that last column and note that there was no break for lunch. Luckily, the Dean subcaucus got to move to the cafeteria while the Kerry folks remained stuck in the auditorium where no food or drink was allowed.

Right before the final allocation there were speeches by people on behalf of the 3 remaining active candidates (Dean, Kerry, Kucinich). The Kucinich guy was all about how Kerry and Dean weren't really true Democrats and it's interesting to note how there was zero attrition on the part of the Kucinich supporters and only one of them switched out at the end (contrast this with the pretty-much total abandonment of Edwards and Clark).

Number one on the list of stupid aspects of the process would have to be the requirement that every delegate selected get votes from more than 50% of those voting. See, everyone casts as many votes as there are slots to elect for, and then the top n votegetters get in ... provided they meet this threshold requirement. If you don't get enough people meeting the threshold, you cross off the winners-thus-far and the zero-vote people and try again. And again. Problem is, even though there are fewer people on the ballot each time, there are also fewer votes, so it remains just as hard to meet the threshold.

We rather lucked out in that the Dean subcaucus needed to choose 10 (5 boys and 5 girls) and the votes were concentrated enough so that out of the 40 people running, 9 got over the 43-vote threshold (only 85 people actually stuck around long enough to cast the first ballot) straight off, so the second round was somewhat simpler to deal with (i.e., there was only one vote on each ballot). As it was, it took until something like 3:30pm to get through all the speeches and the first round of voting.

What was really stupid was having the same rule applied to the balloting for alternates. We had to have three (3) rounds to choose those 5 people, which involved another run to Kinkos and ended up taking another hour and a half. Fortunately we still managed to finish by six, which was when they were closing the building. God only knows what happened to the Kerry folks (who had 29 delegates to select out of maybe 80-100 candidates on their ballots); they were still picking their last 8 delegates by the time we left. I guess they had to move out to the parking lot or something. At least the weather was clear.

Meanwhile, yours truly put his name in the hat. Like an idiot, I managed to be at the very front of the line and so was the first to speak, thus not having any clue what was normally expected in this situation. I figured I'd get points for keeping it really, really short, so I basically said something to the effect,

When you compromise with extremists, you give, they take, and the goal posts move further to the right. We've been doing a bit too much of that. That's why we're here; that's why I'm here. To keep the fire lit under Kerry. So that when he says stupid things about supporting an anti-gay-marriage amendment if the language were right, we can call him on it.
It was only after I'd sat down and heard the next few people launching into their bios that I realized I hadn't said anything at all about who I really am and what I care about. Perhaps if I'd said done something like,
"4 years ago I retired from Microsoft, paid my 39.6% and was happy to do it. Few things annoy me more than seeing a bunch of fuckheads who made hundreds of times as much money as I did whinging about their taxes. Last year I completely sat on my butt, raked in a nice chunk of change in capital gains, interest, dividends and futures-trading profits. And my overall federal tax burden was something like 19% with none of it going into social security. That should give you an idea of how screwed up our system is. And George W. Bush decided I of all people needed a tax cut.

Here I am with a three-year old autistic son, looking at a school system in the process of being devastated by Tim Eyman and his militia buddies. Lucky for us, we can afford private school if we have to. But what the hell is the single mom making minimum wage supposed to do? What is it about these people who hate schoolteachers so much they'd rather spend it all on prisons instead?

And yay, I have a $6000 tax cut. Meanwhile the Republican party folks who are running the show have abandoned any notion of fiscal restraint or sensible foreign policy, condemned us to a round of stagflation like you've never seen before, utterly trashed our national reputation and our national security, basically lost all touch with reality and decided that the really important issue of the day is Janet Jackson's tit.

It's a no-brainer, really. I sent $2000 to Howard Dean. Another $2000 is on its way to John Kerry and the rest of it and more is going to all of the close congressional races. That's what I think of his fucking tax cut..."

I suppose that probably would have made more of an impression. Oh well. I'm never very good at thinking of these things in real time.

Then again, the speech I actually gave netted me 7 votes. What this actually says about the gay marriage issue in the grand scheme of things, I'll leave other folks to draw conclusions. By the end of the day and the three rounds of balloting for alternates, I managed to get up to 11. And since there were only 21 people left voting at that point, that was enough to put me over and grab the last of the five alternate slots.

So now, I get to go to the 8th Congressional District caucus and the state convention. And if the right five people die (*) between now and the 29th, I'll even get to vote. Wheee.

((*) the Dean subcaucus chair's reply, "Okay, then! No address list for you!")

2nd-May-2004 08:18 am (UTC)
((*) the Dean subcaucus chair's reply, "Okay, then! No address list for you!")
Hee! ^_^
2nd-May-2004 10:45 am (UTC)

What's the condensed version for those of us who can't sit still longer than two seconds?
2nd-May-2004 10:57 am (UTC)
You would have hated it. Lots of waiting around. Then again, if you like to chat there was ample opportunity to do so--even curmudgeonly me spent hours talking to people. I found the people at my caucus to be really friendly and their lives to be quite fascinating. The group wasn't particularly ethnically diverse--Nettie was the only black person out of some 340 people, and there was scattered Latino representation--but was otherwise diverse. People came from all kinds of different backgrounds.
2nd-May-2004 11:06 am (UTC)
But were there any *decisions* made, or is our state still going to bend over for Kerry?
2nd-May-2004 11:17 am (UTC) - Decisions
This step is for choosing delegates to the state and Congressional district conventions. Those then choose delegates to the national convention in Boston.

It was not about the platform. That happens at the county convention.

In both Roger's caucus and mine, Kerry got the most delegates, with Dean second, and Kucinich third (though in mine they converted to "Uncommitted") These people will vote on the party platform and represent the views of their candidates later on in the process. So even though Kerry is going to be the nominee, there will be lots of antiwar and otherwise progressive people at the convention and they may be able to sway the platform or influence how Kerry runs.

Also, people make contacts here that allow them to build and maintain political relationships among a network of Democratic activists. They become the people who make things happen, and over time, you see some new candidates for office coming out of this group of people. It's really easy to have a one-on-one conversation with a legislator or other politicians at this level, too. If you have more Dean supporters, then those people get heard more by the politicians who are at these events.

It's politics--it's about building and exercising power. So it does matter who gets elected as delegates.
2nd-May-2004 11:57 am (UTC) - Re: Decisions
Lord, hear our cry:

2nd-May-2004 10:52 am (UTC) - That sounds similar to mine
Our whole group met in a junior high basketball auditorium. Complete disorganization. Speeches by some Democratic candidates or their representatives, including *hiss* Darth Sidran, who happily did not get a lot of support.

The Kucinich, Edwards, Clark, and Uncommitted people were wheeling and dealing. The Kucinich people wanted to get everyone to rally under them for a unified "progressive" voice to Kerry and Dean, while the others were trying to get the Kucinich people to join them in a unified "Uncommitted" faction. Some of us in the Dean camp were trying to get all of them to join in one truly unified progressive alternative under Dean (though most were just sitting there waiting for other people to do the work for them). I made the case along with several other people to the Kucinich group, trying to get them to come to Dean and bring everyone along. I thought I was pretty eloquent, and they listened a little bit, but weren't willing to seriously consider the deal unless they got full delegates and platform concessions.

I was willing to make the deal, but the main spokespeople in our group, particularly one woman who I remember from the caucus and have decided I don't like, wouldn't go along with it. It seemed stupid to me to decline giving full delegates to those people, especially since we wouldn't have lost any "true" Dean delegates in the process, but no dice. Had we made the deal, Dean would have had a clear majority (19-16) in our legislative district.

But, like I said, the Dean leaders were stupid, and the Kucinich people were too busy being kingmakers for a diminished alternative faction to really take us seriously. My discussions did convince the Kucinich leader to offer the "join Dean" option as a third alternative option to his people, but without a good deal, only one or two people in their group chose that.

So the results were 17 Kerry, 11 Dean, and 7 Uncommitted. By failing to make the deal with any of the others, we left Kerry with the larger fraction, and he took one more delegate than he would have if all of us had been on the same side. And people say progressive Democrats never learn from being divided and defeated!


We were voting until 4:30. Deborah Senn showed up late in the process during one of the counts to give a speech for Attorney General (she's running against Sidran, thank God, so I can vote for someone decent). I assume she had to give separate speeches to the Kerry people. She gave her speech from the same place all of the Dean delegates gave theirs, including me.

I suck at public speaking. I was pretty much just like you--I didn't give my bio or justify my position, or make the personal connection that lots of speakers made that really sold them as delegates. A lot of our people took themselves out of contention, but even still, I was one of four men who kept their names in that didn't get chosen at a delegate or alternate. I do have to say that the political experience, passion, and speaking ability of others was much better than mine and I didn't deserve to be a delegate. Though, personally, I think I was better than one or two of the three alternates in the men's group. The women were really impressive, and if I could have I would have preferred to choose about eight of our eleven delegates from the group of women. I would have deleted one of the women who got in though--the short-sighted, uncompromising one who really sunk the possibility of any deal for a Dean delegate majority. Cynicism says she'll go far, as she's the kind of person who would become a democracy-crushing party insider if she ever got the chance.

My favorite delegate was the only African American woman in the group, Nettie Dokes. Nettie is a trained union electrical line worker who typically works recruiting and training new women and people of color for electrical line jobs. She was quite the cheerleader and motivator. We had some really interesting conversations when she first showed up.

Anyway, a worthy way to spend my day, despite the frustrations. Good luck on going on to the next level, and at least now you have a speech to give if you want to continue on.
2nd-May-2004 02:26 pm (UTC) - Re: That sounds similar to mine
Sidran is a Democrat? How is this possible?
2nd-May-2004 06:50 pm (UTC) - I suspect that it's pure opportunity
In Seattle, the power structure is Democratic, so an ambitious power-hungry lawyer like Sidran is better off in that club.

For all I know, he may agree with Democrats on some issues. It's just that his punitive, mean-spirited legal and personal style is at odds with basic notions of Constitutional liberty. That's a bad thing in a City Attorney. It's a disastrous thing in an Attorney General.

Deborah Senn, on the other hand, said that as AG she'd use her office to keep Ashcroft in check in the disastrous event of a Bush re-selection. So, that's an obvious vote.
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