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.
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!")