A Rather Accurate Account of How Weird Presidential Caucuses Are

If you’ve never been to a presidential caucus and are wondering if this process is an open, small-d democratic way to do things, check out this story at the LA Times and read an interesting account of a caucus meeting in Bellevue, WA.
I can vouch for such an account – when I lived in Seattle I went through the caucus system in 1996 and 2000, and they are not much fun. Years of adding rules and regulations to ensure everything from diversity to preventing the “wrong” candidates from winning, makes it a mess.
In 1996 I remember going to a caucus in my neighborhood, West Seattle, held at a community center. I picked the room that seemed to be the right one, and sat in the back, late. I looked around and it looked like people from the neighborhood were all there talking about something Really Important.
Then I realized I wasn’t in the right place. In fact, I was at a meeting of the Little League parents’ group. I left and went to the right room, next door. It was sparsely attended, save for a few old-time Democratic partisans, and a lot of people I knew who lived in the area and worked as political consultants or for city and county government. The guy running the caucus was a real trooper for wading through countless pages of counter-intuitive rules to make sure everything ended up OK. That guy was…(Paul Harvey moment..) Tom Carr, who later became Seattle’s elected City Attorney.
It was an interesting contrast. In one room were the people who might have an interest in participating in the caucus process but who had better things to do that night. In the other were a pack of mostly well intentioned civil service employees, and political staffers, who themselves did not completely understand the byzantine structure of the evening.
One final note: Out of a state of millions of voters in Washington State, only about 10,000 voted for John Kerry. More people vote for a city councilmember in rural cities than for presidential nominees. Hmm.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

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