Wednesday, February 6, 2008

raucous caucus

I attended my first ever caucus last night. It was incredibly frustrating and incredibly inspiring all at once. I take that back. It was three parts frustrating, one part inspiring. Well worth the trouble.

This was one of the most chaotic and disorganized events I've ever witnessed. I live in a small city, and the turnout wasn't nearly as large as others that made the news, but still. The last presidential caucus yielded about 14 people. This go 'round? 98. That's what, a 600% increase? The folks running the thing were taken completely off guard. The small room in City Hall was crowded and loud--you could hardly hear a word that was said. Not that anyone speaking was particularly helpful.

No one seemed to know what was supposed to happen, or any details about positions that they were requesting volunteers to fill: caucus chair, tellers, secretary, convention delegates and alternates, precinct chair, associate chairs... When I, a born observer green to the process, am driven to direct the caucus chair to put the agenda on track, and to speak, for god's sake,...out a crowd, you have to know it was a mess. My need for order trumped my wallflower instinct.

But 600%! And I was in a room full of (mostly) like-minded individuals who were there to actively participate in the democratic process. What I also loved--I think even more--was that I had a chance to learn faces and begin to be part of a community that I only recently moved to and where I imagine most residents split their time between commuting to work, work, and sitting in front of one screen or another.

On my short walk home, I passed a woman who had put in a pitch during the caucus to promote her friend and fellow school bus driver who is running to be the district representative to the state house. "Have a good night," I said.
"You, too! What's your name, by the way?"
"Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too."

That is a beautiful thing.

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