Last primary there were 15 people from our precinct to turn out for the primary caucus (the second step of the now-legendary Texas Two-Step… apparently, Texas is too big a state to limit you to voting just once). The state party warned of an expected 150%-200% additional turnout.
There were easily over 300 people tonight.
The local party organization was literally nonexistent – there was one (ONE) Democratic Party guy there who I don’t even think was an elected official but just a local lawyer, and who kept saying that he had never seen so many people voting Democrat in a single room (we were taking up an entire church). So the first order of business was literally to elect enough party officials to make the caucus legal – like, a precinct party chairperson (previous to tonight the position didn’t exist). Then we had to sign up and prove that we had voted in the primary already.
The Obama campaign. in its instructions on texas.barackobama.com, instructed people that once you signed up with your preference, you could leave. Clearly they were basing this on state caucuses that had, well, any experience at all. Most of us looked at each other and said “Yeah, we probably better hang around”.
During this process after we signed off, we went to pew sections cordoned off in Obama sections and Clinton sections for 2 precincts (they were both meeting in the same church and both in equal states of organizational disrepair). The Obama sections immediately started cheering every time someone came and “joined the family”. One Clinton supporter came over and asked, simply, “Can you give one good reason why you’re supporting Barack Obama?” I responded with a verbal version of a post I’ve made on many Internet forums in the past year or so, about politics of the past 16 years being divisive instead of inclusive, and Obama’s core promise to change that and work together for all Americans. Another man, an old black man wearing a Vietnam Veterans ball cap, stood up and said simply that in his lifetime he never thought that he would see white people supporting a black man for President, and there was no way anyone could convince him to support anything else.
As we waited for the interminable signin process, the debates continued between the Clinton supporters and the Obama faction, fairly good-natured for the most part and actually made me feel really good about what this election is doing for just inspiring ordinary folks to get involved. The ethnic breakdown of our precinct, in my rough guesstimate was about 50% white, 25% black, and 25% Latino – most of the Latinos went for Clinton, all but one of the blacks for Obama, and the whites seemed about 60/40 for Obama. Finally the votes were tallied, and our precinct sent 2 delegates for Ms. Clinton and 5 for Mr. Obama (to loud raucous cheers). We then had to choose said delegates; the 8 or so candidates for the 5 slots stood up and said a few words, then we voted for each ones (having to vote 5 times total). It was about as complex as it sounds. The new precinct chairwoman and the Vietnam Veteran were both voted in as Obama delegates.
Finally, it was asked if we had any resolutions to propose to the state convention. One guy promptly stood up and said that we should make it so that instead of the candidate choosing a vice-president, they had to select the person who came in second. Despite the head shaking “is that even legal?” reaction from myself and most others, we voted… and the motion passed. Watch out, Constitution! OK, we’re finally done, 2 and half hours later. NOPE! As we were heading out the door someone else stood up and read a pre-prepared statement, in legalese, that amounted to a motion to impeach the Republican Governor of Texas. That passed too.
Democracy: it’s a messy business.