Thursday, February 7, 2008

What Do You Mean Caucus?

For the first time in many years Kansas has held a caucus. The democratic caucus was February 5, Super Tuesday in fact and the republican will follow on Saturday. Not quite sure why they weren’t the same day, but then I didn’t understand a lot about the whole caucus format truthfully.

But I have learned.

As a dedicated voter I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Co-workers and friends were split on whether or not they would participate. Many of them felt that it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to participate.

Myself, I have always thought that my vote is worth it all.

When I decided to participate in the Kansas Caucus, I realized that I knew very little about the whole process. What was the difference between a caucus and a primary? Are there differences even? So, to find answers I turned to my good friend, Wikipedia.

I like how Wikipedia is laid out; for me it is easy to read and understand and always provides me with valuable info and it was pretty helpful in this instance.

Caucus: A meeting of members of a political party or subgroup to nominate candidates for various offices.

Primary: Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the following general election.

Well, that cleared everything up! The only difference I could see was that a caucus was specifically done by political party and a primary isn’t. General election, primary election? This all sounded like some kind of political double-talk to me.

Both are designed to determine where our delegate votes will go at the conventions next summer. Okay, I understood that. So what else was different?

A primary is basically an election – you go in and cast your vote in a normal election process. The caucus it turns out functions a bit differently. Here’s how it worked here.

There were places set up for each of the candidates and you went to the place of the candidate of your choice. Your time to get in there and register was limited so when 7:00 came, the doors were closed and no one else could enter. When the doors closed the votes at each table were counted and then everything was tallied up and combined with all the other votes from your state.

Or that was how it was supposed to work, in theory. And of course we all know how that line of thinking works!

So, it was a bit different…

There was a place for each candidate, an over-flowing place; they had woefully underestimated how many folks would turn out for this democratic process. Each candidate had a room then, and it still wasn’t enough. But there was only so much space so they did the best they could.
So, there was a room for Clinton and a room for Obama, and then there was never-never land or in other words, the land of the undecided. It was up to the Clinton and Obama camps to educate the undecided on their candidate’s issues and views thereby coaxing the undecided to their side.
Again, in theory it sounds good and in reality it fell flat. Too many of the undecided’s knew perfectly well whom they were going to vote for. Halfway through the caucus I decided to call the undecided’s the argumentative instigators. The moniker fit perfectly. Most seemed to thrive on the arguments. I don’t know, maybe they were just lonely, or bored, or even inspired, who knows. But two hours into a process that was estimated at an hour I had pretty much had enough. And the two hours didn’t take into account the half an hour spent looking for a parking place before finally parking 2 blocks away in icy sleet that I would later have to scrape off of my car, nor did it count the half an hour waiting to get in or the time spent trying to find a place to hang out during the process.

Sounds like I’m one of those ‘whiner’ types doesn’t it? I’m not really. But I had built up expectations about the glorious process of caucus; how I would be thrilled and inspired by it and become even more motivated. Instead it became tedious and irritating – all I wanted was to get the hell out of Dodge!

Oh well, right?

I don’t know if caucus works that way in every state, but it’s how it worked here. It was an interesting process. Not particularly high-tech, nor even private as an election vote is. But it’s part of our processes of choosing our next leader and therefore to me, an important process to take part in. The main thing is that I did it. I went and became a part of the political machine we call democracy, a right guaranteed by our constitution.

My mom always told me when I was growing up to never complain about our political leaders if I didn’t participate in who got elected. I believe that is true and heaven’s knows I want my say!

Just try and shut me up!