ColorsNW – Dispatch from the precinct caucuses – Tacoma

From Carolyn Wright, Tacoma –

We the People—Precinct Caucusing, Family Style

Like many others this Saturday afternoon in Tacoma, we came caravanning into the Clover Park Technical College, family style. Although ‘we’ was intended to be the other members of a book club that I am a part of; those plans were thwarted upon discovering that every book club member belonged to a different voting precinct. So ‘we’ ended up being my mother, father and grandmother. To come with my family members was good for me because I was quite bleary-eyed from partying like a rock star the evening before and early into the morning. I’d accepted the invite from an old friend and ex-Seattleite, visiting and performing at the Nectar Lounge in Freemont. Might I add that while out on Friday night at this neighborhood bar, I overheard several conversations among the 21 and over set, discussing politics and caucusing the next day which I found outstanding and refreshingly unusual.

When my family rolled up to our designated precinct location a little after 12:30 p.m., there were lines of people waiting to get into the lobby. Calvin Goings (D-running for Pierce County executive) supporters were working the outside lines handing out fliers. One volunteer tried to give one to my mother and she asked quite pointedly, “Does he support Barack Obama—because if he doesn’t support Obama, I don’t support him!” The elderly volunteer searched for a response as he persisted with giving her a flier anyway. Meanwhile I was busy taking pictures and recording this event for the ColorsNW blog posting.

Once we got into the building, the neighborly vibe continued. Even though the location was filled to capacity (1,500+), everyone was under their best behavior giving up chairs to the elderly and those with children in tow. The crowd was mixed with women and men, those who looked like they will be voting for the first time in November and those who looked like they had been voting for some time. As far as the racial demographics go, the crowd appeared to be mostly white, although there was a very generous smattering of blacks, a few Latinos and some Asians.

What we had at Clover Park Technical College was definitely orderly chaos. Attending caucus was like attending a reunion or outdoor BBQ in the summer. There was a palpable excitement felt upon reuniting with old friends and family, as many were doing in the lobby as we waited for the main vestibule to be opened for caucusing. I noted the vibe and made a mental note of the mood. It was obvious to me that we were all starving for the opportunity to fellowship with our neighbors like this. Furthermore it is amazing that politics—a taboo subject, usually not to be mentioned in polite company, is providing the backdrop this year for bringing so many of us together.

The distinction is that this year, overwhelmingly we have the hope and expectation that common folk can make a difference. In fact the caucus leader excitedly announced that between Friday night and Saturday morning many websites had crashed and phone hotlines had become tied up under the weight of voters trying to find out their caucus information. He stated as he began leading us through our caucusing activities that, “this is grassroots citizen democracy at its best!” Even saying the pledge-of-allegiance, which I haven’t done for years, took on a particular significance in such an environment.

The actual conversation among those in my legislative precinct was tame and not too brisk. For some reason I was expecting more of an explosive encounter than the cautious starts and stops of dialogue that we partook in. Some at the table, including myself got pretty vocal after an elderly couple mentioned how they wanted to vote for the “proven quantity” which they felt was Clinton.

Those leading the proceedings for my precinct, another family group consisting of: mom, dad and grown son, were initially the only undecided representatives at the table which I thought to be an interesting twist of fate. God bless them anyway because the majority of the precinct participants, irregardless of age, were at our first caucus and just barely familiar with the proceedings for the event.

Just after 2 p.m., rather anticlimactically, caucus was over. At my table, Obama finished with four delegates, the same as Clinton—thanks to her apathetic voters. In the end, those precinct leaders, I believe feeling some pressure, chose to caucus for Clinton because they said they wanted to support the underdog!

I volunteered to be a delegate for the Legislative District Caucus—and nobody objected. I hope I encounter a similar power-to-the-people vibe in early April for the next round of caucusing.

Carolyn J. Wright

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