Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Kansas Caucus Experience

My daughter and I attended our Democratic caucus Tuesday night. Our site was the W.S.U. metroplex at 29th and Oliver in Wichita.

The crowd there was overwhelming. They expected 400 and got over 1500! It was standing room only and quite chaotic. We had a long wait to get checked in.

Once inside the room there was a long wait while the counters counted and re-counted the numbers in each group. I don't have the exact numbers handy, but the initial count was something like 1530 for Obama, 210 for Clinton, and 6 total spread among Richardson, Edwards, and undecided. The 6 then went 4 to Obama and 2 to Clinton, and the count was finalized. Most of us then left, as it was snowing heavily, with more snow predicted.

The next morning I heard on NPR that all 12 of our District delegates went to Obama. It was only then that I realized that Clinton's total was not up to the 15% threshold! I wish I had been there when the mathematically-challenged leaders finally realized that Clinton's group was not "viable", its 13.4% total being less than the 15% required for viability.

I am also curious about how the delegate selection process went. It seems to me this was way too big of a group to have any semblance of democracy or deliberation involved with the selection process. I imagine the Obama campaign simply had selected the 12 in advance, and presented them as a slate.

This is similar to what we did in 1972 for McGovern, the last time I have been through this sort of process. At that time there was a separate election for each of the 6 slots, and the McGovern people had a candidate for each of the 6. Since we had a majority there, we simply voted in a McGovern supporter for each slot, and noone else had a chance. Not even the moderator, who was the representative for the house district we were in, got elected.

To make some comparisons from then to now, I would say doing it by House District, instead of the much larger senatorial district, was much preferable. Although I did see 5 people I knew Tuesday night, it was a large, chaotic group, with no sense of intimacy or community. Hard for any real democracy to take place in that sort of group.

I was chagrined yesterday to hear an NPR talk show host I used to respect, Diane Rehm, complaining about the "super delegate" system. She implied that it was anti-democratic and somehow just plain wrong. How naive of her and how oblivious to history! One of the serious problems with the 1972 system was precisely that there was *not* any provision for high-ranking people in the party to automatically go to the convention. As a result, you had a convention run by "amateurs", and it was predictably chaotic, with the night McGovern gave his acceptance speech lasting until 2:30 A.M. Surely it makes good sense to have Congressman, governors, etc., being allowed to go to the convention and vote their consciences.

All in all, it was gratifying that Kansas had a true voice in the process this time around, unlike most years when the candidates for both parties are determined early on, before Kansas even has a say.


Philip Weaver said...

Wow, sounds like a very one-sided election. Any reasons why Kansas likes Obama so much more than Clinton?

chessart said...

I don't know about Kansas in general, but my particular Senatorial District includes the Northeast part of town, where Blacks predominate. There were many Blacks at the caucus.

I think in general people are ready for something different, rather than politics as usual.