Wednesday, March 05, 2008


That's how many people signed in at the Democratic caucus in my precinct last night, in West University.

The Republicans had about eight, maybe.

The Chron reports that it was like that all across the county last night:

The crowd started growing well before the polls closed, and by 7:15 something resembling a mob had assembled in front of the Lovett Inn in the heart of Montrose. Patiently they waited for the chance to ... well, nobody was quite sure. ...

The hitherto obscure process, usually the province of the political hard core, was elevated to the main stage Tuesday by the tight race between Obama and Clinton and the unusual rules of the Democratic primary, which apportions delegates both by popular vote and success in the caucus straw poll.

"I've been doing this in Democratic primaries for 30 years, and I've never seen anything like it," said Annise Parker, the Houston city controller and a nearby resident. "This just shows that if you get the right scenario and the right candidates, people will come out to vote. Here you have a history-making election — either an African-American or a woman will be the Democratic candidate."

I have participated in about half a dozen or so caucuses and run the last three; we never had so many as ten people attend any of the previous ones. We ran out of sign-in sheets, and though people in the crowd came to my rescue with copies and clipboards, it still took an hour to complete the process. There was lots of grumbling and I'm sure many left with out signing in.

"I don't know how much difference this makes in the long run, but it makes a lot of difference to me," said 31-year-old Megan House, who was hoping to be chosen a delegate for the next stage of the process. "You've got to make a stand somewhere. People are understanding that democracy is controlled by those who show up."

And show up they did. So much so that some precinct conventions took hours to resolve, especially in places where many people were still waiting to vote at the nominal closing hour of 7 p.m. The convention cannot start until the polls are closed.

Like the day's voting before them, most of the caucuses went off without a hitch. But there were exceptions, mainly because of large crowds and poor logistics. At the Harris County Courthouse Annex No. 31, the polling place for Precincts 325 and 327, the building's configuration made it difficult to organize the 300 or so people who turned out to participate, said Gertha Giles, a poll volunteer.

In Precincts 559 and 620, which also were combined for the primary, hundreds of people were still waiting in line outside the Westchase Public Library at 10:30 p.m. Poll officials did not open the doors and eventually police were called to the scene. Officers said there was never any violence, and once people were able to get inside the situation calmed down. ...

As the last of the people waiting to caucus filed inside the library about 11 p.m., police lingering in the parking lot said they'd heard calls over the radio for officers to help with overflow crowds at two other nearby caucus stations in West Side division alone: a church on Boone south of Wilcrest and a library in the 10000 block of South Kirkwood.

Across Harris County, from the inner loop to the suburbs, polling places were overwhelmed by unprecedented caucus attendance. At Precinct 64 in the predominantly Hispanic East End, the Democratic caucus drew a record turnout that astounded longtime participants.

Our precinct broke 63% for Barack Obama, 37% Clinton. Obama's campaign had about five volunteers, including a poll watcher, present mostly outside electioneering, throughout the day. I neither met nor saw anyone from the Clinton campaign. But I met almost all of my liberal neighbors, and found out how much we shared about our concerns for the future of our county, our state, and our nation. At least a hundred stayed till the very end, approving resolutions, lasting to about 9:30 p.m.

There was observable Republican mischief being made as ballots were cast during the day, but not during the caucus n the evening. A woman who voted at our location asked me how it could be determined that someone voting in the Republican primary could be prevented from voting in the Democratic. I told her that they couldn't be stopped, but one of the two votes would -- eventually, as in days after the election, and revealed by its time stamp -- be determined to be fraudulent and investigated (hopefully, by the Attorney General of Texas). Then she apparently made a potentially fatal error: she identified herself as working as an election clerk in the GOP precinct voting in a different location from the Democratic one she had just cast a ballot in.

Not sure if she just slipped up letting that slip out or perhaps was taunting me at that point. I tend to think it was the former. If her name appears as having voted in both primaries yesterday however, she's going to catch a legal challenge. For anyone who may have listened to Michael Berry on KTRH yesterday afternoon between 5:30 and 6 p.m. -- as I did on my way back from the county clerk's office to the polling place -- he spoke very eloquently and sincerely about how wrong he believed it was that Republicans were doing this. Berry stood very obviously in opposition to Rush Limbloat's exhortations to Republicans to cross over.

Anyway ...

My wife walked to the caucus last night from our house, hooked up with another lady who inquired if that was her destination, had a nice visit on the cool evening stroll. As she sat in the audience the discussions ranged from topic to topic but seemed to focus on health care concerns. There are many Medical Center professionals in West U, and one anecdote shared by a caucus-goer had to do with his job responsibility to have conversations with people about what their insurance company would and would not pay for. And how many sick people walked away from that conversation and were never seen or heard from again.

The resolutions ranged from universal health care to ending the war in Iraq to addressing global warming to seeking renewable and green energy options and on and on. Two resolutions out of about twenty-five -- one addressed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by cutting funding for the nation of Israel -- were rejected by the caucus.

So it was frustrating and exhilarating simultaneously last night. Some left early, some stayed late, some left mad, some left thrilled.

Democracy really is like making sausage. While playing in the mud at the same time. Some like it, some don't. C'est la vie.

Be sure and read the comments at the link for some real entertainment from the bitter-ender conservatives gasping as the blue tsunami washes over their heads.

No comments: