Monday, March 31, 2008

My Recollections of a County Caucus

Well I did it! Yesterday, I became a delegate for Obama at the Travis County Democratic Convention, and I sure hope that never happens to me again. Jesus christ, what a headache!

First off, the traffic just to get to the road the county convention was on was backed up for two miles. At first, I had assumed the long line of traffic was for some unrelated event because I knew I was quite far from my turn kept going. And finally I got to my turn and realized I had just missed it because there was no room in the traffic for me. And this is the middle of nowhere and shouldn't have had traffic at all. So I turned around and hoped for a break in that traffic, but no luck. There was no break in traffic because it wasn't moving at all. And so I finally turned around again and as I was approaching my turn, I finally found a quick break, quickly dashed into a small opening and was on my way. And sure, I was cutting in line; but screw it. I did it for Obama. It was all worth it.

But even that was a nightmare. And so I'm cruising along again, this time in the left lane hoping for some opening to appear, and nothing. And finally, I find a super small opening that I jam myself into, and then just inched along. We were stopped more than we were going, and I noticed more and more people walking along the side going way faster than us. Finally, I got to Hog Eye Road, which was one mile from the convention, parked along it, and walked. I was the first person to park on that road, but by the time I got back to my car that afternoon, I saw lots of people followed my lead and parked there. And the whole road back to the main road was lined on both sides with cars; for almost two miles! And again, this is the middle of nowhere, in a place I didn't know existed.

And so I get to the Expo Center and it was long lines and confusion everywhere. And I couldn't find my precinct people, and had no way to contact them. But I found the line for alternate delegates and stood in that line for two hours. Yes, two hours. And I was one of the lucky ones. Had I not done all the cheating while driving, I would never have gotten there on time. And some people waited for as long as I had just to be told they were in the wrong line and had to start over. As it was, they had to extend the sign-in deadline for several hours. Somehow, they hadn't imagined that anyone would show up.

And wouldn't you know it, but lots of folks started cutting in line in front of me. I started out talking to some Obama guy that lived close to me, and by the time I was able to sign in, there were twelve people who had gotten between us. Yes, twelve people; mostly Hillary supporters. There was an Obama guy or two who joined the Obama guy I had been talking to, but most of them were Hillary people who just insinuated themselves into our line in groups of two. And it was all awkward. Everyone was pointedly avoiding talking about which candidate they were supporting, in case it was the wrong one, but it was all awkward. But I eventually uncovered that the people I was talking to were Hillary people, which sucked. I liked the Obama guy much more, I really did.

And so I eventually got in and the place was waaay crowded. They even ran out of the plastic necklaces we were supposed to hang our delegate tags from, as well as the substitute ribbon they were using, so I had to carry my tags in hand. And I eventually found my precinct, but it was all embarrassing as the only seats left in our section were next to Hillary people, as there weren't as many of them and all the Obama seats had been taken. Now remember, I was only an alternate delegate, but it turned out that an Obama delegate didn't show up for some reason (perhaps still stuck in traffic), so I was in. I got to be a delegate; which turned out to be a much bigger curse than I had realized.

Sure, I hadn't wasted all my time in line for nothing, was all about waiting...and waiting...and waiting. Thank god I brought a book, but I just bought an iPod the day before, but my daughter took my headphones to Saturday School that morning, so I was stuck listening to the lame speeches people were giving. And the food was expensive, and the bathrooms smelled, and I spent most of the time standing up so I wouldn't have to sit next to Hillary people.

And for what? Nothing. I see no reason why this couldn't have been handled on March 4, as part of our other caucus. We just voted with the same people from our precinct, so everyone we needed to vote with was there, but for some reason we had to go to the Expo Center to do it. Hell, I didn't even know Austin had an Expo Center until I had to do this.

And so the whole thing was running late. It was a madhouse. You'd think they were just making this shit up as we went along. But three hours late, we finally got to have our stupid vote and do the only thing we came there for. And it was all a sham. Each side determined beforehand how we needed to vote (though neither side told the other), and so I just voted for the dude I was told to vote for. We were even handed a sheet of paper which told us who we were to vote for, and we were just to follow what we were told. It was a complete sham. Hell, for all I know, I voted for a Hillary delegate and got totally robbed; I don't know.

But to my knowledge, we pulled it off properly and Obama got three of the four delegates which will go to the state convention and repeat the madness all over again. I was kind of hoping that the Hillary people would screw it up and we'd get their delegate too, but no such luck. It was all a pointless sham that I had to wake up too early for, wait forever, just to serve only as a puppet. Heck, I call it a sham, but I'm not sure how it should have turned out otherwise. Had we all done it on the up-and-up, it wouldn't have made any sense and it would be possible for Hillary to have won more delegates than Obama.

To be honest, I was glad to be given a sheet of paper with the name of the delegate I was supposed to vote for, as it was the only thing that day that made any sense to me or seemed to have any kind of plan to it at all. Everything was madness, outside of that piece of paper. But when they called my guy's name, I raised my hand, and that's all I was there for; democracy was served and Obama got his delegates. After that, I was allowed to leave and walked back to my car in a blur, glad to be the hell out of that madhouse.

But it's all over now, and thank god. It sucked. By the end, I was tired, hungry, and my vision was getting blurry. The one good thing that came out of it was that the circus is in town next week and they're going to be at the Expo Center, so I at least know where to find the place when I come back next week with my six year old daughter. And I have no doubts the circus will be far better organized. It couldn't be any worse.


Anonymous said...

I think the purpose of this process is to show commitment, which you clearly did.

John of the Dead said...

Hey, Doc, if it makes you feel any better, as of 7:00 AM Monday morning, Collin County is STILL having its causus. It didn't start until Sunday, due to venue issues, but they've been at it for 24 hours. THAT is madness.

Denton County wasn't nearly as crazy as Travis (or Dallas, or Tarrant, or certainly Collin). It was seven hours of sitting around for 15 minutes of democracy, and yes, we could have managed to get it all done on March 4th just as easily. The upside was that the Clinton supporters from my precinct were disorganized and several didn't show up, so some Obama alternates were able to been seating instead. Because of that, Obama won both of our delegates, and they split the two alternates. So, that counts for something.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I don't know, Michael. I was of the opinion that it showed the only people allowed to vote were those who should be committed; and the people I mentioned that to all agreed (though one older lady looked slightly offended when I said it). This was a crazyocracy. We even got rained on alittle while waiting to get our alternate badges.

When it was all over, with all those cars everywhere and everyone walking around in a daze, it looked like some sort of natural diaster had hit. But this one was all manmade.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Ha ha, John. My neighborhood got twice as many state delegates as yours! And while the Hillary side had to use at least five alternates (including an alternate to an alternate, as one alternate disappeared), I think our side was less organized, as we had a delegate vanish right before voting started and had to use one last alternate who was waiting around just in case. Plus, I was of the impression that some of our delegates voted for the wrong people. I think they were looking at the wrong side of ths page and used the Plan A vote while we were using Plan B. I was fortunate, as I had to vote for the same guy no matter which plan we used. I can't believe democracy could get screwed over just for raising your hand at the wrong time.

Of course, we had over twice as many people as they did, so I guess it makes sense that we'd have more trouble rounding everyone up and voting properly. And luckily, we had such a numerical advantage that even a minor mistake on our part wouldn't have hurt us.

Plan A was designed with the idea that the Hillary people might try to get two delegates and we'd be able to grab all four, while Plan B was designed if they maximized one of their delegates and so we'd just grab the other three as well as all the alternate slots with our extra votes; which is what we did. I got the impression the Hillary people didn't even have a plan until they saw us discussing ours with our printed out sheets and realized they were about to get routed if they didn't get more organized. I think our people should have done that out of sight of the Hillary people. Oh well, we did as well as was to be expected.

Before it started, I had wished I was one of the delegates who went onto the state convention (which would have been easy, as it's here in Austin). But if it was anything like the county convention, I'm glad I wasn't picked.

John of the Dead said...

I'm right there with you. The rest of my precinct wanted me to go to state; I politely but firmly refused. I cannot image three days of that kind of insanity. Of course, the county convention was supposed to last about six hours. Will the three-day state convention end up lasting a week?