While attendance at the WA Democratic Legislative District Caucus did not compare to 2008, those who came seeking delegate seats demonstrated an authentic approach to grassroots political engagement.
REDMOND – I knew the 45th District Democrat precinct caucus on April 15th wouldn’t be the same as in 2008. Back then, I, along with a mighty contingent, was excited about Hillary Clinton becoming president. Others in attendance were equally excited about electing Barack Obama.
The auditorium at Evergreen Jr. High School was crowded and latecomers had to park at the nearby Elementary school, on the street or anywhere they could find a place to park.
Families came in packs: fathers carrying their daughters on their shoulders, moms holding their kids hands, all in tow. It was an evening full of emotion and pride to be an American. Well, ok, I was full of emotion.
We all shared an overwhelming desire for change. We were actively pursuing and indulging in our right to vote — to have a say in the political process. There was a sense of unity and within the unity a belief that change was possible.
Jump to 2012.
As UWEE reported last month, precinct caucus attendance was lower. Much lower. In my case, the same auditorium dwarfed the 20 or so inside — most of them committed to re-electing Barack Obama. Due to the low turnout, there was no competition if you wanted to be a delegate to the April 28 Legislative District Caucus.
While attendance at the Legislative District also caucus paled in comparison to 2008, there were many vying for the 27 delegate seats allocated to Legislative District for the King County Convention the following day.
All that was required was a one-minute speech outlining why you wanted to be a delegate. In 2008, I was an alternate with small chance of attending the convention. In 2012, I had more of a chance. But, if I got elected, it meant attending the County Convention, the Congressional District Caucus in May, the State Convention in June and, with albeit very slim odds, the National Convention in September.
Instead in putting my hat into the ring, I stayed and diligently voted for all those who were eager to go to. I pondered the juxtaposition between really wanting to be a delegate and unable to be one due to allocation limits in 2008 and having an opportunity yet having time constraints in 2012.
As each person stood and presented their 60-second “why you should elect me as delegate” pitch, I couldn’t help but think that at this very grassroots level, the political process is simple compared to running for a higher level elective office.
While being elected was still a requirement to be a delegate, from small business owners to fathers wanting a better life for their daughters, each person needed only to give a reason to vote for them.
There was no time to pull together a “campaign,” hire speechwriters, pollsters, no political consultants. No TV or radio ads, no billboards, no money exchanged hands. No time to stage “if you vote for me, I’ll vote for you” back alley agreements.
There was no time for anyone to be anything else but themselves with their plea to allow them to stay in the process.
Yes, there were those who had more “stage presence” in front of an audience. But all of them were their authentic selves: their “platform” was their desire to serve, to be involved, and help elect the next president. This is grassroots political process at its very best.