Kat and I went to the Washington Caucus yesterday. This write up in slate captures many good points and is aligned with what I observed.
It was not at all as bad as what I have be angry about over the past few months. The key thing is that in a 1 out of a 100 occurrence, the Washington Caucus actually mattered, and the whole neighborhood seemed to have turned out. The local school that held ours was overflowing. I suspect they were 3-4x over the fire code and they still had a line of people looping around 3 sides of the block when they started going (I’m pretty sure they managed to get everyone registered). I read some press reports quoting party folks saying the turnout was twice normal- the only folks I’d talked to at the actual event who had been to a caucus since 1968 said it was more like 10x normal or more.
As Slate said it was “more like a really disorganized primary”. There was some premise of speeches in theory trying to convince the undecided voters, but as Kat observed they ended up being directed more at the “other side” and didn’t really sway anyone. The group of undecided folks in our precinct was small enough anyway that they didn’t really matter at the end.
So a couple of observations-
1) I’ll retract my previous comments about the evils of the caucus system. I still don’t love it- it excludes people who are out of town on business that day. It excludes people who have to work that day (there were reminders on the radio about leaving plenty of time to take the bus, but no reminders that the bus-drivers don’t get a vote). I don’t really feel like it added much over the primary system beyond the overall cool vibe that we were watching democracy in action with the whole neighborhood getting together.
2) I had a conversation with a party official about the nomination process a couple of months ago. One of the key points he made defending the role of Iowa and New Hampshire is that those states take their role (often choosing the nominees) very seriously. Yesterday made it clear to me that Washington State takes that role just as seriously when given the chance. Hence its even more important to focus on breaking the strangle-hold that Iowa and New Hampshire have on our process.
3) The super-delegate system is still very sketchy. I wish more of the super delegates would take the attitude that Barbara Boxer did when she announced before the California primary that her vote was going to go with whichever way the state popular vote went. It seems like we may be very much on track to have one candidate win the most delegates from the votes of the people but the other candidate win based on the super delegates.