Today was the Legislative District Caucuses, the caucuses after the Precinct Caucuses, before the Congressional District Caucuses, before the State Caucus, before the National Caucus. I was an Alternate Delegate, which means basically if any true Delegate gets sick or dies (or doesn't show up), I'm on. It's like being the backup in a duel.
Our district was one of the top two in delegate count in the city, and the 2,500 delegates and alternates filled up Ballard High School Gymnasium. We were asked to show up as early as possible, since there were so many to credential, and the line wrapped around the block like an opportunity for Dead tickets. Then we finally entered the school, and the line ran into the cafeteria, and wrapped around the cafeteria. Then we finally left the cafeteria, and the line ran up the stairs, down the hall, a right turn, and down another hall.
Credentialing was a quick process, and after we went to sit on the hard benches designed for kids who's backs still work. We were given red stickers or green stickers. Green meant that we were an Alternate- lower caste. Red meant we were an actual Delegate, one of the cool kids that everyone liked.
At the beginning was a standing for the pledge of allegiance, and I stood out of respect, without pledging, as has been the practice throughout my life. Disbursed throughout the long proceedings were a number of speeches- including an introduction by Mayor Nichols, who I previously saw endorse Obama at the Rally of 20,000. We were also treated to a speech by Congressman McDermott, the Very Liberal congressman who is one of twenty who supports equal rights in the Middle East and justice for Arabs, and who I had the pleasure of thanking in person at the Precinct Caucuses.
Honestly, this wasn't nearly as fun as the Precinct Caucuses. I think in large part because it was less intimate, less relaxed, less democratic. The chair of the session had a hard task in front of her, dealing with 2,500 people, but she seemed focused on playing everything by the book and getting through the events one after the other with a minimum of fuss. Yes, it was hard to hear anything in that auditorium if people had other conversations, but she was a bit militant in insisting on her way.
There were a number of times of seating of delegates. As an alternate, we were told we could vote on issues, but that turned out to be untrue. As an alternate, we could do nothing- but sit and wait and hope that delegates from our precinct didn't show up. If there weren't enough delegates or alternates from a precinct, then that candidate, Obama or Clinton, would lose delegates. That's why we were important. And so we would wait.
A few times in the session they would call out names, and I sat there on tenterhooks, hoping and hoping to hear my name, like I was back at a high school debate tournament hoping to hear I'd won the tournament. I had the same trepidation and pounding heart. If picked, we would go into the adjoining room, and change out stickers and move up the ranks.
My precinct delegates sucked. They all showed up, and I wasn't needed. It was like not being chosen for dodgeball. A friend from church got to move up, but I did not. I just sat there while all the cool kids made fun of us. (Not really, but the thought came to mind.)
There were three speeches each for the two primary candidates, the first by Samwise Gamgee. I'm not lying. Sean Astin was there to share about how much he supported Clinton, though he spent the beginning of his speech talking about how much he'd support Obama if Obama's the nominee.
Here's a bit of his speech. This part was interesting.
The cynic might say that Astin's use of Obama's middle name, done by other Clinton supporters, was a way of reminding people that Obama has Arabic and Muslim names like the presumed enemy of America. The way he said it, he might however have been celebrating the international nature of Obama's name. It would be easier for me to believe this if other Clinton supporters hadn't played the game of using Obama's middle name. But you be the judge.
After all those speeches and credentialing, or somewhere in between, we had the voting of the issues. Alternates could participate in the voice vote, but if a voice vote was unclear, they switched to vote by blue cards, given only to Delegates. I voted against the overall charter of beliefs, for it supported the troops, abortion, and a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine. Indeed, as they read the charter, there was this odd little bit of stopping in the middle to stand up and applaud uproariously all veterans and families of soldiers present.
Mostly, I felt useless. But there was one bit where I got to participate. Anyone could give one of the three pro or anti speeches for the six different resolutions. I found the resolution against suspending the writ of habeas corpus enticing, but wasn't able to get in the line quick enough. After that I learned to stand in the line early, and so was first in line for the similar resolution against the usurpation of congressional authority by President.
I had a minute to speak, so I shared about how since his time under Nixon Cheney had been working with others on the Unitary Presidential Theory, a strange idea that the President can basically do whatever he wants. I spoke of how signing statements (in which a President does not veto but rather signs a bill, but with a statement stating how it should be interpreted, often to the point of completely denying the point of the bill) were signed by previous Presidents, but George Bush has signed more than all previous Presidents combined. I mentioned that I'd lived in Morocco, and often told people there I appreciated the king, Hassan Tainy, more than the king from my own country. For George Bush operates as a king, and I am ashamed of this country, where I now see little difference between us and the worst dictatorships, where one man makes any decision he wants. I suggested that, to return this country to what the constitution intended, we should support this resolution.
I am not comfortable with unscripted speeches, and it was stressful to speak with 2,500 people staring down at you from the bleachers. By the end of my minute I quickly completed as my heart was thumping and my leg shaking. But I did get some roars of approval.
The final resolution was the most boring one. Do we support publicly funded elections in Seattle or not? We voted, and the chairman felt it was a tie, and therefore the resolution was declined. But some objected, so we voted with the blue cards. The chairman again felt it was declined. But some objected, requesting a line vote. This meant a thirty minute process in which every blue card was individually counted. It was about this time that the final delegates were seated, and I decided to leave. We ended up with 52 delegates to 15 Clinton delegates. With movement from the one Edwards delegate and the one Kucinich delegate and the 15 undecided delegates at the precinct level, we went from 1016 to 1038 Precinct Delegates, or from 51 to 52 Legislative Delegates. Due to some no-shows in certain precincts, Clinton lost some delegates in the 36th Legislative District (going from 319 to 286 Precinct Delegates). At the Congressional District Caucuses they'll determine how the nine delegates of the 9th Congressional District will be allotted to the State and National Conventions.