Sunday, March 4, 2012

Grassroots Politics; or, What I saw at the Precinct Caucuses

First off, why should an introvert like me go to precinct caucuses at all? Well, if you're in Washington State, it's basically the only chance you get to have a voice in presidential politics before the general election.  Our presidential primary used to be so late as to be worthless, and this year they phased it out altogether.  So if you have an opinion at all on the Republican presidential field, and I do, you have to go to your precinct caucus, register your name and presidential preference for the straw poll, and maybe take part in the selection of delegates to the county convention and the discussion of platform issues.

So Steve and I went yesterday morning to an elementary school gymnasium and signed in as Santorum supporters.  (If you want to read my previous political post outlining my unscientific and highly colored opinions of all the candidates, here it is).  This is the third time I've made it to a presidential precinct caucus, and by far the largest turnout.  Washington is one of those states especially targeted by libertarian guru Ron Paul, and the Paulites were out in force: if you were a Ron Paul supporter you were supposed to check in at a special table and get stickers and other marching orders before checking into your caucus.  That in itself is enough to make me not want to be a Ron Paul supporter if I were inclined that way. 

Now, I should be very careful to say that I have many friends and co-workers who are Ron Paul supporters and they are fine and upright people, socially well-adjusted and with good cognitive function.  At our precinct's table, there were some of those Ron Paul supporters, ones I would be proud to friend on Facebook and have as a guest at the Last Noel party.  And I should be careful to say also that if Ron Paul's foreign policy were not so misguided, I would be much more likely to be comfortable with the idea of him as a Republican nominee -- even though his age and lack of passion makes him seem uninterested and unsuitable for what must be the most stressful job in the world.  His fiscal policy is sound, and I'm glad to see people taking an interest in the political process.  But...

Our precinct committee officer (PCO) is Greg Kimsey, who also happens to be the Clark County Auditor.  I met him back in 2000, and anyone who has even a little involvement with local politics has met him too... he's a standup guy.  I ended up sitting at our table next to his seat, and we chatted awhile about the previous owners of our house that he knew and some of the families at Cedar Tree that he knew.  I'm sure he's a Romney supporter as the majority of Republican activists are locally.  There were also a fair number of Santorum supporters at our table, and Romney ones as well.  I suspect but don't know for sure that the breakdown was something like 1/3 each.  Actually, Paul supporters may have had more like 40 percent in our precinct.

There were about three young Paul supporters who came in lateish and seated themselves strategically in some of the extra chairs set up a little back from the head of the table.  (We eventually had to relocate to a larger table because there were about 30 in our precinct altogether).  Kimsey had left his notepad, PCO folder, and coffee mug to mark his place and went off to do more of that meeting and greeting that local politicians do so well.  Well, one guy "casually" sat down in his chair, even though we told him that chair was taken and Greg Kimsey was our PCO, and STARTED RIFLING THROUGH THE PCO FOLDER!  Then, after Jamie Herrera Beutler's rallying speech, eventually Kimsey came back, said "excuse me" politely as he reached over to grab his notes to begin the business of the caucus.  At that point, Troglodyte Man said he was nominating himself as the PCO and tried to call for a vote to displace Kimsey.  Several people pointed out to him that this wouldn't work because Kimsey has already been elected to his office.  Fortunately, one of them was a Ron Paul supporter... I really get the impression that this guy would not have listened to anyone else.  Kimsey himself said, "You're welcome to try to recall me, but you'll need to go to a superior court judge for that."  Then we moved the tables to another part of the gym, and he proceeded to conduct the meeting in such a way that all the political newbies learned the system, and were able to participate fully in the process.

Upshot of the caucuses for our precinct: we sent 7 delegates and 6 alternates to the county convention at the end of March.  About 50% of them were Paul supporters and 50% were either Romney/Santorum or Santorum/Romney.  (I can't go because of travel plans or I would have nominated myself.)  And of course statewide, Romney won.  Paul supporters have an advantage at this level because most normal people really don't want to sacrifice an entire Saturday in spring to the tedium of party politics.  When Troglodyte man and his buddies kept nominating themselves, Romney and Santorum supporters nominated their spouses in absentia.  Troglodyte man lost out to an in absentia Romney/Santorum supporter as an alternate, but I think one or two of his buddies did get in.  I can only hope they will leave the county convention with a better understanding of how to treat fellow Republicans than they showed yesterday.  The big difference I noticed between them and other Paul supporters: friendliness.  Maybe they should try practicing the Golden Rule in their own personal foreign policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kathy, I found this enlightening. It's amazing the political process works as well as it does here --Al