Mike has a nice post about attending his local Democratic caucus on Saturday, and the broad general details of his experience don't differ much from mine. I too was a first-time caucus...er, strolling the four blocks to Whittier Elementary (go Wildcats!) to cram myself in with the rest of my progressive-minded neighbors.
Democracy, it turns out, consists of a lot of standing around, temperature and volume rising, while you wait to actually Decide Things. Nonetheless it was strangely thrilling, for me, to be witness to all that newfound political enthusiasm cramming into the cafeteria/auditorium, 700+ strong. Babies in strollers and on shoulders. A guy on crutches, a woman in a motorized wheelchair. A clump of daycare classmates at my table set to coloring with vigor. People gave up their seats on the long narrow cafeteria benches for white-haired old ladies. My precinct officer, and the subsequent speakers, climbed up on the tables, straining to make themselves heard, and people helped them clamber up and down, clapping politely for each.
A little kid in front of me in the sign-in line clutched a copy of Duck for President. Learning Opportunity! "Dad, vote for Duck! Don't forget," the kid remarked urgently. "Okay, I'll write him in," his dad murmured absently. They weren't in my precinct, so I am not sure whether Duck has a lone delegate heading off to the county caucus. I do feel a certain obligation to point out that, whatever his platform, Duck appears to be yet another white male.
More exciting than the vote, in the initial milling-around phase, was getting to gossip with the other folks from my street about Those Neighbors: rental tenants whose long-time-coming, two-month eviction process finally wrapped up in the wee hours of January 2nd. They had two people living in the garage! someone noted. They were burning chopped-up furniture in their enormous barbecue smoker! a second person said. They'd stagger out to vomit in the alley! announced the guy from the north end of the block. Wow. I didn't even get to tell the story of how one of the cavalcade of stars resident in That House had crashed into my car and driven blithely away. Oh, Trashy Neighbors, now inflicting fresh miseries on someone else's block. They were entertaining, in a way, with their half-dozen shitty vehicles and their monstrous above-ground vinyl pool and their band practice...but I gather that they are not in fact missed.
Where was I? Right, right: democracy. I'm proud to admit I'm part of the Obama tidal wave that swept all four states in contention this weekend, though I'd willingly, gladly vote for either eventual nominee. I am frankly stunned, and thrilled, and humbled, to have such a choice to make. Even last year, a history teacher at the high school Mom worked at told his students point-blank, you will never see a black man or a woman as a Presidential nominee. Not in your lifetime, he informed those kids, a full generation behind me. Not in my lifetime and not in theirs. Well, well. You'd better start swimmin', or you'll sink like a stone, there, Teach.
Mom and Sis both caucused in their respective precincts as well, first-timers all. I wanted to point that out, actually, as a marker of Sis's political evolution. When she turned 18, she felt so disenfranchised, she didn't bother to even register. I think it was at least a decade before she went so far as to secure a ballot at all. This weekend, Sis volunteered as an Obama delegate for the county caucus at the next level. That? Makes me glow, a little bit, way inside.
A privilege, to feel a part of this, of something amazing and unprecedented and so, so hopeful, happening.