A few weeks ago I wrote about my excitement for participating in the democratic primary elections, and two nights ago was IT. The big day. Finally, I voted in an election where I knew my vote would actually count; that evening, I caucused for the first time in my life.
At 7:15 pm, hundreds of people gathered in the dusk outside our precinct voting station (a local elementary school), and as the temperatures dropped and night fell darker, volunteers eventually herded us into the elementary school's cafeteria. It was disorganized and uncertain; nobody knew exactly what to do, nobody knew where to go, yet people remained calm and reasonably cheerful. Barack and Hillary beamed down upon us from posters up on the wall. The volunteers eventually organized us into a couple of different lines, but then kept changing their minds about who ought to be in which line, whether we needed our voter registration card, our "I voted" card, both, neither, etc. One man started to get a little testy, and loudly berated a young man who was doing his best to inform people what was going on, where to stand, and what to do. And you know what happened? As a body, people around him turned and admonished him to calm down and be patient. It was marvelous. Normally people tend not to bother a grump. In fact, they usually think the grump has a good point, and thank god HE said it, cause I never would, and so on. Not at the caucus. It was as if every person there was as excited about being there as I was, and uniformly they thought "Hey, man, you are NOT going to ruin this for me, so shut your hole and cool off." He shut his hole.
I started chatting with a guy standing near me and it turns out he'd caucused in years past. "Why's it so chaotic?" I asked him. "Don't they do this every election year?" He laughed and said, "Well, yeah, but every other year I've caucused it's just been 5 people and a card table." Looking around at the hundreds of people lined up on all sides, I thought, well, Bush can be proud of one thing, at least. He's spurred this nation to new heights of commitment to participatory democracy.
As things go, it actually went pretty fast, once they figured out a system. One volunteer came down the line with juice and cookies, and as he passed my section of line, he apologized to us for the long wait. "No worries," said a dad with a stroller. "We've waited seven years - fifteen more minutes won't kill us."