Sunday, April 6, 2008

Live Politics

Yesterday, I was an Obama delegate to the Democratic 48th Legislative Caucus here in Washington. On my dev blog, I wrote about problems voting without much technology (An Exercise in Democracy, Real World Bottlenecks). A few interesting observations on the caucus itself ...

The Pledge of Allegiance. I don't stand for the pledge and I don't say it. This is my small way of protesting the unconstitutional inclusion of the phrase "under god" (see this brief (PDF) for some background -- I'll write more about that some other time). So, I've observed the pledge being said many times. This time, when the pledge was recited, I witnessed something I'd never seen before -- the entire room stumbled over "under god." Part of the room (I believe a minority) said it, part of the room paused for it but didn't say it, and part of the room went right on to "indivisible."

Politics is Slow. Almost everything done during the day took way too long. We all checked in relatively smoothly, but there was a huge delay until the registrations were counted -- apparently everything had to entered into a single computer, with a single person entering data. Given that everybody had been waiting for hours, there was a big dispute when it came time to do what we all came to do -- vote for candidates to be delegates to the county convention. The original plan was one minute per candidate, which probably would have taken an hour and a half. Some people wanted no vote (most candidates had already posted a written statement, which many of us had already read). Since we all finally had a chance to say something, rather than just sitting around and waiting, it was contentious. The compromise (after more than 15 minutes and three motions and votes) was an intro plus 10 seconds per candidate. Unfortunately, because I was the one who proposed the 10 seconds, I got appointed to be the timekeeper.

Stump Speeches. Because there was plenty of time to be filled, we got to hear each of the candidates talk. Darcy Burner spoke about her campaign for congress. Most interesting fact I learned: I knew that Dave Reichert was very conservative (despite his claim otherwise), but I didn't know that he was against birth control. I researched this afterwards and, yes, it's true. He thinks pharmacists shouldn't have to fill birth control prescriptions. If you want to help this country move forward and you're in Washington's 8th Congressional District, vote for Darcy. Better yet, donate money.

State Representative Ross Hunter discussed how important health care and health coverage are and he lamented that so much of what needs to be done to address today's problems can't be done at the state level -- it has to be at the national level, through the President and Congress.

People Care About America. Everybody I talked to, from State Senator Rodney Tom and Ross Hunter, to local organizers, to all the people with both Obama and Clinton signs, had a lot to say about the sorry state of the country and the need for drastic change. There was (mostly respectful) disagreement about the best candidate, but no disagreement about what's at stake in November.


Andrew M Greene said...

I'm curious if the age distribution contributed to what you noticed during the Pledge. Is the population of delegates skewed old enough that many of them originally learned the Pledge without the insertion of "under God" and would have skipped it entirely out of old habits? (Those who paused to omit it are presumably doing so as a conscious choice.)

Roy Leban said...

That's a good question. Since "under god" was inserted by Eisenhower in 1954, you would have to be 71 years old or older to never have encountered it in school (those between 58 and 71 years old would have been in school when the change occurred).

I do not think that the group was skewed significantly toward older delegates. I think a small percentage of the group was over 71. If we were to postulate that those people who were in 7th grade or higher when the switch happened are more likely to skip it entirely, that would be people over 65. I would guess that less than 20% of the group was over 65, though that might be enough to have the effect I noticed.