Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dispatches from the Precinct Caucuses of Our Mind, and Other Locations

We ran across this unpaid political message---and we don’t fully endorse the sentiment---while cycling Sunday morning ’neath the bridge over the bayou at Stella Link and South Braeswood. Context clues suggest that it was the handiwork of neither the Clinton campaign nor the Harris County Republican Party but rather a lost cell of the Young Spartacus League or some other crypto-Marxist outfit; nearby graffiti of a similar style proclaimed “Revolution Is the Solution” and “Evidence, Not Piety” (a sentiment we fully endorse).

SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHWEST HOUSTON – History will record that the Clintonites routed the Obamaphones among the Democratic primary voters who assembled in the smallish library of the Philip K. Dick Elementary School. (“They had a lot more books when I went here,” observed one 40ish Obama backer.) Creamed ’em. The vote was something like 80 to 50, a sum of caucus goers that according to one older-timer was 126 more than turned out for the after-hours precinct get-together back in ’92, when the other Clinton was eventually nominated. We figured it would be a pro-Hillary bunch: overwhelmingly white and tending to the old side, slightly frayed but mostly good-humored, lots of middle-aged women by their lonesomes or with kids in tow---teachers, nurses, social workers, accountants, etc. (no Obama Girls)---and a goodly representation of vaguely ex-hippieish saggy white guys (besides us). Two dudes in union T-shirts. A husband-and-wife lawyer combo. Our neighbor, Blanca, an ex-community college administrative type who sort of assumed the spearheading of the Hillary effort in the neighborhood (the Clinton campaign actually had stationed a nice lady from Boston in the precinct for organizational purposes, but she properly vacated the premises before the caucus began). Some of the peckerwoods from down the street who, we were surprised to learn, can sign their names. A dozen or so African Americans, six of whom voted for Clinton and one of whom bore a striking resemblance to the Carver character on The Wire (there’s always a Wire angle: We were so flush with fellow-feeling that we button-holed the dude after the conclave to inform him of his look-alike-edness and suggest he check the show out on DVD “if you don’t mind a lot of cussin’ ”; before hustling quickly away he assured us he would). Three or four really old and hard-eyed Caucasian gents in ball caps who we’d bet are Rush listeners but pissed off enough to go Democratic for real this year (all caucusing for Obama). Our wife, who somehow was involuntarily elected secretary for the evening. And us, a very nominal, foul-weather Democrat and first-time caucus attendee, previous employment situations having precluded us from taking such a lofty profile in partisan politics.

We had to flip a coin in our mind before we came down for the Missus Clinton, despite our aversion to the boss-lady shadings (if we were gonna vote our convictions---anti-war, anti-amnesty---then we would have gone for Ron Paul, but we decided we wanted our vote to count, and then we’re not really clear on how we’d fare under a return to the gold standard). While we’re sure that either Democrat would be dipping deeper into our pocket to buy more artificial hair weaves for Sheila Jackson Lee (a metaphor, that), we’re also fairly certain that either would steer us toward a slightly saner policy in the Mideast than the one dictated by Bill Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. And not mouth “free trade” as if it were the inviolable word from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Or maybe not. It’s an imperfect world, and we are an imperfect vessel.

The caucus ran smoothly until it didn’t. After the tally, the chair-gal, a comely ingénue with much stage presence but, as it turned out, a loose grasp on the rules, asked for a vote of unanimity on a resolution to do away with the caucus system, and it was loudly so moved before one wild-eyed nay-sayer could get his say in. He was royally pissed about that---he looked a little like the Unabomber, sans hoodie---and, hopping off the library table he’d been squatting upon, confronted the chair-gal in a most ungentlemanly manner: “I’m 71 years old and I’ve been to 18 caucuses,” he bellowed, literally getting up in the young woman’s face, “and I don’t need some 25 year old telling me what to do.” This elicited much hissing and razzing from the assembled and moved us to the loudly expressed opinion that the old crabapple was “fucked” and “a good example of what turns people off about the Democratic Party---like it’s an exclusive club for the insane” and other bon mots that drew approving nods from nearby fellow caucus goers. The guy went on about how it’s good for neighbors to get together and see each other and such---all sentiments we heartily endorse---but the more he talked the more bitterly deranged he sounded. Like some outlanders crashed his little party. He finally relinquished the floor and the chair-gal, perhaps rattled by the confrontation, let the meeting adjourn without attending to the crucial business of electing delegates to the Senate district convention. Some of the old-timers, most vocally the husband-and-wife lawyers (they brought a calculator!) moved to right the ship, and the delegates were duly selected (although a good half of the attendees had split). Earlier, when someone had noted the unprecedented turnout---the library was crowded, and close---someone else shouted from the back, “Yeah, and it makes me proud to be an American!” A sentiment we all---Obamaphone and Clintonite, true believer and marginally committed, sane and insane---fully endorsed with loud applause.

Update: MSNBC just called Texas for Clinton, a stunning rebuke to this blowhard.


Jim said...

The funny thing is, that once all is said and done, Obama might well have won Texas after all.

An estimate of the delegates that will come out of the caucuses (I attended mine too) is that Obama will win 37 and Clinton 30. Add those to Obama's 61 primary delegates and Clinton's 64, and you get Obama with a 4 delegate lead, 98 to 94.

Of course, that's just the pledged delegates. When you factor in the superdelegates, who the hell knows what the count will be.

HJR said...

I think we might have been at the same convention. If you are the hippy I defenistrated, I apologize. I mistakenly thought you said "orange."

Herman J. Rothstein
Philip K. Dick Class of '57

Slampo said...

I did say "orange," but I don't recall being defenestrated, Herman. Seems like I would have remembered that. But all these caucuses got kinda hot, so maybe we were at different venues.