Let's have real primaries

Is there anything more undemocratic than a caucus?

In my Seattle caucus today, overwhelmingly for Obama, us Hillary supporters were older, and less aggressive than the Obama supporters. We didn't have a chance against the Obama caucus machine. First, the put 90 Obama supporters right in the middle between Hillary supporters and the undecideds. While they had been asked to move to the side first, they en-mass said "No, put Clinton over there." I tried to talk about fairness, and democracy but wasn't heard over the Obama cheers and Clinton character assassination.

Frankly, if our next presidential nominee is going to be selected by a small subset of the population I don't want it to be made by many of the Obama supporters I met today. (And yes, caucusing means that a selection is being made by a much smaller sample of the state than if you hold a primary. People work, have childcare obligations, are sick and infirm and have a whole host of reasons why they can't make it to a caucus.) Don't get me wrong, some were nice...but, some were awful. They can't say the same about the Clinton supporters because we were a much quieter and less aggressive group. My partner just wanted to help people.

Intimidation is a factor in caucuses. It's something the democratic party has to deal with which is why I want the democratic party to do away with them completely. The last thing democrats need when trying to build party unity is one half winning votes by scaring the other half.

People were lined up to change their votes and the captain just stood up and said "No more changes." She was going to change her vote from Obama to Hillary.

Not only does there have to be a better way, there is...and I urge all democrats to pressure their states to switch to primaries so that we can finally find out what the voters want.

Tags: Caucuses, clinton, democracy, Democratic, obama (all tags)

Comments

102 Comments

that's what caucusing is all about

bully rampage the room.   the method is outdated, and didn't serve the purpose that it was intended.

It's all about using power and tactic to silence the opposition.  Using psychology to get into people mind.  there is nothing democracy about it.

Primary is the way to go.  The system need to be overhauled.

by JoeySky18 2008-02-09 02:27PM | 0 recs
from before number 19

when they were all males, maybe it was somewhat more fair, but girls being intimated by bully boys is not the kind of inspiration I want. This should be reported, it's illegal not just unfair.  If it can't take place at a job, how can it be okay for presidential selection processes?  

by anna shane 2008-02-09 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: that's what caucusing is all about
I agree. These caucuses are nothing more than mob rule. But remember that the delegates are awarded proportional. Hillary will get her share of delegates. Everyone should realize that nothing will be settled for a long time. I still Hillary will prevail in the end.
by Safe at Home 2008-02-09 11:29PM | 0 recs
A lot of people said about the same thing

in blog.  They went to caucus in WA.  They tried to fight the Obama crowd.  They said they tried and did their part.  But it's not a good experience at all.

by JoeySky18 2008-02-09 02:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

What a brave diary!  Thank you so much for writing this.  We live in one of the great democracies of all time, but without the secret ballot we are as bad as any fascist state.

by izarradar 2008-02-09 03:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Whoa, that's a little strong. I think we're a little bit better off than being fascist right now, Jonah Goldberg aside.

I'm in Minnesota and I would love to see a switch to a primary system. The local newspapers are calling for it after the huge lines on Tuesday. I'm guessing the huge turnout at caucuses this year is going to make some places reconsider.

I'm for Obama and I think he could've done just fine in MN with a primary. And I would very much welcome a chance to see it happen next election season.

by Mullibok 2008-02-09 04:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

My father in MN said the same thing.  I talked him into going, but he drove around looking for a parking spot, saw teh huge line and and he just gave up.  He was disgusted he couldn't go in and vote right away in the morning, just like he always does.  

Turnout is a great thing for the Dems this cycle, but are horrible for caucuses.

by CVDem 2008-02-09 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Thanks for writing this. I'm appalled to learn that this is how "democracy" is practiced in some states.

It really needs to change.

by OtherLisa 2008-02-09 03:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

YES, real primaries for a truer democracy.

by Sieglinde 2008-02-09 03:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

I would dare them to bully me.

by rossinatl 2008-02-09 03:22PM | 0 recs
it's easier said than done

guys are bigger and stronger and girls who are backed by big strong guys tend to yell louder. It's damn intimidating. Should have been sheriffs there.  Plus, I've head there were pugs there who admitted they'd vote for McCain in the general.  How fair is that? They just wanted to scare Hillary supporters?  This should be investigated, whoever was there needs to be questioned. It's a crime scene.  

by anna shane 2008-02-09 03:42PM | 0 recs
Re: it's easier said than done

you can't be serious.

i was at a wa caucus.  it was neighbors sitting with neighbors, excited about the election, talking about politics.  it was evenly mixed in age and mostly women, everyone was courteous with each other and just happy that their neighbors were showing up to vote.  the way you describe is so far divorced from reality, i can't imagine you were actually at one of these caucuses.

by loolool 2008-02-09 11:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Hmmm..  Didn't hear a lot of people complaining about Caucuses before Clinton started loosing all of them.

by dlh77489 2008-02-09 03:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Sure we heard complaining - only what we heard then was that is was the Obama people complaining about the caucus process in Nevada!  How quickly you forget.

by lizpolaris 2008-02-09 03:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

I think they were complaining about the Clintons trying to disenfranchise people.  They were complaining about voting irregularites, not the EXISTENCE of the Caucuses themselves.

by dlh77489 2008-02-09 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Anytime anyone is the least bit assertive with an Obama it's "DISENFRANCHISEMENT".  But you guys can bully anybody you want "for the sake of the party".

It's people like Obamas that have ensured that if he wins the nod, I vote for McCain.  He's a better choice, not a Dan Quayle wanna-be like Obama is.

by Sensible 2008-02-09 04:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

What a fucking prick.  The disenfranchise I speak of was a concerted attempt to deny workers the ability to caucus at sites near their jobs.  And comparing Obama to Quayle---pathetic.  But you have fun with John McCrazy.  If Clinton gets the nomination, I DAMN SURE ain't voting for her, but I also wouldn't vote for a lunatic who wants to "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."  I'll find an Independent to vote for, or I'll write a name in.  

You people are pricks beyond comprehension.  

by dlh77489 2008-02-09 04:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Oh yeah, and most of those workers probably voted for YOUR candidate.  Dumbass.

by dlh77489 2008-02-09 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Now I'm a troll because I don't agree with you.  LOL.  This is my last comment, simply because I'm lowering myself into the slime with you people.

by dlh77489 2008-02-09 04:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

No, you're a troll because you are being unnecessarily offensive. We're all on the same side here...each with our favorite picks of two great democrats.

It doesn't serve anyone to tear down our nominee...and that may be Hillary.

Caucuses aren't democratic because

1. Not everyone has the same opportunity to vote

  1. A small group of people are choosing for the majority
  2. One must publicly cast their vote instead of privately.

It'll be interesting since Washington Democrats also have a ballot to fill out. I'll be convinced that caucuses work if Obama wins in the primary ballot by the same margin that he wins through the caucus. That would really surprise me.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-09 05:08PM | 0 recs
Primary did not match caucuses

Well, we know THAT result now. The caucuses went 75/25 for Obama, the primary was more like 50/47.

by 1950democrat 2008-02-20 06:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Primary did not match caucuses

More like 49-48 with an even split in delegates if there were delegates.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-22 01:11PM | 0 recs
What?

Why the hell do you start doing and saying crap like that?

This attitude of a lot of Obama supporters is really turning people off. Please stop.

by kevin22262 2008-02-09 04:41PM | 0 recs
Re: What?

There are plenty of Hillary supporters who aren't exactly peaches too...

by JDF 2008-02-09 08:16PM | 0 recs
Stop!!

I am starting to dislike Obama, but, he is not going to appoint anti-choice judges. So, I will vote for him, even if I have to walk into the polls wearing a clothespin on my nose.

by nascardem 2008-02-09 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Stop!!

Not to be too argumentative, but I seriously question what kind of judges he would appoint after closely reading his materials.  His obssessive focus on "reaching across the aisle" and "coming together" makes me question if he would in fact appoint anyone that the Republicans would absolutely detest and fight him on it.  Plus, given the extreme diversity of his constiuency, those on the right in his camp are going to want their due for their support.  I really wonder if he would throw progressives under the bus if it meant avoiding a fight with the republicans.

by newhorizon 2008-02-09 09:06PM | 0 recs
Not sensible

I agree with your first part but I TOTALLY Disagree with your mccain comment. Anybody who would vote for ANY Democrat and then say they would vote for mccain is an idiot!

Sorry but it is the truth. mccain? Get real! How does mccain compare to Clinton, Edwards or Obama.... NOT EVEN CLOSE!

by kevin22262 2008-02-09 04:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Not sensible

I rated your comment a "1" because I think that calling someone an "idiot" because they would consider voting for someone in another party before voting for the Dem candidate is completely unfair. I may or may not agree with them, but foisting Obama as a litmus test is unfair.

by arkansasdemocrat 2008-02-09 05:11PM | 0 recs
Did I

foist Obama as a litmus test?

hm.

by kevin22262 2008-02-09 06:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Not sensible

Hey...she is calling like she sees it...and so am I.

Guess you should troll rate me too.

by JDF 2008-02-09 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

I do think there was a lot of grumbling about Iowa before any results came. I do agree with you, this clamoring for primaries instead of caucuses is very opportunistic-looking, it doesn't mean that they're wrong though.

by Mullibok 2008-02-09 04:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Nobody is advocating changing anything about this year's results, so it's not really opportunistic.

I think a lot of us haven't really ever seen the nominating process go this far before, and are only now realizing how screwed up it is. So we want to fix it, is all.

by OrangeFur 2008-02-09 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

You should have been paying more attention then.  People have been saying this very same thing about caucuses for years. I continue to doubt that Howard Dean would have come in third in an Iowa primary.

 It has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton or with Barack Obama. It has to do with an inherently unfair process that can't be scrutinized because of it's very nature. No one expected Hillary Clinton to win any of these caucuses - it's entirely irrelevant.

I notice that of all the posts I've read about caucuses, not a single Obama supporter has been able to rebut the objections that we are making. All you have is exactly what you wrote:

Hmmm..  Didn't hear a lot of people complaining about Caucuses before Clinton started loosing all of them.

There are rules that apply to primaries that clearly don't in a caucus.  You can't have supporters of Candidate X cheering, jeering and intimidating other voters in the election, with good reason.  But that's exactly what a caucus is.

Here's a news flash for you:  there will be no caucuses in November.  If Barack Obama is the nominee, that means trouble. His supporters won't be able to silence McCain voters by cheering and jeering.

by Denny Crane 2008-02-09 04:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

I think we can all agree that a lot needs to be fixed about our nominating process. Caucuses are undemocratic and produce only a fraction of the turnout of primaries. Superdelegates are also obviously undemocratic. The decentralized process of choosing dates for primaries/caucuses is also broken, leading this year to a fight over whether we will include two states that contain a tenth of the population.

My question is how can we fix this? Does the DNC have the power to make things better? As I understand it, state parties run the caucuses, while state governments run the primaries. Can we actually get the governments of the caucus states to go to primaries? I imagine if the state govt is controlled by Democrats, a request from the DNC and Democratic bigwigs might be successful. But what about states at least partially controlled by Republicans? (This actually seems to include a lot of the caucus states--Idaho, N. Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota, Utah, Nevada, etc.)

Is it at all feasible for the state parties to hold primaries? It sounds like it could be a nightmare--there are probably generally a lot more primary precincts than caucus ones, and there's the process of getting poll workers, voting machines, and ballots, as well as actually counting the ballots.

I'm not sure what can be done. But it's a shame that in a year in which so many new voters are getting into the process, what they're learning is that the system is convoluted to the point of farce.

by OrangeFur 2008-02-09 03:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

The Republicans in MN are being total jerks about the possibility of changing to a primary. The Dem leader is all for it, but the Repub leader insists that even if they WERE to have a primary, it would still be non-binding and the Republicans would just choose their delegates at the state convention.

Republicans are just hopeless, and I really hope everyone else railroads them and does it anyway.

by Mullibok 2008-02-09 04:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

In WA it is the opposite: the voters had an initiative and set up a state-run primary, the Republicans decided to recognize the results for some of their delegates -- the Dems are not using the results at all, they are sticking to their caucus system.

So the local party can over-ride a state ordered primary if they want to.

by 1950democrat 2008-02-20 06:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Well, in WA state, this year, we have both. The DNCC is only using the caucus to determine who gets delegates...which is why it'll be interesting to see how the ballot voting turns out. If Obama wins by the same percentage at the ballot, than I'll reconsider my position...maybe caucuses are representative of the whole.

But, if the percentages are different...that's interesting and of concern to me as a democrat who doesn't want segments of the party who can't participate in a caucus for one reason or another from being disenfranchised.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-10 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

In WA the voters ran a state initiative to establish a state primary, which was done and the state pays for it. But the WA Dem party refuses to consider that, they insist on using their caucuses instead.

So there must be some pretty heavy power structure in there, which it may not be practical to change. You might have to work your way up within the caucus system to get to the decision making level.

What we can do, is show the difference in results (caucuses 75% Obama, primary 50%) to the Superdelegates, and let them make their judgement about who the voters of WA really want.

by 1950democrat 2008-02-20 07:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

And in states like Washington the state is holding a primary but the party wants to hold a caucus (why I'm not sure.) So, on Tuesday we'll be faced with yet another "problem" in the democratic nominating process because we'll probably get a different result from the primary than we did from the caucus. (I know many people who didn't caucus who voted in the primary. And, they all happened to vote Hillary.)

So, democrats seem to be a party that is disenfranchising voters left and right...ugh.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-16 08:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Ditto. I really think it's voter intimidation.

by grlpatriot 2008-02-09 04:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Yeah, I basically caucuses are a feeding frenzy which lends itself to the Obama phenomenon. Clinton will make up for it when MI and FL are added back in....

by Zeitgeist9000 2008-02-09 04:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Absolutely.  I felt foolish after my caucus today as I was too intimidated to go against the very loud pro-Obama flow.  The Obamans I dealt with were very emotionally attached to superficial aspects of their candidate and with the numbers in a small room, it was a very bad experience.

by newhorizon 2008-02-09 09:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Don't feel foolish, just get involved!  You might want to write a letter to the editor about your experience, or get in contact with your state party committee  to advocate that they allocate delegates based on the primary in 2012, rather than relying exclusively on the caucus.    

by mgee 2008-02-09 09:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Note: I'm a furriner and don't have a full insight in how the US system works.

The caucuses are probably undemocratic, but they're really just part of the problem. And it's not exactly an election anyway but a party's candidate selection.

To make the process resembling anything fair the whole candidate selection system needs a bit of rethinking (along with the whole general binary thinking in US politics). The different ways of selecting delegates, the wildly varying times the states do their primaries, the business with party registration, superdelegates and so on.

At the very least it should be a single, national primary. Perhaps even a runoff system instead of primaries altogether.

by Ott 2008-02-09 04:32PM | 0 recs
Total rework of primary system

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about caucuses. But your description does not sound like something I would like to participate in. Even though I am bully-proof having been raised the only girl in a large family. :D

I read online someone describe the Dem primary system as being designed by FEMA. I think it's an apt description. Which is why I'd like to see them redo the entire thing. It just shouldn't be so complicated. I tried to read some info about delegate portioning and I swear it read like the tax booklet- too complicated for someone who doesn't want to take it up as a full-time hobby.

We shouldn't have different systems in each state and different types of delegates - pledged, unpledged, PLEOs, super, whatever. All topped with a dose of formulas that delays results. It doesn't fill a person with confidence that this party can run a country, when they've created the most complicated primary system they could. The primary system used by the Democratic party should represent what the party values - democracy, accessible government, fairness.

by Step Beyond 2008-02-09 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Total rework of primary system

I'm guessing from your tagline that you're in either MI or FL?

by OrangeFur 2008-02-09 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Total rework of primary system

Florida. :D

by Step Beyond 2008-02-09 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Total rework of primary system

Its not that I don't agree with your sentiment...but this year is too important for that battle. The right thing to do is to focus on the election..and then once it is over focus on changing the process to be more fair in the future.

That being said, vote your conscience come November; but if Florida sits on its hands and we lose because of it (I do not believe this will happen.)Than I, and a lot of other Democrats, will basically lose all respect for you and others who make that choice.

by JDF 2008-02-09 08:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Total rework of primary system

I won't lose respect for them. If you let people take you for granted, they're not going to treat you any better.

by OrangeFur 2008-02-09 11:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Total rework of primary system

Amazing that you would lose respect for the voters. As if the Dems are entitled to our votes without question. They have had my loyalty for years and yet nothing changed. What I now have is Dem representation that is no more responsive to me than the Repubs I never voted for.

The Florida voters didn't create this mess. Yet we were the ones thrown under the bus. Do you think the DNC is going to stop giving money to the FDP? Hell the FDP still hosted a DNC fundraiser soon after the delegates were taken away. And both the FDP and the DNC will still support the same Dem legislatures who voted for that date.

Last year Dean was saying that come November that this internal party matter wouldn't matter because people would still vote for the Dem due to Iraq. Which told me several things - that they didn't intend to bring the troops home before the general election because they intend to use that issue and that they don't see that disenfranchising people could possibly matter to people.

At every step along this process the people were sold out. Not one time did anyone, among the DNC or the major candidates, stand up and say that people deserve to vote or even to be heard. In 2000 and 2004, the Dems screamed about disenfranchisement. Count every vote. Every vote counts. And yet at the first problem, they felt free to disenfranchise over 4 million Dems. Sure legally they could do it. Legally the state of Florida could make it difficult for felons to vote. Legally, they could go without a paper trail (not anymore thanks to the bill that moved the date). Legally they could use questionable machines. Legally they can ask for ID. Legally doesn't make it right. The Dems sure thought that way when they were talking about the Repubs. But as soon as it was about them, then all that mattered was legally.

The candidates didn't take away our votes but they didn't protest it either. They also decided that they would add to our punishment. They chose to boycott us in order to pander for votes in the early states. But they didn't feel strongly enough about that to boycott our money. So they came here often and each time we were reminded that the only way you could see or hear them is if you paid for that privilege. They didn't mind punishing voters who had done nothing wrong, as long as it didn't cost them anything.

Every year is too important for a battle. I don't think I've ever experienced an election when people didn't say that. But if it is so important, why haven't the Dems done more to EARN votes. Why would they risk alienating voters over this?

You want to blame voters for not voting for the Dems feel free. But since when are they entitled to those votes? I always thought it was about earning them. If the Dems fail to take the actions which they were elected to take, if they throw groups of people under the bus in the name of political expediency and if they fail to convince people they will act on the issues that are important to them why would we bother to take time out of our day to go and vote for them? Unquestioning loyalty to a party which has no loyalty to us? No thanks.

by Step Beyond 2008-02-10 06:41AM | 0 recs
no, sorry, you are wrong

There may have been isolated precincts where such intimidation happened, but Clinton supporters had every opportunity to win over undecided people or supporters of non-viable candidates.

Clinton supporters were just as likely to take advantage of caucus rules to game the system (e.g. by sending a few supporters to another group to make Richardson viable, thereby taking a delegate away from Obama or Edwards).

The initial Iowa exit poll showing Clinton way ahead of Edwards was simply inaccurate. Edwards did pick up more people on second choices than Clinton did, but Clinton didn't start out with a big advantage over him.

by desmoinesdem 2008-02-09 04:50PM | 0 recs
Re: no, sorry, you are wrong
Regardless... are you purposefully missing the point that caucuses are undemocratic, regardless of alleged intimidation? And so effing outdated.
by Turnpike Kid 2008-02-09 09:12PM | 0 recs
Re: no, sorry, you are wrong

just show me where you were against caucuses before your candidate started losing them, and i might take your argument seriously.  until then, it's just sour grapes.

by loolool 2008-02-09 11:13PM | 0 recs
Re: no, sorry, you are wrong
You don't even know me. I haven't been blogging here for that long, but I can assure you that as someone who's worked on voting reform legislation, I've always had a problem with any system that limits voter participation.

But thanks for your valuable contribution to this discussion.

by Turnpike Kid 2008-02-09 11:22PM | 0 recs
Re: no, sorry, you are wrong

if we were only allowed to talk to people we personally knew on the internet, it wouldn't quite be the same.  the point is that there is a ridiculous profusion of anti-caucus sentiment on this pro-hillary blog, that has only appeared after she started losing caucuses.  you may very well have opposed caucuses for years- as you say, i don't personally know you.  but if you think this diary would have been written if hillary won today's caucuses, i've got a bridge to sell you...

by loolool 2008-02-09 11:32PM | 0 recs
I would support primaries only

but that wouldn't solve all the problems with delegate allocation, super-delegates, etc. in our nominating system.

Obama is winning these caucuses because his campaign has invested more in building organizations in more states. Clinton thought this would be wrapped up on February 5 and didn't bother to build organizations in the caucus states (other than Iowa and Nevada).

by desmoinesdem 2008-02-09 04:52PM | 0 recs
Re: I would support primaries only

Most people who have a clear view of things would support a primary only system.

That being said, I think it is pretty funny that Clinton supporters are complaining about Obama's superior ground game and superior strategy. She did think she would have it wrapped up by now and she was wrong...now she pays for it. Thats the way it goes.

by JDF 2008-02-09 08:21PM | 0 recs
Re: I would support primaries only

Actually I think he's winning because the GOP is helping him and because Hillary supporters are generally less able to endure the rigors of caucusing. And, he's got a great caucus machine working for him.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-16 09:05PM | 0 recs
So it starts

I can't help but notice that once Obama started winning all the caucuses, the Hillary supporters immediately started trying to try and delegitimize them.  I can see it the Convention argument now.  "Sure Hillary has fewer delegates, but only because Obama won more of those evil, fascist, undemocratic 'party building' caucuses."

Well, even if I disagree with your motives, I must admit that, after the convention, we should reconsider the caucus system for the legitimate reasons of increasing voter turnout and secret ballot.  Reforming super-delegates should also be looked at.

by maddogg 2008-02-09 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: So it starts

Again, I'm not for throwing out the results or doing away with caucuses this election cycle...that's not what I'm saying. And, yes, it's become more of an issue this year (I attended the Washington Caucus 4 years ago) because while it's wonderful to have so many young and enthusiastic supporter participating they get a little out of hand. Four years ago, we caucused, talked, voted, and I didn't feel intimidated or beaten up. I still didn't think the process was right, and don't feel it is representative of the majority, but at least I didn't feel like I was being bullied.

Democrats shouldn't get together and beat up on each other...it isn't helpful.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-09 05:17PM | 0 recs
Can I ask a couple of question?

Do the caucuses happen at the same time across the state?

What time were your caucuses and how long did they last?

I've never been to one and frankly I'm curious about how they work.

by Step Beyond 2008-02-09 05:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Can I ask a couple of question?

The caucuses start at the same time. You have to go to a specific location where your home precinct meets. (That was why there was a big problem in Nevada, they'd never made an exception for working people before, to caucus at their work location. Everyone else, except casino workers, had to go to the precinct caucus location near their home. If you're working this can be difficult.)

It takes roughly 2-3 hours.

You sign in and declare your "nominee." Then people in your precinct (there are usually several precincts at a location so there are a lot of people.) are sitting, standing together and one person from each group gives a 1 minute pitch. Then there's a free-for-all where people try to convince others to change their votes. This is where Hillary supporters have the hardest time because Obama supporters are very aggressive. In my caucus, Hillary supporters were older, Obama supporters were younger. This was the most distasteful part of the process. It is so undemocratic, and there's intimidation and it's ugly.

Then you go through a period of "realignment" when people can change their votes if they choose. One person wanted to change her vote to Hillary, but "time" was called before she had a chance.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-11 03:08PM | 0 recs
For better or for worse...

Washington is the last of the big caucus states. Along with Colorado and Minnesota, it has the biggest distortion on the process--lots of delegates  with a lopsided split.

After this we have Maine, Wyoming, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

So far despite Obama's big caucus wins, the pledged delegate count and popular vote are not that far apart. With mostly big primaries left, there's a good chance that popular vote and pledged delegates will go to the same candidate, defusing some of the controversy.

Of course, that's until you start talking about superdelegates, Michigan, and Florida, at which point all hell breaks loose again.

by OrangeFur 2008-02-09 05:14PM | 0 recs
by Actright 2008-02-09 08:52PM | 0 recs
Re: For better or for worse...

Distortion of Process?

Did you know that in MN, you actually write the person you are caucusing for on a piece of paper and put it in a ballot box?

No one will know who you voted for unless you tell them.

by MNPundit 2008-02-09 09:19PM | 0 recs
Re: For better or for worse...

So it's like the Republican caucus in Iowa. That's better. But you still have to show up at a specific time, right? How long does it usually take?

by OrangeFur 2008-02-09 11:54PM | 0 recs
Re: For better or for worse...

You have to show up at a certain time (this year 6:30 pm) but you can leave as soon as you put your ballot in the box. You don't have to stay any longer than it takes you to make it through the lines/crowds.

by MNPundit 2008-02-11 07:42AM | 0 recs
Hillary is ahead already

In popular votes of Democrats, and in delegates (including superdelegates).

by 1950democrat 2008-02-20 06:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

I certainly agree overall.  Maybe Clinton can lead the charge on this.  But I certainly don't remember complaints when the Clinton machine was rolling over caucus opposition in the 1990s.

by Drummond 2008-02-09 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

I'm surprised at how sore the Clinton folks are at losing in caucuses.

So what that caucuses give an advantage to activists? Primaries give an advantage to name recognition and fickle voters. And everyone starts running a year or more before the contests start knowing that they have to compete in both to win the nomination.

If Clinton did as well in primaries as Obama is doing in caucuses, Obama would be practically out of the race by now. She doesn't, and he isn't, and as much as you might want to, you don't get to change the rules when they don't produce the results you want.

by scvmws 2008-02-09 06:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Oh, those fickle voters.  Who want to like, vote on stuff.  In a representative Democracy.  Maybe instead of caucuses or primaries were could implant chips in our frontal lobes that would send radio signals to an orbiting -

- er, well, no.

I favor comprehensive election reform, with public financing and loads of subsidized, direct air time and stronger party organization at the local level.  

That said, after reading a couple of the diaries today from first-time caucus attendees who found the process exhilarating, I think I have a better solution: have a two or four-week early voting period with caucuses held as a capstone to the early and absentee voting period.  The early vote and the caucus votes combine to form the popular vote, while caucus attendees get to additionally chose their delegates for the state convention, if one is to be held.

Voila!

by mgee 2008-02-09 08:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Your comment again shows a lack of comprehension. This post wasn't about changing the process for this election cycle, what it concerns is the undemocratic nature of caucusing. I caucused in 2004 and didn't protest the process because it was civil and, frankly, the nominee had already been decided so it didn't matter who we voted for.

With the stakes so high this year and with the caucus being an intimidating and ugly affair I understood that this isn't democracy in action. That doesn't mean I think it should be changed for this election...but in the future, yes. We shouldn't be in position in the future when so few can speak for so many and where intimidation is used to coerce a nominee out of the party electorate.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-16 09:11PM | 0 recs
Didn't happen at the caucus

i was at in Iowa.

And why should it: they were run by the local Democrats.  

by fladem 2008-02-09 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

you:

"WAAAAAAH! My candidate didnt win - the system must be broken! Its unfair!"

grow up.

by dem sam 2008-02-09 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Okay, and if it were the a case in which Clinton was kicking butt in caucuses, but not in regular primaries, you would feel exactly the same, eh?

I guess voter intimidation matters if it affects only your own candidate?  

I'm sure you felt exactly the same way in 2000 and 2004?  You told voters in Florida and Ohio that?

by newhorizon 2008-02-09 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Caucuses suck and are completely contradictory to a core democratic principle (the secret ballot). So I agree we should do away with all of them.

As for this specific election, it's to Obama's credit that he was able to recognize that organizing on the ground is the way to win caucuses and to take advantage of that fact. It's Clinton's discredit that she failed to come up with any strategy for the caucuses--what is Mark Penn doing with that $5 million he got from the campaign, exactly? Tactically that was simply a mistake.

P. S. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Obama is actually winning the popular vote for the nomination right now. Can anyone confirm?

by Korha 2008-02-09 06:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

that's highly doubtful...Obama leading in the popular vote.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-16 09:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Hillary is using "superdelegates" to her advantage. Obama is using "caucuses" to his.  

Hopefully for the next primary election we can get rid of both and just count every person's vote.

by comebackkid 2008-02-09 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

I would like to see us get rid of caucuses but I don't think it is going to happen....

As for superdelegates, I am not sure why everyone is so bent out of shape about them. It seems reasonable to me that these people who are better informed, and work very hard to build the party, have a large voice in who gets the nomination. I admit that it is far from a perfect situation but I don't find it as unreasonable as many do around here.

by JDF 2008-02-09 08:26PM | 0 recs
superdelegates provide a balance

As long as the system is full of loopholes that can be gamed (caucuses, crossover voting, etc) then we need a balance factor, a reality check. That's what the superdelegates are.

Someone wanted the caucus system to limit voting to people who were very committed and informed; the superdelegates just take that a little further.

But they don't control the whole thing: there are only 796 of them, out of 2,025 needed. The only way they can be decisive is in a very close contest, where they are needed as tie-breakers.

by 1950democrat 2008-02-20 07:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

This diary and the comments should be sent to Howard Dean as DNC chairman.  This is no way to run an election regardless of who won or lost.  Voters should not be subjected to intimidation.  

by miriam 2008-02-09 06:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Caucuses are great. Our party nominee should be decided by the most committed Democrats, not by lazy voters who turn out only if its convenient. Everyone has obligations. If you do everything to make it to the caucus it proves something about your commitment to the Democratic Party and its ideals.
And is it really such a bad thing that younger Democrats are able to push aside older Dems? Last time I checked, every great movement in our history was fueled by a punch of young kids.

Stop griping. Hillary doesn't win caucuses because her supporters are about as committed to her campaign as a republicans are for John McCain.

Sorry, that partisan Democrats don't like to support a pro-war candidate with a record of failure and running to the right of the party on important issues.

by bzbergmann 2008-02-09 07:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

You're sounding a bit like a Republican.  "Voter ID laws are great.  Our president should only be determined by the most committed voters - those who have a vslid ID issued by the state of residence... and who can pass a literacy test... and who can pay a poll tax..."

by mgee 2008-02-09 08:23PM | 0 recs
Caucus strategy

"Hillary doesn't win caucuses because her supporters are about as committed to her campaign as a republicans are for John McCain"

This isn't a matter of some super-strategy by Obama's campaign.  Actually, one could make the equally valid point that many of Obama's follwers are simply jazzed about a charismatic speaker who is long on style and short on real substance.  At the caucus I attended Obama's supporters were as vapid and superficial as the campaign literature.  I guess having a emotional yet empty ad campaign could be considered a caucus strategy...

by newhorizon 2008-02-09 09:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Yeah, having an illness or disability that prevents you from leaving home is a sign you should be disenfranchised. Being elderly and not having someone to transport you, we should forget those people too.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-10 08:26AM | 0 recs
Pathetic

by descrates 2008-02-09 08:11PM | 0 recs
It's funny to me

that Clinton supporters think Obama people don't have jobs or other obligations.  Pure comedy.  It's called "being more dedicated."  Many of Hillary's voters are low information voters susceptible to her ample positive reputation in the Dem party over the past 20 years. That's why she has a built in advantage in many primaries.

by pg4obama 2008-02-09 08:19PM | 0 recs
Re: It's funny to me

While I appreciate your enthusiasm for your candidate, you are both foolish and wrong to claim that folks who vote for his opponent are stupid "low information" voters who just don't know better.  

by mgee 2008-02-09 08:26PM | 0 recs
Re: It's funny to me

Well, it's the truth.  That's why Hillary usually loses college educated (or more) voters and wins high school grads or less.

by pg4obama 2008-02-09 08:30PM | 0 recs
Re: It's funny to me

The college grads I know supporting Obama seem to think they're helping to settle old civil rights scores.  Not a very compelling reason to elect a president.

by newhorizon 2008-02-09 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: It's funny to me

Don't worry, it's only the ones you know.  The rest of us have far more intelligent reasons for doing so.

by pg4obama 2008-02-09 09:28PM | 0 recs
Re: It's funny to me

So you think that the people who haven't graduated from college are too stupid to watch television, read the newspaper, and make their own decisions?  

That's just ugly.  Did you ever consider that working class people - who have not graduated from college - are more concerned about the immediate impact of a president and his/her policies on their day to day lives, and believe that HRC is more likely to achieve the kinds of changes both candidates are promising?  Or that they place a premium on policy over rhetoric?  Or that they've been burned by anti-Washington politicians from Washington before?  Or that they might value HRC's experience over BHO's experience?

It's important to have respect for all people.  The working class - once the so-called Reagan Democrats - are one of the core constituencies of the Democratic party.

Since you support Senator Obama, I assume you are a Democrat.  I assume that you also believe in his message - of a new kind of politics, and change, and whatnot.  I think that part of that message must certainly require you to respect differences, including in wealth and education.  

by mgee 2008-02-09 09:41PM | 0 recs
It's just a fact

More educated voters are more likely to closely follow politics.  That makes them higher information voters.  They also are more likely to be Obama voters.  It's not personal, just true.  Politics isn't PC if you're serious about it.

by pg4obama 2008-02-10 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: It's just a fact

That is absolutely absurd.  I might accept a statement that says that "primary voters" are higher information voters, but you have constructed a logical fallacy of epic proportions, just because in the end, you arrive at a conclusion that you like.  By the way, I reject the term "PC" a priori as a right-wing frame intended to fundamentally undercut the cause of equality.  You should excise it from your vocabulary.  

by mgee 2008-02-10 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: It's just a fact

I'll determine which words stay in my vocabulary thank you very much, your hypersensitivity aside.

by pg4obama 2008-02-10 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: It's funny to me

I keep trying to express my astonishment at this sentiment, but the words don't come out.

All I can say is that the idea that educated people's viewpoints are worth more than others is about as antithetical to the principles of the Democratic Party as it gets.

by OrangeFur 2008-02-10 12:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

by LakersFan 2008-02-09 09:16PM | 0 recs
Values
All these things in the thread (caucuses, superdelegates, pledged delegate allocation, MI/FL decision) all come down to which values you hold most important in the nominating contest, IMHO. I just posted a diary on which values I think should be underlying any nominating contest, which I'm going to "pimp out" (for lack of a better term, Schuster!) now: http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/2/10/2371 5/9839 Would like as much feedback as possible before doing part two.
by Turnpike Kid 2008-02-09 09:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

So... The Clinton crowd never complained about caucuses until she started losing every single one; never complained about Michigan and Florida voters being disenfranchised until she desperately needed the delegates from these "contests" where she was unopposed, as agreed upon by all; never complained about proportional representation in the primaries and caucuses until she won the bigger states and lost all others by landslides.

The Clintons have been running for president for nearly 20 years: they are aware of the system, have agreed to it, fully endorsed it, thrived on it until now. Of course, it's no surprise they want to change it now, but it doesn't work like that. And does anyone realize the amount of bullying that went into securing those Clinton super-delegates? And those tapped-out Clinton donors?

It's a GREAT idea to change the primary and general election systems, which are dreadfully undemocratic, and we have to hope that the Clintons will work hard at this after November, when they'll have plenty of time and opportunity to do so. They can find comfort, though, in the fact that under any kind of system, she is likely to lose the primary and even more likely to lose the general election.

by pcjnyc 2008-02-10 03:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Really, don't change what I'm saying. I wasn't advocating changing the caucus system for this election -- nobody has said that.

I swear, it's the false and twisted Hillary baiting that makes me question the very foundation of Obama's campaign. He says he's above the divisive politics of the past -- but, man I don't even like sharing the web with some Obama supporters, never mind coming together with them in any kind of democratic way. He and his supporters are building a campaign based on tearing Hillary down -- that's not positive, it isn't unifying and it's hurting the democratic party.

Caucuses are undemocratic, and my experience was horrible. But, I am not advocating we get rid of the caucus system because Obama is winning in caucuses or even that we get rid of it during this election cycle. It's an argument for the future, and one you'd think we could all agree on.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-12 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

Oh, I agree completely. These caucuses are a joke!!! Anything that doesn't use a secret ballot is not Democracy.

I cancelled my Democracy Bond with the DNC and wrote them and told them why, because I refuse to support a system that doesn't use the secret ballot to choose a nominee.

Great diary, its sad but true!!

by RDemocrat 2008-02-10 06:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's have real primaries

We really need to get rid of caucuses.

Put aside the silly comments about college grads being somehow wiser and more informed than anyone else. That thinking is in itself deeply undemocratic, not to mention wrong. However, the bigger problem is that in the caucus sytem, many people CAN'T vote, committed, educated, or not.

There's a reason why most states open their polls around 7-8am, and close around 7pm. Somewhere in there, most people are able to get to the polls, and if they can't, they can at least vote absentee,  (Yes, I know at least one caucus state allows absentee ballots. Better than nothing. Baby steps.)

Caucuses may have once been a good idea, for small communities. But its time has past. Instead of friends and neighbors getting together to have a conversation, you have scenarios where people are intimidated, subtly (your employer is there) or overtly (actual intimidation).

We need to work on this mess for the future.

by AppleCider 2008-02-10 01:33PM | 0 recs

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