Copyright © 2008 Henrietta W. Hay
February 22, 2008
I went to my precinct caucus last month. I have been to a lot of them over the years, but never one quite like the 2008. The last one I attended had about six people.
The 2008 caucus was, to put if mildly, a different kind of event. At Orchard Avenue School five Democratic precinct caucuses took place at the same time in the school lunch room. I don't have an exact count, but I'll bet there were at least 200 Democrats in that room, all talking at the same time. I understand the Republicans were in the same building, but they were carefully isolated.
The caucus is used by some states to select or begin the selection process for choosing the Presidential candidate.
It is not a new idea. In early American history, the Congressional nominating caucus and legislative caucus were influential meetings of congressmen to decide the party's nominee for President and party platforms. Similar caucuses were held by the parties at state level.
Today, states differ in their use of precinct caucuses.
In Iowa, which held the first one this year, the caucuses selected the delegates who will go directly to the national nominating conventions.
In Colorado they are used to select delegates to the county conventions, which select delegates to the state convention, which selects delegates to the national convention. Simple, isn't it?
But whatever the system, the caucus gives the individual citizen the opportunity to stand up and have his or her vote counted on a personal level.
Of all the caucuses I have attended, by far the most exciting, and the most fun was that of 1976 and all that followed. In 1972 Colorado had added to its constitution an Equal Rights Amendment that simply said women should not be denied equal rights under the law. That seemed reasonable to us. But in 1976 Amendment 2 had been proposed to repeal the ERA.
And that is where NOW came in. For the younger generation, NOW stands for National Organization for Women, and we had a large and active chapter in Grand Junction.
We decided to fight it in every way we could, and we campaigned hard and loud with, among other things, a parade in suffragette costume, every member attended her precinct caucus that year and many got elected to go to the County Convention. There many of those delegates got elected as delegates to the State Democratic Convention. I have forgotten exactly how many of us drove to Denver as delegates, but there were a lot of us. We were joined by NOW members from all over the state. Amendment 2 was rejected by the Democratic convention. Amendment 2 was defeated in the general election.
That is what a determined group of people (women) can do by intelligent use of the caucus system.
So I went to my caucus and I am very glad I did. I spoke for and voted for Senator Clinton, and she lost in Precinct 45. But I was a part of the democratic system of choosing a leader. Modern technology has turned it into a side show, but in the caucus we were back to basics and in on the very beginning.
But the caucus is only the beginning. Now if we could only get a large percentage of eligible voters to get out and vote, we might be able to keep the system going for a little longer.