The Nebraska Democratic Caucas was Saturday night and I still can't get over it. It was a fabulous experience. Hopi versed me on the Iowa Caucus, so I had an idea of what it would entail, but I wasn't prepared for just how exciting it would be.
I drove out to the Adams County Fairgrounds at 5:30. The place was already hopping. I read that they were hoping for 200-250 people. There were well over 100 when I arrived. I filled out a little blue half-sheet caucas registration form at the door. There were folks handing out stickers as we walked in and I took an Obama sticker from a city councilwoman. Until that point I was still feeling 85% Obama, 15% Clinton, but it was time to make the leap. Kathy smacked that Obama sticker on.
I took my little blue sheet around a partition to the registration tables that were arranged alphabetically. My academic advisor registered me (I knew probably 7 of the 10 volunteers at the tables), gave me a name tag with my precinct on it and directed me toward my precinct (3C) table. Each Adam's county precinct had its own round table, with folding chairs around it and posters & such for each candidate strewn about it.
I met my neighbors. There was no one yet at the table whom I knew, but since the precincts are geographical, they all live near me. We made introductions and chit chat as we watched the room fill up. It was just amazing. More and more people kept coming! I saw all my professors (two of whom it turned out are in my precinct, husband and wife, split on candidates) and everybody who I hoped would appear two hours later at the Listening Room Show--about 75% of our audience was there! I saw friends from school and a few from church. It was like a Who's Who of fun people in Hastings.
Those of you readers who live in Metropolitan areas probably can't imagine how crazy this was for us. Nebraska is such a red state that in the last presidential election I wondered if there was even a point to voting. Did my one Democratic vote count in the sea of Republicans? In the last presidential election I did not see a SINGLE tv ad for a candidate. Neither Kerry nor Bush wasted their money campaigning here when it was a given that Nebraska would go red. It made me feel sort of useless and isolated. This time Obama is running tv ads here. I got calls from both Obama and Clinton's campaigns--and I mean actual people on the phone, not recordings. They want MY vote. I count. God bless America.
And then to have over 500 people come to the fairgrounds to caucas....it was like a coming out party. No more closets for the Democrats! We all marveled and said "it's not just me! look at us all!" An announcement was made that they were running out of registration sheets and the place went nuts with applauding and cheering. An announcement was made that there was a red BMW in the parking lot with its lights on, followed by "I didn't think there were any Republicans here" and we all giggled and clapped.
At about 6:15 it was time to get down to business. Our temporary chairman said we needed to elect a permanent chairman (we picked him because he clearly knew what he was doing) and a secretary (easily done). We counted off to verify how many of us there were in precint 3C (there were 18). Then by show of hands we voted Clinton, Obama or Uncommitted. It came out 11 Clinton, 7 Obama, 0 Uncommitted. We arranged ourselves into groups.
In other precincts where there were uncommitted voters, each group selected a spokesman to speak on behalf of its candidate to try and persuade the uncommitted to join their side. I heard that in some precints, particularly the larger ones, this was done rather formally. We had a friendly discussion, except for one Clinton supporter who accused us of not thinking a woman could do the job (we booed) and then said "...and Obama's values are not what our country needs!!" at which point her own group told her that she was way off-base and was no longer representing their point of view. Then the rest of us went back to our friendly discussion: youth verses experience and electibility. We mostly all thought it was a shame to have to choose between the two. No one changed sides.
Meanwhile, our chairman had his caculator out to figure how many delegates we would send to the county caucas on June 2. There was a formula that decided the ratio of Clinton delegates to Obama delegates, but the delegates from each precint needed to be 50/50 male/female or as close to it as we could get. People volunteered. The secretary looked over the chairman's paperworked an signed off. And that was the Nebraska Democtratic Caucus in Adam's County.
I did an informal poll and my precinct was the only one I heard of that went to Clinton--totally anecdotal. The county and the state went Obama. Obama won by a lot in Lincoln and Omaha and by a much closer margin out in the third district (which includes Hastings and the western chunk of the state).
I read online and in the paper about what a mess there was in Omaha and Lincoln. The number of participants WAY exceeded expectation and things sort of fell apart. I was really very proud of how well ours went--even with twice the attendance hoped for. It also made me so glad to live in a smaller community. It felt like home to walk around and see so many people I know--and to know that the delegates are my classmates and neigbhors and professors--not just random people. The volunteers knew what they were doing, the chairpeople were well trained, even though it was the first time it was done, and everyone seemed pumped to be a part of the process. It was a big party. A big political party :)