Saturday, April 05, 2008

"Oh, Those 43rd District Democrats"

Eli Sanders (SLOG):
I sat through about four hours of today’s legislative district caucus in Seattle’s 43rd District. I wish I could bring you pictures—of the yawns, the shouts, and the American Idol style campaigning for those coveted spots as a state convention delegate—but the Stranger camera that I grabbed turned out to be suffering from some sort of paralysis. Sorry.

However, now that I’m home I can at least bring you an i-sight image of a small flier that was getting wide circulation at the caucus.


Watch out, Ron and Maria. The Obama campaign may be telling its supporters not to do things like this, but it doesn’t look like its supporters are listening.

But let’s begin at the beginning of this event, with the invocation by a well-regarded north end Buddhist; the laughs that drowned out any cheers when the few die-hard Kucinich supporters in attendance were recognized; and Rep. Frank Chopp’s observation (intended as a rallying cry?) that the crowd of well over 1,000 people was about ten times as large as Gov. Christine Gregoire’s margin of victory in 2004.

This legislative district caucus meeting was held at Lincoln High School in Wallingford, and when I showed up the gymnasium was overflowing with precinct delegates who had been elected at their precinct caucuses on Feb. 9—and with what seemed to be an even larger number of wannabe alternate delegates. So much for the idea that all those young, energized, newly-involved Democrats wouldn’t show up for the next step in this process.

After registration was done, the actual, non-alternate delegates listened to speeches delivered from a half-darkened stage in a nearby auditorium. (How many Democrats does it take to turn on a spotlight? Apparently more than the 1,000+ in the auditorium, because the spotlight never came on.)

There was a portion of the program devoted to surrogate speeches, and Obama’s surrogate, Sen. Ed Murray, stood at the rear of the stage (where the lights were actually on) and pronounced: “I have been coming to these meetings since the mid-1980s and I have never seen anything like today.” The numbers were a very good sign, he said.

Hillary Clinton’s surrogate? He was very, very late, causing a lot of grumbling from the crowd, which was overwhelmingly pro-Obama.

While everyone waited for the Clinton surrogate to appear and give his speech, Congressman Jim McDermott showed up and lumbered toward the stage. Before mounting the steps he turned back to take in the crowd and snap a digital picture for himself. In his remarks he too praised the turnout, saying: “It makes me think we’re going to win in November.” But then he added, ominously, that Republicans are determined to play the fear card. “They’re looking for ways to have bomber strikes on Iran,” he said. “They’re looking for some little excuse.” The audience loved every word of it, giving McDermott the lefty hero treatment even though he remained neutral on the issue of the day, the question of who the Democratic nominee should be. “Both of them are good candidates,” he said.

When Clinton’s surrogate finally showed up he was… Sean Astin??? Yes, the man who played Samwise Gangee in Lord of the Rings had flown up to rally the Hillary Clinton troops. Which made very little sense, given that the type of people who show up for legislative district caucuses on a Saturday don’t really need a celebrity (or semi-celebrity) to motivate them to take political action.

Astin’s speech was most memorable for this line: “Should Obama get the nomination I will become a massive Barack Hussein Obama supporter.

Hussein? Eyebrows shot up. Brows furrowed. Heads turned. A friend in the audience texted me: “Hussein!?” I’m not sure what Astin was up to with that line, but someone probably should have told him that Seattle’s 43rd District is the last place in the U.S. where subliminal messaging around Obama’s middle name is likely to move Democrats toward Clinton.

Further proof of this: There was some time to kill as multiple tallies of the delegates and alternates were done, and when the time-killer of taking audience questions had run its course and the idea of teling jokes had been nixed, someone suggested doing the Pledge of Allegiance to pass the time. (Are you listening, right-wing bloggers? This is going to get good.)

At the mere mention of doing the pledge there were groans and boos. Then, when the district chair put the idea of doing the Pledge of Allegiance up to a vote, it was overwhelmingly voted down. One might more accurately say the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag (of which there was only one in the room, by the way, on some delegate’s hat) was shouted down.

There were to be 67 delegates to the state convention apportioned at this legislative district caucus: 14 for Clinton and 53 for Obama.

I didn’t stay until the bitter end to find out who among each of the candidates’ precinct delegates was voted on to the next level, but I will tell you that The Stranger’s Annie Wagner seemed to be a strong contender, based on the cheers of recognition she got from the (apparently Slog-reading) Obama crowd as she was giving her 30-second speech.

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