Saturday, March 29, 2008

Texas Two Step: Step Two

The county convention I attended today, SD 18 in Fort Bend County, was everything anyone could possibly expect in this singular year of high interest and involvement. Long lines, confusion, tedium, contentiousness, confusion, energy, elation, confusion, bitterness, disagreements, excitement, disappointments, resentment, delight, and confusion.

Did I mention confusion?

Confusion came from three sources that I could isolate. First and foremost, the sheer numbers. Hundreds attended the county convention where only tens bothered to appear before. While I have no accurate head count of how many delegates, alternates and observers were there, my estimate is somewhere around 750. Delegates were checked in, and alternates were sent to the school cafeteria to await a call-up. In the end, 630 delegates were seated. Second, absolutely, was ignorance. Since the vast majority of attendees were brand spanking new to the process, there were too many questions that were apparently answered by those not cognizant of the rules. Third, lack of coordination from the county party. It was reported at the convention that critical information was not provided to the temporary chairman up to until the prior evening.

All of that, and the process worked because of the sheer will of the people to make it work. That and a dedicated staff of Clinton and Obama supporters who strived to make the whole process as painless and fair as possible. After all, no one wins if anyone tries to game the system.

And isn’t this what “grassroots” is all about?

The numbers? Well, the SD 18 portion of Fort Bend County went for Barack Obama in the primary election. With 49 precincts within the area, 7448 votes were cast for Obama (60.8%) and 4799 for Clinton (39.2%). So you would expect the convention numbers to mirror the primary numbers, and they did. And then some.

Total convention votes were 414 votes for Barack Obama (65.8%) to 215 votes for Hillary Clinton (34.2%) and one vote, uncommitted. This slight improvement in the vote for Obama is what was seen in the caucus results reported at the TDP website, until whining from both campaign camps closed down that free service.

So by my math, that's 41 Obama delegates for the state convention, and 22 Clinton delegates.

Was there angst at those numbers? Absolutely, what else could you expect? What is becoming more and more clear, that Barack Obama has a majority of voters in this contest, is still unclear to the few, who, upon hearing the announcement of the vote results, contested the results based on an element of confusion that a few of the Clinton supporters dreamed up.

A Clinton delegate challenged the vote based upon her understanding that alternates were allowed to take the place of absentee delegates from other precincts, this from an announcement she had heard when delegate chairpersons were instructed to fill their absentee slots with alternates. No one else could recall that announcement, and the convention temporary chair disputed the woman’s claim, saying that when he made the announcement to fill the empty spots, he instructed chairs to pick from their own precincts, and, as much as possible, to replace the absent delegate with an alternate having the same presidential preference. He said he repeated that announcement four times.

Unfortunately I video recorded his announcement of those very things only once.

But perhaps once is enough.

1 comment:

Mark Bankston said...

It was both an exhausting and uniquely rewarding day.

In the end, I was probably most impressed with the dozens upon dozens of volunteers who made this happen. I'm sure you'll agree that this whole affair was a ridiculously complicated process, but those volunteers worked tirelessly to keep it orderly and on track. For many of them, it was their first experience working in party politics.... Yet they performed like a well-trained staff of paid professionals.

Seriously man, it was the most inspiring thing I've seen in this campaign. These people gave an entire Saturday (9am-7pm) of grueling work to serve their party with no compensation.

I was also simply blown away by the amount of delegates under the age of 35. Even a small handful would have been a welcome change for me...But on the nominations committee, nearly HALF of the applications for At-Large Delegates were from people 35 or under.

And you gotta give it up for all the precinct chairs who arrived with their meticulously organized notebooks and a big smile, as well as so many of the various organizers for Obama and Clinton who really did go out of their way to keep the process fair for both sides. And of course big ups to the Fort Bend Democrats PAC which covered the costs of this monster of a gathering.

A small part of me arrived this morning expecting blood. Instead, I left feeling proud to be a progressive.