Democracy at work—and democracy without the smirk—were both there to behold election night at the Eagle County Precinct 7 caucus of which yours truly chose to exercise the rites and rights of citizenship.
When we arrived there was a long line leading up to the sign-up table where we Eagle County orphans, cut off from our brethren by the small matter of mountains, nonetheless lined up in reasonable order on a cold night to dictate the course of democracy, at least in our small corner of Colorado. The Republicans, the lost souls of our republic, got there first, and I couldn’t help but peak in to see how the recalcitrant elephants were doing at the El Jebel Community Center where their confab was already under way.
It wasn’t pretty, my friends, as John McCain would say. While hundreds of us Democrats hob-nobbed in the hallways and byways in El Jebel, there were 22 lonely Republicans in all—I counted every single one the way I learned as a cub reporter—in clusters small enough to break your heart without making you think about switching parties.
On the Democratic side, life was good. The architect Harry Teague was there, and Basalt Town Councilor Laurie Dows, and Laura Thielen of Filmfelt, and Cristal Logan of the Aspen Institute, and Anderson Ranch poobah Hunter O’Hanian, and Lou Wells or the Rocky Mountain Institute—and more plain folk than you could shake a chad at. There were four precincts in all up for grabs and ours was the biggest but not the loudest. Precinct 8 was right behind us and I could hear them extolling Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama even better than those in my own precinct, though the arguments were much the same.
It was a messy, Kumbaya donkey fest. At first, nobody really knew what a caucus was supposed to be until a child of the Sixties named Harvey appeared in tie-die to tell us there was a straw poll and a real poll and in between we were supposed to convince each other of the relative merits of Hillary and Barack. We raised our hands instead of straw and up came Obama leading Clinton something like 66 to 22. Since there was no John Edwards and a clear majority there wasn’t all that much to talk about. We almost proceeded to the real vote before we figured out that we had to caucus, whatever that was, or the verb, if not the noun, would go wanting on caucus night.
Hands were raised. Opinions were opined. Passion was palpable. A young man in khakis, some kind of political operative, was smart enough to put himself in charge of the count.
For all that the vote of the one undecided, Lou Wells, went to Obama in the end.
But that was not nearly all. Obama and Clinton delegates had to be chosen for the Eagle County convention, which would choose the delegates to the Colorado state convention, which would choose the delegates to the home-field Democratic National Convention in summer 2008 in Denver.
The caucusing was going to start all over again with the Senate and Congressional races. The night was growing late quickly for those with a morning radio show to do, and I felt my duty as a citizen of the greatest republic in the world had been dispatched with brio. Let the masses select our Senatorial and Congressional candidates. I had caucused for President, and it was in the books. Democracy is a wonderful thing, especially in small doses.