Wednesday, June 13, 2007

On 'getting it'…

…and not. Seattle activist/consultant Steve Zemke's peeved with the Party...
A bipartisan committee to set the date for the Washington State Presidential Primary picked Feb. 19th, 2008 as the date to allow Washington voters to cast ballots for a Democratic or Republican candidate for President. The Republicans will allocate 50% of their delegates based on this vote. Democratic leaders, who don't get it, will allocate none. Instead they will only choose delegates based on the selections coming out of the party caucuses on February 9, 2008.
Sorry, Steve, but if someone doesn't get it, well, I'm afraid it's you. The State Central Committee, which constitutes the "Democratic leaders" in question, has a responsibility to develop rules that insure the Washington delegation to the National Convention is eligible to be seated. That requires some significant hoops and spins in the area of affirmative action, some mathematical gymnastics to insure that delegates are properly apportioned and, perhaps most importantly, that the Democratic delegates to the Democratic Convention are selected by Democrats. All of those requirements are arguments for our caucus system and against a primary election cobbled together out of initiatives, court challenges and legislation.

But Steve argues that the caucuses are "the antithesis of what the party should stand for." The Party, he argues…
...should stand for a selection process that provides maximum access to the voting public to participate. The caucus does not do that.
There's certainly a time for Democrats to advocate for maximum access and to be vigilant in the defense of voting rights. The delegate selection process, though, isn't that time. Selecting delegates to a National Convention is a serious internal matter for Democrats, not an electoral cattle call for the voting public. Since the state doesn't offer voter registration by political party, and the primary system in place allows voters to choose a ballot from either party with the explicit understanding that such a selection does not constitute a declaration of partisanship, it's necessary to find another means of insuring that our process is secure from the influence and mischief of sundry Republican, Green, Reform Party, Libertarian and independent interlopers. That's the caucus.

It's true that not everyone can attend a precinct caucus. It's also true that not everyone can cast a ballot, even a vote by mail ballot, for any number of reasons. Caucus involvement is a good deal more accessible than critics typically admit, though. If you're in a time crunch, you can register your declaration of partisanship and you Presidential preference and quickly be on your way. You can even run for delegate without attending your precinct caucus. Conversely, for some it's a rare opportunity to meet with other Democrats to discuss issues and campaigns and to give public expression to and solicit Party support for issues important to the grassroots.

In many ways, it's all about the grassroots. Certainly a primary is a boon to the consulting class and the advertising sales profession, but the caucuses are the Party's principle tool for grassroots organization. Caucus attendees are an essential pool of recruits not just for campaigns, but for local Party organizations looking for Precinct Committee Officers and new members. It's an avenue for any voter to begin the journey to selection as a National Convention Delegate, bypassing the backroom process of getting on a campaign slate. It's the most open, transparent and accessible process possible. It's everything, in fact, that the Party should stand for - grassroots activism at the most local level driving the direction of the national Party.

Don't like that? Get to work on voter registration by Party and a closed primary and let's talk.

Meanwhile, Party leaders get the only thing worth getting - Party members expect them to protect the security of our process and the integrity of our selection. That's just what they've done.

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