The following post was not written by Miriam or me, but by a mutual friend of ours named Greg Friedman. It’s not really science, technology, or a mollusk gone wild (Though he is a math professor. Does that count?), but it was too good to not try and bring it to a wider audience. What is it? It’s a diary of Greg’s foray into caucus politics in the great state of Texas. He spent 19 hours in Will Rogers coliseum while the Democrats tried to get organized. By the end, they were doing conga lines in the stands. No joke.
My Adventures as an Obama Delegate, or A Fitting Tribute to Will Rogers
by Greg Friedman
Will Rogers famously quipped, “I’m not a member of any organized political party – I’m a Democrat.” It was fitting, then, that the Democratic State Senate Precinct 10 convention was held at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth. Honestly, I had that opening line in my head before I even got there, but little did I know how true it would be.
On March 4, I’d been elected by my local precinct caucus to be an Obama delegate to the Senate District Convention. This was no great distinction, as the process was mostly, “Who wants to be a delegate?…Okay, you all are delegates.” The State Senate District convention is the second stage of the process, feeding into “State”, where they’d elect the national delegates. The Senate District convention took place on March 29 (mostly). I received instructions in advance by e-mail from our precinct Obama delegation chair, from a prerecorded phone call, and by a phone call from an actual human. These must have all come from the Obama camp, because some of our Clinton delegates had to figure out for themselves where to go. The convention would be at the Coliseum, registration would start at 8 AM, and business would start at 9:30. I planned to show up around 8:45, figuring it wasn’t going to take an hour and a half to register each of us individually, just all of us as a whole. Heh.
So, indeed, I showed up around 8:45, with about 6 hours of sleep in me (having played a late hockey game the night before). I had to park WAY the hell away from the place in the back-up reserve lots. Walking in, I learned that at least some of the crowd was heading to the gun show, elsewhere in the facilities (the Will Rogers Center is large, the Coliseum but a part). As I approached some lines heading in I called Efton, a colleague of mine from the TCU Math Department and the chair of his precinct’s Obama delegation. At about the same time I learned from him and from whomever was yelling it the loudest outside, that the organizers (such as they were) wanted people just to go find their delegations in the Coliseum. They would register later where they sat. No one was supposed to wait on line right then. So I went in through the entryway, which was filled with little paper signs with precinct numbers (remember that for later), then up to the Coliseum proper.
To picture the Will Rogers Coliseum, if you’ve never been there, imagine a hockey arena, a little bigger than college size. Now, make the rink itself bigger, maybe twice as big. Okay, now get rid of the ice and fill it with dirt because this is where they host the Fort Worth rodeo and stock show. Although today it was set up for a cutting horse competition. This sounds gruesome, but apparently it’s an event where riders on horses separate (or “cut”) individual cows from their herd. This is a sport. So the field was empty except for a very large contraption in the middle that looked like a series of little rooms on stilts – all connected together and with ladders to get up there. At ground level, the aroma was rather, erm, earthy. But up in the cheaper seats it wasn’t really all that noticeable. Oh, and at one end there was a big tractor for smoothing out the dirt – sort of a dirt zamboni. The dirt lay in pleasing furrows.
The Coliseum itself is a two tiered deal, with the lower tier containing only 4 or 5 rows and not directly accessible from the upper tier. Both tiers were filled with signs for different precincts. In no discernable order. Luckily, I had my voter registration card reminding me I was in Precinct 4230. Unfortunately, there was no obvious way to find my delegation. I made it about two thirds of the way around the perimeter before I ran into a semi-official looking guy with a clipboard. Indeed, he had a list of where all the precincts were seated. After being told where mine was (needles to say, it was right near where I started but in the other direction), I asked why he was the only person in the building with this information. He said there were supposed to be people with clipboards stationed at every entrance. Heh.
So, I went and found my precinct people – a mostly good natured crew – and settled in. At this point, I started taking timed notes on the proceedings. And grading quizzes for my Calculus II course. And settling in. It was about 9:15. Our delegate chair was Bronson Davis, who was also the temporary secretary for the convention as a whole and, back on March 4, he was the permanent chair of our precinct convention. So he spent most of the early part of the day going back and forth between helping us out and being the secretary, which conceivably entitled him to some information, though in practice, not really. Side note: Bronson recently retired from TCU where he was the Vice Chancellor for whatever it is they call fund-raising these days. Small world here in Fort Worth. I did a little chatting with the neighbors, but I’m not really a morning person, so mostly I sat there being anti-social and out of my element. But I made sure to bring plenty to do.
9:55 Random chanting starts up in the northwest corner. I think it was pro-Obama.
10:00 Someone finally makes it to the podium. About an hour later, I finally figured out where the podium was. It was at the north end of the rink. I suppose this should have been obvious from the bunting, but the whole place is sort of red, white, and blue, so I didn’t pick it out as anything special off the bat. There are some initial microphone problems, but then the ball gets rolling. A little bit.
10:02 We get hit up for money
10:07 It turns out that NOBODY has actually been registered yet. They’re working on this.
10:17 The more-or-less official program begins. We’re still not registered or credentialed to do business, but there’s no reason for that to stand in the way of speeches and propaganda.
10:18 The Pledge of Allegiance. I remain seated. I explain this to my neighbors (who don’t really ask) by saying I don’t engage in idolatry. The woman in front of me claims that it’s not idolatry because of the “under God” bit in there. I point out that she just pledged allegiance to a flag, which is a graven image. I don’t know that flags technically satisfy the definition of a graven image, but as I said, I’m antisocial at 10 AM on no sleep. Rather than argue that point, I push ahead to note that oaths of indoctrination are precisely the kind of thing we would have told school children in the 50s that the Russians make their kids do. At this point, everyone thinks I’m a communist.
10:20 It’s suggested we do the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas flag. This plan is temporarily aborted when it becomes plain that nobody knows it.
10:22 The National Anthem. I stand and sing. What the heck – who doesn’t love rockets and bombs to get the day going?
10:26 They teach everyone the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas flag and then they do that. I contemplate moving back to New Jersey. In the first sign of the day that I’m going to turn out to really like some of my neighbors, one of them observes that it’s inconsistent to pledge allegiance to two different flags at the same time. Right on.
10:30 Phone call from Efton. He’s over in Section W (I’m in Section O). So we’re on the same side of the arena. He’s already found some other TCU people over there, though we never did find our third math department colleague.
10:38 The Texas State Anthem. Later in the day, there was some dispute over whether this was actually the Texas anthem or not, but I liked it. I thought it was musically catchy. Efton didn’t care for the lyrics – he thought it sounded like something you’d get on a game show from someone told to make up a song about Texas on the spot. Needless to say, I didn’t stand up for that either.
10:41 The real propaganda train begins. For the next hour or so (longer?) we’re going to be deluged by speeches (most thankfully short) by people running for office as Democrats and by local party higher-ups. This is mostly a lot of preaching to the choir, but a few of these people have runoff elections to campaign for. At one point I am strongly encouraged to get out Monday, the first day of voting for the run-off primary for the office of Constable. Right. Some of these people are remarkable speakers. Not that any of them said much very deep, but it’s amazing how much passion and zeal some people are able to muster standing in front of a crowd. It’s not the kind of thing I buy, cynic that I am, but it’s interesting to see it done. I wonder to what extent it’s an act and to what extent these people actually get that riled up.
10:45 The county commissioner misattributes the above Will Rogers quote to Mark Twain. This is embarrassing on three fronts: that he did this in the Will Rogers Coliseum, that he didn’t do his research in advance, and that the guy who spoke ten minutes before him mentioned the same quote and attributed it correctly. Amazingly enough, this is the last time anyone uses this quote all day.
11:15 Still getting speeched at: “we will end the war, we will provide healthcare for everyone, we will ensure good education for our children, we will fix the broken judicial system.” I started wondering what it is they yell about at the Republican conventions. Maybe best not to know – probably something about eating puppy dogs and disemboweling Mexicans. Of course I was very jaded by this kind of thing, and I get very upset about statements of the form “When we win in November…” I realize this is just rhetorical technique, but I don’t like unprovable rhetoric. The man we eventually elected as our delegate, Brian Stratton, had a good observation much later in the day – that this is an old form of propaganda and people aren’t buying it anymore. People today want truth and are capable of hearing “this is hard, but we’re going to try.” The old school version of yelling we heard all morning just doesn’t fly anymore. We’ve become cynical, and if the party wants to survive, it needs to recognize that and change its speaking tactics.
11:16 I finish grading all the Calculus II quizzes and Differential Equations exams I brought with me.
11:20 We’re down to speeches from the lower tier candidates. The most endearing was from the guy running for sheriff. Compared to the polished hype of most of the speakers, this guy seemed to me to be marginally uncomfortable speaking in front of 3500 people, but he made a real case that he has a lot of experience in different areas of law enforcement, while his opponent doesn’t. It was downright charming to see someone argue the facts.
11:30-12:15 Nothing discernible happens. I’m reading about generalized cohomology theories. Supposedly precincts are being taken down one at a time to register, and every once in a while they’ll rattle off some precinct numbers, presumably the ones being told to register now. There does seem to be motion from some precincts, so I keep an eye on mine to make sure it doesn’t wander off, and I go to chat with Efton. They’ve got a slightly rowdier group over there – meaning that Efton isn’t suffering from my early morning antipathy and is rattling off the one-liners about the goofy hokey convention. At one point, we completely crack up when they make an announcement that two cars have to move because they’re blocking a horse trailer. While reading off the license plate numbers, a W comes up and we all boo good-naturedly.
12:18 An announcement clarifying where the cars are that are blocking the horse trailer.
12:22 Back with my people, feeling a little more lightened up about the whole thing. Some speaker gets up and starts telling the old parable about the frog and the scorpion. This is the one where the scorpion convinces the frog to carry him across the river, and the scorpion stings the frog so that the frog will die and the scorpion will drown. The frog asks the scorpion why, and the scorpion replies, “this is my nature, this is what I do.” The speaker then looks around and tells us we’re the Democratic party and this is what we do. Wait, what? Huh? I really wish I could tell you this was the thing that made the least sense all day.
12:26 Announcement: “If anyone knows where the woman is who made the announcement about the horse trailer, please ask her to come to the podium to make some clarifications.”
12:27 Already the 387th instance of a speaker looking around the room and telling us that the disorganization is a “good problem to have” because it means that so many people have come. It was mentioned at some point that we had more people caucus in our county alone than in some of the caucus states and almost as many people as in Iowa.
1:00ish Bronson shows up and tells us it looks like a good time for us to go down and register. We all head out to the foyer, which is total chaos. There are tables set up all over in front of those completely random precinct number signs, most of which aren’t hung high enough to be easily read through the throng of people that is just filling the space. We actually get separated into little groups while going out into the foyer, and we all wander around trying to spot each other. Thankfully, Bronson is pretty distinctive and we eventually spot him over by one of the tables. The foyer is just a sea of people crushing in on various tables and trying to get through to register. We actually had to make a little human chain in order to maintain the integrity of our line to our precinct sign-in sheet. Even then, signing in is a remarkable slow process. They have to shuffle through all our paperwork from our precinct conventions, find our names there, check ID, and have us sign a different form. In some cases, multiple volunteers are sharing the same piles of paper.
It was while standing around doing this that we started hearing the conspiracy theories from people in other precincts. Some people were saying this was all the fault of the candidates’ representatives who were slowing up the works. One guy claimed that the Hillary people in his district stole their sign and ran off to claim to be the entire delegation from their precinct over somewhere else.
Oh, and I forgot to mention. At this point there were already known to be districts that were being challenged based on improper procedures and counting in the precinct caucuses. These precincts had CHALLENGE written on their signs in big ballpoint letters. Thankfully, this was not on our sign.
Also, some smaller precincts were grouped together with other precincts into, well, “groups”. These were the precincts too small to warrant electing their own delegate to “go to state”, so they had to caucus together with other districts to elect a delegate. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do that either. I think there is some possibility, though, that groups actually were seated near each other.
1:15 As we register, we dribble back to our seats, still with no end in sight to the registration process. They start playing some music over the loudspeaker. Mostly propaganda-y, Texas-y kinds of things. “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” – that sort of thing. Some kind soul in the precinct buys us all chicken sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A. The Coliseum concession stands are already doing a brisk business. There also seems to be some confusion in the air about the distribution of packets. The procedure is supposed to be that once a precinct is all registered, the precinct gets a packet with everything needed to caucus and elect their delegate. However, no one is being given their packets on the spot. It seems to be decided these will be sent around later once they become ready.
1:16 My smarmy local Texas house representative gets on the mike. He goes on about one of the other big themes of the day – whoever we support now, we’re all going to stay together and vote Democrat in November, right?
1:18 Former US Speaker of the House Jim Wright shows up is made honorary chair of the convention. He gives a speech that sounds like Droopy Dog had a stroke. Someone told me later that they thought this was the result of a cancer operation, whereupon I felt bad for thinking that he sounded like Droopy Dog after a stroke (but he did).
1:28 First sighting of ordered pizza.
2:08 It’s announced that there will be “a slight delay.”
2:10 They play “Deep in the Heart of Texas”. People clap at the appropriate point. Fewer than I would have thought. I clapped – I was waking up and getting into it.
2:11 It is announced that credentials can’t be issued until everyone is registered. Why? “It is what it is.”
2:12 Bronson shows up and our precinct begins to contemplate a grassroots revolt. We’re going to just get on with it and elect our precinct delegate to the state convention amongst ourselves. Then whoever wants to or needs to can leave and the rest of us will agree to elect that person when the time comes.
2:16 The Wave makes it around the stadium for the first time.
2:20 Chaos within the delegation as we argue over how to proceed. On the one hand, we can have a procedure where anyone who wants to can run to be a delegate, but the Obama people are afraid of splitting the vote and letting a Hillary candidate through (we have 13 Obama delegates and 7 Clinton delegates from our precinct). The other procedure would be for each group to vote amongst itself and put one delegate up for the vote, but then the Clinton delegate would come in second and get to go as the alternate, which the Obama people don’t really want either. Eventually, we find a copy of the Democratic Party rule book, which says that the first system is the one to use, but in effect it becomes the second system since, afraid of splitting the vote, the Obama people pare themselves down to presenting just one candidate, Brian Stratton, a black male choir teacher. I got to like Brian quite a bit as the day went on. The Clinton people put up their candidate, Cherie (I don’t remember her last name), and amongst the Robert’s Rules of Order gurus on hand (we had an elementary school principal who really knew her stuff), we had a quick official meeting and voted Brian in as delegate and Cherie as alternate.
Okay, it wasn’t quite that quick – it took us to 2:47 to work out all the procedures, but it was mostly pretty orderly once we got done yelling amongst ourselves a little bit. Interestingly enough, this was the only real tension in our precinct all day between the Obama camp and the Clinton camp. Other than this, we all got along quite well.
2:37 We were temporarily interrupted from our caucusing by Crazy Hat Guy who took the main podium microphone and started yelling about moving things along before being semi-forcibly removed by Bronson, who was up at the podium at the time. I was told later that Crazy Hat Guy had lied to Bronson and said that he’d been asked by the county to make an official announcement about something, which is how he got the mike. We’d pinpointed Crazy Hat Guy earlier, since he was seated near our section and had already had a few minor hissy fits throughout the day. It was not the last we’d hear from Crazy Hat Guy.
2:52 They play Cotton-eyed Joe on the loud speakers.
2:59 The podium calls for a sign language interpreter. I learned later that this was Efton’s fault. He had a deaf woman in his delegation and the woman who knew sign language from his precinct was a no-show. Packets are still not available.
3:01 A few minutes earlier word had gone around that each precinct should send one runner to get the packets. Our runner returns and tells us that all of the precinct runners were turned away by the sheriff’s department.
3:06 People start getting restless
3:07 They play “Cha cha slide” for the third time. If you don’t know what that is, be grateful or look it up on wikipedia, then on YouTube. Someone passes around some M&Ms.
3:13 The meeting is called to order. Kind of.
3:22 The first arguments over the legitimacy of the body, since no one is credentialed yet.
3:29 Since we still can’t do business – no one is credentialed – it’s decided to jump to the end and start reading the resolutions. These both came from the precinct level or were proposed earlier that day (there was a time you could do that). We can’t vote on these yet, but we might as well get the reading out of the way. We’ll vote on them by number later.
3:55 Still reading the resolutions
4:24 Still reading the resolutions – up to number 22. This is around where even the people who are diligently taking notes on what the resolutions are give up on caring and go home. I ask Bronson how many resolutions there are altogether. “57”
4:27 A motion is made to suspend the reading of the minutes so that precincts can conduct their local caucus business and elect their delegates without missing the resolutions. The chair basically says no. People get upset. Voting happens on the motion. It fails (based, apparently, on the applause-meter method of counting votes). Reading of the resolutions is suspended anyway for some reason.
4:33 Reading of the motions resumes
4:35 I look for Efton but can’t find him. It seems that many precincts have gone out into the halls to conduct their delegate elections without having to listen to the distracting resolutions.
4:37 The real yelling starts. There are microphones at the cardinal points of the arena with the chair at the north end. The other mikes are live for anyone to make motions, etc. This really gets going now, with interrupting points of order, complaining about the lack of procedure, calls for the chair’s head, requests for clarification about where the packets are, what we’re supposed to do when we get them, etc. Meanwhile, people have been evaporating all day, and by now we must be down to about a half to a third of the people who initially showed up. My precinct is down to about half its people. There will be outbursts of yelling throughout the day since pretty much at any given moment, anyone can approach the mike to try to make a motion or a point of order. Luckily for everyone, the real cranks never quite cautch on that the chair doesn’t have to recognize a motion as being in order but pretty much does have to recognize a point of order. Also luckily, those who really understand the point of order business mostly restrained themselves until they were really upset about something.
4:53 Still chaos. People are asking about the status of votes of people who have left. The chair declares that no one should be turning in packets yet.
4:57 A motion to restore order passes, which apparently means we should go back to reading resolutions while waiting for credentials.
4:59 More arguing. People want to know whether the precincts are officially allowed to caucus before the meeting has technically been called to order (remember we still don’t have anyone credentialed to be there yet).
5:03 Someone finally gets around to noticing out loud that we never elected a permanent convention chair. A demand is made for the parliamentarian to intercede, but the parliamentarian is unavailable. This is irrelevant anyway, because we can’t elect a chair until we’ve been credentialed.
5:06 Some precincts still haven’t gotten their packets. At some point within the last hour, and which for some unknown reason I didn’t record, a volunteer showed up with our packet. We were issued our badges (semi-official looking yellow slips of paper), and we officially recorded our votes in the packet. Those wishing to run as at-large delegates (which are sent to state by the convention as a whole) filled out some slips of paper, as did our precinct-elected delegate and alternate. Bronson collected everything in the packet and went back to being temporary secretary. So at this point I was an officially credentialed delegate to the convention. And around this time our delegation dwindled to about 5 hecklers and Bronson.
5:12 They want to continue reading resolutions, but they can’t find the woman who was reading them. Someone makes a motion to limit reading of resolutions to 60 seconds each. The chair maintains that this just can’t be done.
5:14 Continued reading of resolutions
5:36 It’s announced that there is no paperwork at all available for about 20 precincts or so. Anyone representing those precincts is asked to go make themselves known.
5:40 The credentials committee makes its first reports on the districts that have been challenged. The committee as a whole votes on each report to approve the committee’s resolution of the challenges.
5:46 Another challenge of the authority of the temporary chair – the parliamentarian declares that we still can’t vote in a permanent chair until everyone has been credentialed, following the report of the credentials committee. This starts another cascade of points of order. I don’t know if I can describe this effectively, but imagine one of those videos you’ve seen of a city council meeting that has gotten way out of hand. Now imagine it in a big arena with microphones.
5:55 Someone makes a point of order to the effect that we can’t do the thing we’re doing now until after we’ve already done the thing we’re doing now.
6:08 We’re still voting on accepting the findings of the credentials committee
6:15 I go take a break to chat with Efton and catch him up on what he missed while his precinct was caucusing (he missed all the fun yelling!). At some time during this we vote to adopt the rules of the meeting as read, but I missed that.
6:23 Back to reading the resolutions
6:33 Point of order: “Can’t we start voting on these already?” “No, not everyone is credentialed yet.”
6:44 I go buy a corn dog, which turns out to be the last one available. Lucky me. At this point, the five of us left from my precinct are having all kinds of fun bonding and snarking on the proceedings. At some point it became like a drinking game (“Drink if Crazy Hat Guy approaches a microphone” – I’m not sure when it happened, but there was a time when Crazy Hat Guy made a motion to shut down the convention and “Take it to state”. Since no one had a clue what that was supposed to mean, everyone just ignored him.)
6:55 They finish reading the resolutions
6:59 Someone makes a motion to abolish caucuses.
7:02 I have written in my notes “Corrections to precinct corrections.” I think that means that they had to go back and amend some of the credential committees conclusions about the challenged precincts.
7:03 Meeting called back to order. I’m not sure where it was before.
7:06 Bronson is nominated to be permanent secretary. Some woman gets up and nominates Stan Johnson. Stan Johnson declines to run because that’s not what he wanted to run for.
7:07 We vote Bronson in as permanent chair by acclimation.
7:08 Nomination for permanent chair. The same woman nominates Stan Johnson. Someone else nominates a large-ish black lady who appears to have quite a large following in the audience. And someone nominates the woman who has been the temporary chair all day (Linda Cozzen). I should say a word here about her. For awhile, we thought she was going to have an aneurysm dealing with all the people yelling at her, but in reality, she maintained her composure remarkably well. She could have done a slightly better job of cutting off argument, but maybe it was even better that she didn’t at some points. She kept everything very professional and parliamentary. By the end of the event, my precinct just adored her. We understood that none of the problems were her fault, and she kept a good sense of humor throughout. By the way, I love when “the chair doesn’t recognize you.” I always want someone to say, “What do ya mean? It’s me – Bob!”
7:13 Argument about procedure for electing a permanent chair. Someone decides to have the voters stand for their candidate of preference and then there will be a runoff among the top two vote getters. Apparently voting is done by standing and waving badges, but all our badges are in the envelope that Bronson left with. Brian goes to get the badges back from Bronson. Meanwhile, the first round happens and Stan Johnson is out. At this point, the serious yelling about procedure starts as people object to the method for counting votes.
7:24 In an amazing act of good will, the other contender drops out of the running for chair just to end the argument over how to pick a chair. We’ll hear from her again, though – I wish I caught her name. A.Y. something, I think. She’ll be the one who, in the wee hours of the morning, gets up every hour on the half hour to yell for “Madame Chairman” on the microphone and demand a status update. [Added later – I think I’ve correctly identified her at AY Collins, a local attorney]
7:27 Some guy makes a crazed outburst about the war in Iraq vis-a-vis US contractors.
7:28 Serious yelling contesting the procedure used to elect the permanent chair.
7:30 It turns out some precincts haven’t caucused yet – they thought they had to wait for the credentialing to become official.
7:34 Motions to group various resolutions together for the purpose of voting on them.
7:36 Motion to accept all resolutions en masse so that we don’t have to think about them anymore, for the love of God. Motion passes. Goodbye resolutions. As a note on this, the resolutions I actually heard ran from the meaningful to the inane. Some were about nice reasonable things like tax credits for installing solar panels. One of them was about getting rid of bullying in schools, er, somehow. I was out of the room at the time, but I’m told there was one about getting rid of caucuses and moving to a primary system. Another one was about no one being able to be a precinct caucus chair without proper training (which is a nice idea, but in practice would disenfranchise precincts that didn’t have a properly trained chair). There was a resolution excoriating No Child Left Behind that took about 15 minutes to read. The last resolution resolved that regardless of who got the nomination we’d all hang together for the Democrats in November. Nice sentiment, but utter dreck as a resolution. That’s okay, we voted it in anyway, as well as about 50 other things nobody paid any attention to the reading of. Oh, and I’ll note that not a single one of these resolutions suggested a method for paying for any of it, which made me think that maybe the Republican slander that we just want to raise taxes for social programs isn’t completely off the mark. We wondered if the poor bastards going to state have to sit there while they read 55 resolutions from each of the 31 senate districts. I’m guessing probably not, but I don’t know how they actually do it.
7:37 More yelling from crazy Iraq contractor guy.
7:39 Motion that the delegates constitute a legal body. I think that passed.
7:41 Motion to re-accept the vote on resolutions now that we’re officially a legal body. Passes.
7:46 Motion that caucuses shouldn’t be allowed to go more than 8 hours and that if they do the chair has to resign. The chair points out that this would not be legal under state or party rules.
7:47 A whole bunch of requests for clarification, mostly involving the word “packet”.
7:56 Formation of the tabulation committee. The job of the tabulation committee will be to count the precinct votes. Based on those votes, the committee will report on the delegates elected to State by the precincts and then nominate delegates at large from the convention. These are supposed to reflect the demographic break-down of the senate district.
8:00 We cheer the 12 hour mark. This starts an hourly tradition from our segment of the room to cheer at the turn of the hour. The truly remarkable thing about this is that, despite the fact that almost nothing happened for the rest of the event, there was almost always someone speaking right on the hour so that whenever we cheered on the hour, some speaker thought we were cheering for them. Coincidence is an odd thing. Anyway, packet collection from the precincts officially happens.
8:14 I’ve been having fun chatting with my remaining precinct-mates. Nothing else seems to be going on.
8:26 An announcement is made about how great it is for the Democrats to be so respectful of the building. People start cleaning up the mess of their own free will.
9:08 Still nothing. Bonding with the neighbors.
9:19 Someone asks what’s going on. No one knows.
9:42 Still nothing.
9:52 It’s announced the tabulation committee is halfway through the counting.
9:57 I have an argument with a friend of one of my precinct-mates. The friend doesn’t believe in evolution. I don’t know why I let myself get suckered into these things.
10:00 Still nothing.
10:09 Magic time: A woman walks up to an open microphone and sings “Orange Colored Sky” (“Flash, bam, alakazam” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LScmnWAmHIw)
10:12 Open mike night starts in earnest. I call Efton, who left to pick up his wife at the airport, and tell him that he has to get back here for this.
10:13 Poetry slam
10:14 NCAA tournament update
10:17 Brian sings Route 66
10:18 They start taking down the bunting.
10:20 Someone starts up a round of “Show Me the Way to Go Home” to much appreciation
10:24 A guy who apparently works as a DJ figures out how to hook his laptop up to the sound system and plays The Isley Brothers’ “Shout!” The house goes wild. I’m surprised the video of what happened next isn’t on YouTube yet.
10:28 DJ dance party: James Brown
10:31 Cha Cha Slide – for real this time
10:38 Conga line!
10:42 YMCA – Efton show up again, but only hangs around for about an hour.
11:21 Someone finally gets up and asks, as a point of information, just what the hell that damn thing in the middle of the arena with the little rooms is. We are all very happy that someone has asked this, and someone else gets up and explains that it’s the judging platform for the cutting horse competition. We have cutting horse competitions explained to us.
11:25 I finally go over and talk to the cute girl two sections over I’ve been staring at all day. She’s an out-of-work make-up stylist. Ah, well.
11:34 Electric Slide
11:40 Brian and I go over and dance with the chair. The chair rocks.
11:48 Hokey Pokey! If I remember nothing else about this 20 years from now, I hope I remember the guy in the wheelchair doing the Hokey Pokey.
11:51 Chicken dance
11:57 Maintenance crew starts working on the judges platform. They spend 10 minutes adjusting ladders and then leave never to be seen again.
12:20 Question and answer rap session with the chair, who’s now standing at the south end of the arena looking a bit worn. We learn there are 316 precincts overall. My precinct is down to 5 people, including Bronson, Brian, and a couple of people who hope to be elected at large delegates. And me, because I really didn’t have anything else to do that was going to top this experience. Nothing may ever top this experience. There are maybe 200-300 people still left altogether. Someone asks the chair to explain how the delegates at large will be chosen. She says that an attempt is made to match the demographics of the region and to be as inclusive as possible. “I met a man a few hours ago who’s Native American, gay, and under 35. He’s gonna get to go.”
12:30 Back to the music
12:38 Requests to lower the music – people are getting cranky and want to sleep
1:16 My precinct has a great conversation reminiscing about 80s music
1:20 An announcement is made that someone in the parking lot has left their lights on. We almost laugh ourselves to death.
1:23 Theme songs from the Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan’s Island
1:27 The lady who stepped down from the chair election wants to know who will be the chair of the delegation to state. The chair: “It will be moi.” There is arguing about this. The chair explains that the permanent convention chair automatically becomes the temporary delegate chair – a permanent delegate chair is elected once they get to Austin. The other lady is not happy.
1:30 In the process of this argument, someone makes a motion to divide the house. My precinct starts worrying about not being able to sit together anymore (Juliet is a Clinton delegate). Someone gets up and calls the motion to divide the house at this point (not to mention all the other shouting) “deeply unethical”.
1:40 The chair shows astonishing patience in the face of continued arguing about the temporary chair thing. Finally, someone is able to cite chapter and verse on it, and that kills the arguing.
1:42 Juliet refers to them as “Robert’s Rules of Engagement” – we’re getting punchy
1:45 DJ plays “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
1:47 Chair calls for a temporary recess. I laugh so hard I have a brain hemorrhage. Juliet is out of the room at the time, and when she comes back and I tell her, she laughs so hard she has a brain hemorrhage.
To be fair, though, this does, for a little while at least, put a stop to someone getting up every 15 minutes to ask for a status update. For the last 5 hours, we’ve been told alternately about “10 more minutes” and about “30 more minutes”. Someone cites the scenes in The Money Pit where the contractors keep telling them “Two more weeks”.
1:58 Juliet and I stage a quasi-legal requisition of beverage supplies. Due to dubious legality, I omit the details.
2:10 I go chat with Bronson for awhile. Turns out he did fundraising at Vanderbilt once upon a time and, before coming to TCU, had an interview at Brown. I’ve spent time at both places. Small world.
2:30ish We begin contemplating just how anti-climactic the end of this thing is going to be. I note that instead of down time, we could have been spending all this time actually voting on the resolutions. Not that I wanted to do this, but it’s a bit of a minor shame they all got bundled together for expediency when in the end we had nothing but time on our hands. Also, some time between 2 and 3 the chair is asked if there is anything anyone else can do to help. She says that anyone with a laptop can go and help out. People with laptops go up to the counting room. They are turned away.
3:00 “3:00 and all is well!” We’re busy exchanging restaurant suggestions.
3:34 The tabulation and nominating committee descends from the counting room up in the rafters.
3:35 The reading of the names of the delegates at large. Juliet didn’t get picked; my other precinct-mate is going as an Obama alternate. They read 29 Obama delegates, 61 Obama alternates, 60 Clinton delegates, and a handful of Clinton alternates.
3:38 Some Obama people freak out about the distribution (since Obama should have more delegates), until it’s explained that the point of the delegates at large is to balance out the delegation as a whole so as to mach the percentages who came to the convention. Since Obama did very well amongst the precinct level elections, we had to throw in a large number of Clintonites to the delegates at large to balance that out. Or in other words, it really didn’t matter that Brian beat Cherie, because if he hadn’t, that would have been balanced out right here.
At this point, they are supposed to entertain motions to swap names in and out, but who has the heart anymore?
3:45 A motion to adjourn is made. I’m told it passed, but somehow I missed the vote.
There’s some argument, both because some people didn’t understand the explanation about the numbers for the delegates at large and also because there was a point of order still unrecognized by the chair when the motion to adjourn was made.
3:48 The chair’s not coming back, so the adjournment appears to be final, and we leave. Indeed it was anti-climactic.
I honestly found myself sad to go home. Yes, after 19 hours in an arena with no variation in brightness we were all getting cranky. But it was an EXPERIENCE. My precinct buddies and I had bonded together. It was hard to get up and go back out into the real world and leave my people behind. Juliet and I chatted a little bit about hanging out in the future, but I don’t know that that will really happen. People say such things in battle conditions. Juliet was a little sad about not being able to go to state. I noted that if she trained hard over the summer, she might make it next year.
I got home a little after 4 AM, fired off some e-mails that needed attention, and went to bed. Now here I am, somehow sad I’m not still in the Will Rogers Coliseum. Maybe a piece of me still is and always will be. My experience as an Obama delegate is over. Time to get on with my life.