Washblog

More Caucuses v. Primary

The debate going into this weekend on whether to go the primary election route or the caucuses is still going on, so instead of updating my post below, I'm going to start a new post with some updates.

My concern since then has been on the argument about caucuses and party building, that we should stick with the caucuses because they encourage participatory democracy (my instant reaction here).

Here is one of my other state committee people, Zach Smith, making the argument for participatory democracy and party building in the Olympian article reviewing our endorsement of the primary:

(Smith) said caucuses are key to building the Democratic organization and need to be supported.

"It's where we get candidates for school board, where we get candidates for city council and for the Legislature," he said. "If it wasn't for the caucus system, where they could discuss issues and party politics face to face, we wouldn't have that tool to build representation in our government."

Karen Marchioro, former state chair, making much the same argument in an email from yesterday:

Before I became the State Party Chair I always looked with envy at Oregon’s Party.  They had voter registration by party and they had a presidential primary that restricted voters to the party of their registration.  Once I became chair I learned that it was because of this system that the Oregon parties were incurable weak.  The public’s belief that voting in the primary was all that they needed to do resulted in “drive-by participation” in politics.  And the number of names the primary generated was so large that it could not be used in any efficient manner for any political purpose.

When I became State Chair I began with no list of names (and no office for that matter, but that’s a different story).  We had no party registration (and still don’t), a blanket primary, and no presidential primary.  Using the caucuses as a Party building tool allowed us to develop one of the strongest, largest and best grassroots based Democratic Party in the country.  By the time I left office the Washington State Democratic Party had a membership list smaller than only Iowa and California (yes, even bigger than New York’s, Texas’s, Florida’s and all the rest).  And we raised more money than almost all of the other states regardless of size.  We can be proud that our Washington State Democratic Party is still considered at the D.N.C. as one of the best organized and strongest in the country.  All build on organizing the caucuses and using the information we gathered from the committed Democrats who turned out for them to build the Party.

I love caucuses for the same reasons that Zach and Karen do. I got involved in the local Democratic organization directly from my caucus when my PCO at the time signed my proxy application right there in the elementary school gym. But soon after the caucuses were finished, my zeal quickly dissipated. When I was at that first caucus, I thought being involved in the Democratic Party was great. I was grassroots, it was face-to-face, it was everything that Zach and Karen are saying. But, outside of the caucuses, there is little we do as Democrats that embrace participatory democracy.

Outside of the caucuses, we don't encourage participation. So, the party building/participatory democracy argument for me is disingenuous. If we really believed in these things as a party, we would focus more of our attention on them.

What the caucuses are really for is recruiting volunteers that we're expecting carry us through November 2008, then we have no plans on keeping them involved. After the eleciton, we don't really care what happens to these folks, if they stay engaged or not. Participatory democracy doesn't start with caucuses and end with the election, its ongoing.

If we really cared about participatory democracy and building the party beyond a mailing list, the caucuses would be the end result of a civic engagement campaign, not the beginning of a volunteer recruitment campaign. And, we would get a lot more than 2 percent turnout.

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What the caucuses are really for is recruiting volunteers that we're expecting carry us through November 2008, then we have no plans on keeping them involved. After the eleciton, we don't really care what happens to these folks, if they stay engaged or not. Participatory democracy doesn't start with caucuses and end with the election, its ongoing.

If we really cared about participatory democracy and building the party beyond a mailing list, the caucuses would be the end result of a civic engagement campaign, not the beginning of a volunteer recruitment campaign. And, we would get a lot more than 2 percent turnout.


  Is nor statewide. And we certainly still have people involved over here from 2004 and 2006 and 2000, and 1994 and possibly 1968.

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Thu Apr 26, 2007 at 01:20:11 PM PST

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Washington needs to hold a Presidential Primary

Caucus vs' Primary

   Follow them and read.

   It isn't a question of Caucus vs' Primary. At least this year, we can't eliminate caucuses. The primary legislation has no provision for DELEGATE SELECTION!

   We can have a viable version of both if the meeting in Bellingham decides to do so.

  If they decide to continue with the Feb 9 caucus and suppport a date later than Feb 5 for a primary, then the special session will be called in December like last time and cancel the primary. And the parties (us mostly) will take the shaft.

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Thu Apr 26, 2007 at 01:31:29 PM PST

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What the caucuses are really for is recruiting volunteers that we're expecting carry us through November 2008, then we have no plans on keeping them involved. After the eleciton, we don't really care what happens to these folks, if they stay engaged or not. Participatory democracy doesn't start with caucuses and end with the election, its ongoing.

Sez who, Emmett? Sez flippin' who? Maybe you have no personal experience of keeping caucus attendees involved, but other areas of the state sure have done it, and continue to do it.

As far as I know, Dwight outlined his plan to turn the situation around at a Thurston County meeting. Maybe you missed it. I know I have heard him outline his plan three-four times in person already. Are you saying that's all talk, then? Based on what?

Don't you read Dina's posts here about organizing in her neighborhood? That's our District, the 34th. Dina and I plot strategies for her neighghborhood and her precinct every week or so. What do you think that is, if not conscious, goal-centered party-building?

Don't be so quick to point fingers. Democrats all around the state are doing exactly what you say they aren't doing. Maybe you need to get out more.

If perception is reality, then the world must be flat and the sun must revolve around it.

by ivan on Thu Apr 26, 2007 at 03:32:39 PM PST

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Based upon the tens of thousands who particpated in the 2004 caucuses, the Dem party had:

  • a bounty of volunteers from active districts for peter goldmark, darcy burner ...

  • hundreds of people to assemple and petition for redress of grievance whenever one of hte fascists-in-chief comes to Seattle,