2.09.2008

A few little votes

So there we were on a rainy Saturday. The Grays River was running muddy brown and near its banks. You can still see piles of silt that built up when the river flooded the valley last December. The Rosburg Hall has only been around 100 years or so -- long enough that most people used to come here by the docks rather than the road. The front steps face out toward the river.

There were only 20 or so Democrats that showed up at 1 p.m. for weak coffee and caucusing. As he gaveled us to order, most of the folks don't recognize Krist Novoselic from his former career as a rock star. We say the pledge or allegiance and introduce ourselves around the table. There are ten people in my Rosburg precinct -- four of us are for Obama -- the oldest woman and the three youngest men. The rest are for Clinton. After the initial tally we do our arguments. There's a guy who immigrated from Denmark who is opposed to Obama because he supports giving illegal aliens driver's licenses.

A crotchety old contrarian argues that he's opposed to "all this talk about change, what we really need is incremental steps." We all look at him like he's joking for a few awkward moments, then avoid his eyes when we realize that he's not. "We can't afford not to change," I say.

I make my pitch for Obama based on his ability to motivate many first time and young voters, and his appeal to independents. The oldest woman at the table states that she likes Hillary but thinks she's too polarizing a figure. "People just hate her, they can't say why, but they just do and that can't be good in the general election against McCain. I can't repeat some of the things they say about her."

A couple people speak up for Hillary in terms of experience, and the name recognition that will be needed to heal our relationship with the other nations of the world. Another woman points out that Hillary's already withstood everything the Republican noise machine can dish out. Interestingly, someone throws out the question -- "who was your first choice before John Edwards dropped out?" Nine out of ten of us say John Edwards.

After 20 minutes, we go around and say who were are for. Two people have changed their minds -- husband and wife. He's swayed by the arguments for Obama, and she's changed her vote to Hillary without explanation. Rosburg remains six to four in favor of Clinton over Obama - but that splits our delegates with one elected for each. The Grays River table selects two delegates for Obama and Deep River will send only one for Clinton. All told our little valley selects three Obama delegates and two Clinton delegates.

Voting is easy. Showing up and talking with your neighbors about the who and why of your decision is hard. It was clear that most of the people had thought through what they were going to say and had wrestled in deciding between the two Democratic candidates. What stuck me, however, is that I know all these people -- I see most of them every week -- and we never talk about national politics. This hour of democracy -- a show of hands over weak coffee as the rain misted outside -- was heartening and inspiring. It was humble and small and yet powerful too.


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