Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Un-Endangered Democrats

[Party Caucus Review] You know the old saw about the Democrats being an endangered species in Utah? Always the snail darter or Yellowstone cutthroat trout of politics, the precious few Demos in this state seem to always be dodging rocks and current in their regular swim upstream.

Well, for the first time in 10 years, it didn't look so depressing last night at my Democratic Party caucus. According to today's news accounts we had more than 400 people at the meeting at Salt Lake's Dillworth Elementary. Talk was floating around the Dillworth gym/lunchroom (where we met as a leg. district and then broke into our smaller precincts to elect delegates and other officers) that this was the largest Demo Caucus turnout in the city. Even more than the Avenues! Ha. Take that--you pinot noir sipping, cashmere and pearls-wearing Avenues-livers!

We had 22 people in our precinct group. By contrast, two years ago, we had six. At that time we had to beg someone to run for delegate to the county and state conventions. Last night, we had three candidates scrambling for the delegate post. And it wasn't some budget-basement effort, either. Each candidate had prepared an actual speech.

So we elected Katy Macey delegate. In comparison to her two opponents, who were longtime party water carriers, Katy is a relative newbie. She gave her pitch and described her growing interest in politics: She wants to see a change in the White House. She's a former intern from the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. For the first time in her adult life, she can actively participate in politics because her kids are finally grown.

She won in a landslide.

This morning, a couple of radio talk show hosts were bleating on about the train wreck that has become the Democratic race for president. Hillary Clinton lying about her reception in Bosnia. Barack Obama struggling to distance himself from his vitriolic pastor. On the national front, the Demos look like their usual self-destructing gang.

But here in the Utah trenches--the place where real people live real lives--I'd offer what I saw last night at Dillworth School as exhibit A for this fall's election. Even in this blood-red state, the tide is shifting, if gradually. Rank and file Democrats are engaged and enthused. It's true that most of them have a favored candidate for president, but in the end ABAR (anyone but another Republican) will get their vote. They are determined to wipe out every last trace of Bush-politik come November. The national press can blather on about the in-fighting among Democrats, but I did not see Chris Matthews or Tim Russert reporting from Dillworth last night. And as always in America, what's happening in our own back yards is the real story anyway.

Did you go to your caucus meeting last night? Which party? Feel like sharing your report with the rest of the class? (Holly Mullen)


  1. I attended the Democratic caucus at the capital, though I'm not one of those high-falutin' Avenuers, I'm one of those oft-forgotten Marmaladers.

    This is my first year in the neighborhood, so I don't know how many people have been out before, but I know there were people ready to throw punches over available chairs.

    I was one of 7 people in my precinct (5 households). The older couple at my table who have been doing this for years said it was a pretty good turnout due to the excitement of the Presidential race.

    We had three delegate positions available, and everyone that wanted one got one. I'm not sure what keeps people from coming out - especially with all the reminders from everywhere lately. It worked out well for those who wanted to be delegates though.

  2. I was a Democratic caucus (er, mass meeting) freshman last night in District 48. I was the only one there for my newly-boundaried precinct. I think it was less the new precinct and more that the precinct lies in NE Draper -- where it's almost as difficult to find a Democrat as it is in Utah County. I am now Precinct Chair AND Delegate, if for no other reason than to shake the trees in my precinct and see if I'm perhaps not alone.

    One of the key messages I took from our meeting was that the shifting masses from R to D is more like a flood. The dissatisfaction with single party dominance and the corruption it breeds has run many people to a breaking point.

    My main message, along with the party's message that now is a GREAT time to be a Democrat, is that voting for a Democrat will likely ensure a driven approach to legislation in areas like ethics. Democratic Legislators are used to being a single voice and don't have the same dominant party pressure to conform that Republican Legislators do. And if enough of the cronies are voted out, then that willingness to stand alone in key areas will be rewarded with non-partisan support.

    I hope.

  3. Thanks for sharing. You know, I can get as crusty and cynical as the next person about politics in general, and especially in Utah. But I've always held high regard for the caucus system. True, it can be a lonely evening for Utah Democrats, particularly, but it's grass roots involvement at it's best. Ms. Maxwell is a perfect example. Show up. Have a pulse. Before you know it, you're a rising party star!

    So God bless America, and Utah, too. (Holly Mullen)


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