Monday, March 31, 2008

Will Rogers: "I don't belong to any organized party. I'm a Democrat."

By Nancy Jane Moore

I experienced the truth behind the famous quote from Will Rogers (pictured at left) last Saturday at the Travis County Democratic Convention.

Though the problem wasn't infighting among the candidates; on the whole, Obama and Clinton supporters were quite civil to each other. Supporters of both candidates made speeches from the platform, and while they praised their candidates, they also all said the party was lucky to have a choice between two good barrier-breaking candidates and reminded us that the stakes in this election are huge.

The lack of organization was logistical, mostly because just about everybody showed up. There were somewhere between 7 and 8 thousand people there. Just getting to the venue was a problem: it took the people from my precinct about 15 minutes to get across town to within a mile or so of the county exposition center (I think it's for rodeos and such), and then at least another hour to actually get into the parking lot. And that was with carpooling.

Then we stood in line for another hour or so to get badges. Everything was supposed to start at ten, but it was well after noon before things really got underway. And it was after four before we finally did the most important thing of the day: electing the delegates and alternates from each precinct for the state convention.

My precinct only had one of each, but both the people we sent off are pledged to Obama, as were a significant majority of all the delegates chosen in Travis County. It was obvious from the crowd -- when Obama supporters Congressman Lloyd Doggett and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk made speeches, they got loud support from the crowd. Clinton supporter Terry McAuliffe got polite applause, but a great deal less noise when he made his pro-Clinton comments.

The Texas Two Step isn't over until the state convention in June, when delegates to the national convention will be chosen, but it's obvious from Saturday's results that Obama will win the delegate count. The Austin American-Statesman reports that Obama is likely to take about 60 percent of the delegates.

Meaning, as I said earlier, that Obama won Texas. He got the delegates. And it's important to understand how he got those delegates: grassroots organizing. My precinct was entitled to 18 delegates to the county convention. Because many more Obama people turned out at the precinct, 13 of us were pledged to Obama. And we all showed up. Only three of Clinton's five delegates showed up.

I was originally an alternate, but I moved up to fill a vacancy. That's why we got all 13 of our delegates -- our leader made sure all the delegates and alternates were kept informed. We even met in advance.

That's what organizing is all about -- communicating with volunteers and getting them to show up. Our group of Obama delegates was diverse: male and female, black, white and Asian, and young and old. Of those I asked, one was a nurse, another a chef, one worked for the state, another as an assistant to a TV reporter. The main thing we have in common, outside of supporting Obama, is that a large chunk of us live in the same apartment complex (it's a big complex). But none of us knew each other before the Obama organizing started.

Now we do. Now we know where to start if we want to organize more political activity in Austin. The Democrats need more of this kind of organizing if we're going to clean up the mess Bush and his cohorts have made of our country.

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