"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The big day is here at last!

Hot damn y'all, I'm excited today to be smack-dab in the middle of what could be the most decisive day of the Democratic primary contest. Not only is the Lone Star state playing a huge role in the nomination this year, but according to the Wall Street Journal, my own little chunk of East Texas from Houston to Tyler is being watched especially closely. Bill Clinton himself was even in town last week stumping for his wife, which is practically unheard of in our little hole-in-the-wall. We seldom get anyone that important here, but seeing as how most pundits are speculating that Hillary's campaign is over if she doesn't score big in Texas today, I shouldn't be that surprised. You've been (and will no doubt continue to be) bombarded with news from all sources about events here, so I'm not sure what else I can uniquely add to it, but I'll just say it's been very interesting for me to be politically involved this year in a way I haven't been for decades.

This weekend I've made a few phone calls on behalf of the Obama campaign, and will begin making a bunch more here shortly to encourage people to go vote today. It's been easy; they have a very cool web-based contact tool that allows you to make as few or as many calls as you care to (or have time for) once you register and log in. You're assigned numbers to call in your neighborhood in blocks of 20, and as you speak with folks and determine who they're supporting you simply click on large buttons next to their name on the web site to report their status back to the campaign HQ. Of course the idea is to encourage them to vote for Obama, and there are some sample script pages you can use if you're not comfortable ad-libbing. However if the person you're speaking with wants more detailed information about Obama's stand on the issues than you feel qualified to discuss with them, you can refer them to the web site or a more knowledgeable volunteer. It's all very highly organized, and fun too. You're awarded points for the number of calls you make, with the goal being to get your name in the Top 10 callers -- kind of like putting your initials at the top of the "high score" list of a video game.

So far I've mainly gotten a lot of answering machines, but have also had a few interesting conversations. Not surprisingly, since this is a red state (and a fairly conservative Christian area at that), I've talked to one or two staunch Republicans. I don't debate them, just record their preferences and say thank you. I did run across one elderly-sounding woman, however, who claimed to be a Democrat but was under the impression that Obama was "one of them Muslims". I hope I was able to straighten her out.

As I work the phones, I'm also telling people about the "Texas Two-Step", which seems to have a lot of folks confused. Texas residents get to participate in a unique process for assigning delegates; first is the regular voting today, then after the polls close this evening we get to "caucus". I have never "caucused" before in my life, so I'm very interested in what it's all about. I had always imagined a caucus as being a bunch of hard-core politico-wonks getting together in a smoke-filled room to strut their influence and make deals, but it's simply another word for convention. Specifically, in this case it's an ad-hoc meeting of those who have voted in the primary to stand up for their candidate; as a result, roughly 30% of unpledged delegates will be assigned via the caucus. In a way, it's almost like getting to vote twice, and as close as this race is predicted to be it could make a real difference.

So tonight I'm gonna caucus, baby! Woo-hoo! I'll head back to the polling location about 7:15 PM and sign in under the name of the my candidate, and then we'll see what happens next. If nothing else, it should at least be good for a blog post.

Back to the phones. Hello?

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