Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Texas Political Dogfighting … And How Did I End Up In The Middle Of This Again?

“I am a new day rising.
I'm a brand new sky
to hang the stars upon tonight.” — Times Like These, Foo Fighters

Sorta short blog post tonight, y’all – I’m wiped the hell out.

This whole primary season was a once-in-a-lifetime. I’ve never seen anything like it in either of two presidential primaries I’ve run. Far and away, there was more interest in this than both of the previous elections combined.

Three years ago, I decided not to run for reelection for precinct chair / election judge as there was another warm body to fill it. She was interested; I’d already done it for six years – why not?

“Why not” was explained in all its glory this election season. For the first time in two decades, Texas’ primary actually had two front running candidates in contention on the Dem side – both serious presidential material. Moreover, our precinct was flipped to blue five years back, and it’s large – four square miles with nearly 5000 voters and counting.

As fate would have it, my successor at precinct chair (lesbian) was devoted to Hillary Clinton. Being trans, and knowing Hillary’s history and her expressed sentiments on trans people in employment over the years (not to mention the ultra-closeness with HRC), I couldn’t sit aside and just watch. Barack Obama was on an eleven-state win streak, and Hillary needed wins in Ohio and Texas to put herself back in the game.

And the lead up to elections was a dogfight. There was the Clinton commercial heavily played in Texas with the red-phone, trying to play upon voters’ fears about Obama as president – shades of LBJ and the atom bomb commercial circa 1964. Then there was her LGBT statement to the community noting her trans support by pointing out her sponsorship of the senate ENDA bill – a transgender-excluded ENDA. Then immediately before, we had Rush Limbaugh instructing Republicans to cross lines and vote for Hillary in order to extend the campaign contention. Nothing like being a shit-stirrer – ‘dem good ol’ family values, eh Head-Rush?

For me locally, the precinct chair was providing me zero info – with good reason. Less the voters knew where to vote and caucus, the better for her and her candidate.

Less than a week out, I finally discovered our voting location – in a different precinct (while that precinct had to vote a couple miles further down the road!) Yep, let’s jerk the Dems around some more … rattle the cage. Did I mention our County Clerk (who oversees elections) is conservative?

Election day hit with a bang: my precinct chair wasn’t going to be friendly and allow me the “caucus packet” for our “caucus” (they’re still really precinct conventions to us). Later I spoke with my Obama campaign organizer, Anuj Gupta, who gave more wonderful news: the clerk’s office was not including enough sign-in sheets for the delegation. After a quick search, I found the form on the County Dem Party website (thank God!) and printed up 21 pages (with twelve lines per page). With 26 total pages to sign in, we easily filled them – 379 people signed in.

Between the long lines to sign in, my precinct chair’s histrionics when she thought she was being trumped by me (and taking her ball and going home) and a too-small room that was too warm mixed with impatient screamers, it was barely contained chaos. So … guess who had to take control and run the meeting? I thought I was over this three years ago, and I wanted my candidate to win … but I thought it was someone else’s turn in the hotseat. The convention (caucus) chair ended up being another girl who just thought it would be cool – no idea what chairing a meeting that emotional was about. So I had to play ventriloquist and feed her the lines she needed to say, explain the processes, and announce the delegates.

“I am a little divided.
Do I stay or run away
and leave it all behind?” Times Like These, Foo Fighters

The counting was contentious, the two camps were testier than cornered porcupines and the throng was yelling down our backs. Tempers flared, and I even had to cut one lady off at the knees at one point. She has no idea how close I was to snatching her bald. Even the Obama supporters wouldn’t trust me (I wasn’t her color), and I had to snatch the tally sheets out of one woman’s hand by force and remind her that she was an observer, I was secretary.

But ultimately we made our counts, openly for all to verify, we nominated and elected the correct allotments based on the rules (our precinct chair long gone) and made it a good clean convention, with 42 delegates for Obama and 18 for Clinton.

When I tossed my name in for delegate for Obama, I was shocked. It was a near unanimous acclimation. After it was all said and done, both sides– the very people who were screaming and throwing tantrums just minutes before -- came to me and complimented me on the job I did. It almost felt like I was a candidate for office the way they all came up, shook hands or hugged, and heaped the admiration. And thank God I had my old faithful poll workers from my days (both candidates’ supporters) and others who just stepped in when they saw the need and filled in. It was a phenomenal team and they all hung in admirably – even with all the garbage thrown at us!

Ultimately, it was a victory for teamwork – no matter how different we all were – and most of all a victory for what was right. When even the loudest Clinton supporter – a recently converted Republican no less – came up to me and shook my hand, thanking me for how we made this work with a huge smile – I gotta say it was worth it. Tough as it was, it was done right … and it was worth it.

“It's times like these you learn to live again.
It's times like these you give and give again.
It's times like these you learn to love again.” — Times Like These, Foo Fighters

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