Caucusgoers have their say about critics

Last week in this space I reported on an internal memo prepared by a volunteer Washington state precinct officer for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This person had prepared the memo based on her experience during the Washington caucuses and from information sent to her by Clinton volunteers in Iowa and Nevada. It was sent to Texas Clinton volunteers in advance of that state’s Democratic primary and caucuses. It explained to those volunteers tactics alleged to have been used by supporters of Sen. Barack Obama to disrupt caucus activities and votes in early caucus states.

I wrote: “From a balance perspective, it is equally important to keep in mind that similar countercharges are circulating to be sure among Obama volunteers --- it is just that none of this nature has crossed my desk in particular. If I receive any from reliable parties, I will be happy to write about them in subsequent columns.”

Needless to say, I was deluged, not only with information from readers about alleged disruptions by Clinton volunteers, but also from Clinton supporters confirming there were indeed problems created by Obama supporters. I was not provided with any new internal memos. But Obama and Clinton supporters described their own caucus experiences, in about equal numbers. A sampling of each follows, first from Obama supporters.

This from a Nevada caucusgoer: “The Clinton folks were unruly, rude and intimidating. This included Bill Clinton, who hung around the caucus sites on The Strip until the last minute, at which time he was practically forced to leave.”

This from a Kitsap County, Wash., caucusgoer: “When we arrived, about 20 minutes early, the parking lot was already filled. Inside there were large ’Hillary ’08’ signs hanging in the school gym with a few small Obama signs scattered around.”

And this from yet another Washington-state caucusgoer: “Yes, precincts were crowded because Washington had a record turnout, more than doubling the previous record of 100,000. Yes, there were bottlenecks and lines around the building. No, sitting was not an option in the overcrowded school building. Well, this is truly cause for alarm! People showed up to cast their vote in record numbers and we’re complaining?”

This from a Seattle-area caucusgoer: “How dishonest of you and that anonymous former university professor volunteering for Clinton in one of our Washington-state caucuses. I, a 73-year-old Hispanic-American female who was going to vote for whomever won the primary but changed her mind after the Clinton tactics, attended a crowded caucus of well-behaved Seattle-ites who were exposed mostly to Clinton signs.”

Clinton supporters

Now for some response from Clinton supporters. This from a Clinton volunteer in Texas: “People have to only look at the primary election results in Texas, 51 percent for Clinton and 47 percent for Obama (with 2 percent to others still on the ballot) and wonder why the caucus results tell a very different story: caucus votes so far favor Obama 56 percent to Clinton’s 44 percent.

“Now why would people change their vote in a matter of hours (or a few days, since Texas allowed early voting)? Um, they didn’t.”

This from a Clinton supporter who caucused in Seattle: “The building was so packed that I could barely move. There was no crowd control, and no police presence. The place was jammed with Obama supporters, who were mostly young people. They lined the sidewalk with supporters waving signs and calling out slogans. As a Hillary supporter, I felt intimidated.”

My take on all of the above? In 2012, Democrats must be much better prepared for the huge influx of caucusgoers than the party seems to have been in 2008. Clearly, Obama should be given credit for his rock-star status and his box-office draw, pulling in many times the expected number of caucus supporters. But pandemonium, or something close to it, which seems to have happened in many precincts, is not desirable no matter which candidate benefits from it.

Can we reasonably expect order in the next election? Not according to humorist Will Rogers, who said, “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”

X Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.

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