Monday, February 11, 2008

Democracy happens

[The scene outside Portland High School, as voters waiting to get inside to caucus-Portland Press Herald photograph]

Yesterday was an amazing day, here in the Pine Tree State. In an age when far too many people choose the safety of their living rooms and the anonymity of online social networking, over face-to-face contact, neighbors and fellow community members squeezed into schools, fire stations, town halls and other central meeting hubs to caucus for Democrats, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In a town like Durham, it’s a rarity to get to meet new townspeople, neighbors and even radio talk shows hosts who live in the town. Yesterday’s caucus made it possible to get a sense of who some of our neighbors and fellow Durhamites are.

While my wife and I had our preference for a candidate who did not win, I can’t say I’m totally disappointed, as democracy, disorganized, sometimes dysfunctional and even occasionally irritating, worked imperfectly, but it worked. Say what you want about the caucus system, 46,000 Mainers voted with their feet (the previous high for Maine was 17,000 in 2004), enthusiastically endorsing their choice for a candidate.

Our local caucus saw 119 people show up (the previous high was 42, also in 2004). We ran out of forms, the line snaked out the door of our local fire station and into the parking lot and people were jammed in like sardines in a can, but when all was said and done, we caucused for our respective candidates and the wheels of democracy turned, albeit squeakily.

It’s been a crazy weekend here in our household, between snowstorms, candidate’s rallies and fitting in an interview for my upcoming book.

Look to this space for an update and some additional thoughts on caucus Sunday, later in the week.

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