Letter From Langdon: Caucusing with the Democrats in Tarkio
In Northwest Missouri, democracy survives fire and brimstone preachers, Swift Boat emails and a willingness to vote for oneself.
Map: Missouri Bike Federation
This year is the first time I’ve participated in a caucus.
Admittedly, it isn’t a big deal in Atchison County, where people treat most politics like something dug up by the family dog. Even so, our county Democratic Party convention had near record attendance, with numbers higher by about 180 percent, which means we had 17 at this year’s caucus compared with 6 in 2004.
Back in 2004, John Kerry never managed to capture the hearts and minds of people in Northwest Missouri. Ardent Langdon Democrats supported his candidacy, but he was never our first choice. The result was ebbing enthusiasm of caucus goers here four years ago, where most “liberals” are really just Truman-conservatives.
This year, the excitement level is much higher, and Atchison County Democrats are decidedly partial to Hillary. That was evident when we divided into 2 groups in the meeting room of the Farmer’s State Bank in Tarkio according to our voting preference for Clinton or Obama. The room seemed to shift to the east as delegates took their places for Clinton. Our friends looked at us curiously when they discovered that Linda and I hadn’t joined them. At first, perhaps they thought we didn’t understand the procedure. It was only when we smiled sheepishly across the room that they understood the full extent of the truth:
Langdon is going for Obama!
That may be a bit too dramatic, but hey, it’s my first time.
While hardly qualifying as a seismic shift, our departure from the local political majority was noteworthy. However, we weren’t totally alone, because three Tarkio delegates stayed behind with us. Later on, one of our friends told us he’d wanted to go with Obama, but he didn’t think he could vote for a Muslim who refuses to Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States. He was shocked to hear that Obama is a member of the Christian Church, and holds his hand over his heart while saying the Pledge. “Really?” our incredulous friend asked.
Those Swift-Boat-type emails are hard to kill. But now everyone knows Barack is a Christian, because the raspy voiced give-em-heck minister of his church is in the news about as much as he is. I’ve always liked fire and brimstone preachers. I remember having one in the church my family attended when I was a kid. Reverend Craig sounded a lot like Obama’s preacher. He had a kind of hoarse, raspy voice, and all the ladies in the church, including my Mother, looked kind of pained during his sermons. It wasn’t long before Pastor Craig moved on. I was sorry to see him go, because I really liked his sermons.
Atchison County is entitled to 2 county delegates. In the Missouri Democratic Primary, we went for Hillary by a small margin. That means that Atchison County will vote for Hillary in the 6th Congressional District meeting in Chillicothe later in March. But because of the close vote, Atchison County was required to supply one Obama Delegate as well. Since Hillary held the majority, those supporting her chose their delegate first. Four people signaled their willingness to serve. Ballots were distributed on that side of the room with instructions to vote for one. The person with the most votes would serve as our Hillary delegate at the District meeting. The runner up would be alternate delegate. When the ballots were counted, Doris Anne was chosen, with Laurie serving as her alternate.
Then all eyes turned toward the Obama camp.
Since a woman was chosen as the Clinton delegate, under Missouri Democratic Party rules, a man had to be chosen from the Obama group. Of the five people on the left side of the room, there were only two men. I won on a unanimous vote. Even Ned voted for me. But he still gets to be the alternate, and serve in my place if I should be incapacitated. I felt kind of bad voting for myself”¦and a little embarrassed, but I couldn’t help but remember my grandson Clay.
Clay is a good egg. At the beginning of the year, his 7th grade class elections were held. Clay was nominated to be seventh grade student council representative. Even though he really wanted the office, Clay thought it was the right thing to do to vote for his opponent. Clay confided in his Mom that when the votes were counted, he had lost by one.
Like Tracy Flick in Election, Richard Oswald, running to be a district convention delegate from Atchison County, MO, wisely voted for himself. On to the state, with cupcakes!
Photo: Ruthless Reviews
He doesn’t get that from me.
At the end of the county caucus, delegates and alternates signed a form giving their contact information, and pledged to do their duty, so to speak. They also placed a check mark in a box next to the statement promising not to speak on their own behalf before the assembly for any longer than one minute. Those who check the box are permitted to make a plea to be chosen as a district delegate to the state convention in Columbia. In Columbia, state delegates to the national convention in Denver are chosen. We’re also free to campaign among the delegates prior to the meeting. That means handouts and some serious handshaking.
Every delegate I know agrees with me on one thing. None of us have any clear idea of how the whole thing actually works.
County delegates who want to be district delegates must campaign at the district meeting in order to have a chance at being chosen. Likewise, district delegates must campaign again in May in Columbia at the state meeting if they hope to be a delegate or alternate for Missouri in Denver at the National Convention. It’s all thoroughly confusing. Because I was a political candidate myself once, I understand a little bit about campaigning for office, so I have some experience in the hand shaking science of meet and greet. That’s not to say I’m good at it.
One thing for certain, when the ballots are cast, I know I’ll get at least one vote.