Kassie and Katie with Gov Andrus and Bob Kustra
Former Mayor Munroe meets Senator Obama
The Senator speaks of a united America, health care specifics and Idaho's hopes
The Julie Fanselow and Audience on the Floor
Elected Officials Leave the Speech Smiling
Carol & I woke at 4 AM and lay in bed a bit before deciding just to get dressed and drive down to BSU and the arena. There were very few cars stirring at 6 AM but here and there you could see people in neighborhoods scraping off ice, headed down the dark streets to hear Senator Obama speak. We walked through the snow with people cheerful and still warm from their cars. At the gates, some had clearly been there waiting at the arena for hours already.
I think the idea of getting the general public inside was simple for organizer Kassie Cerami and the bee hive of people of all ages at the Obama office. They have endured impromptu auditions from folks off the street and children who want to perform for the next president. The had to turn back offers for food, music, and who knows what else from Idahoans who have been inspired to generosity by Senator Obama.
I have a feeling though that we public officials were the head ache to manage. Local organizers had to get creative with seating for dignitaries at such a huge event where a chance to meet the Senator was almost everyone's dream. I've not been too much of a fan of sports heroes, musicians or rock stars, though I know a few who are pretty fabulous, still this feeling of really wanting to get to say hello, face to face to someone I admire so much is a little new. For some people meeting senator Obama might be connected to their perception of what power is. Some think power is about who you know.
Frankly I never would expect to have Senator Obama remember me, though it astounds me both times I have met him that he seems to. (Carol pointed out there are not a lot of lesbian elected officials from Idaho so maybe that could be helping him a bit.) There is I'll admit, also something wonderful in being able to tell good stories. I heard this same story today from several ecstatic Idahoans: "And then I reached out and shook his hand. He smiled at me with his big smile, looked in my eyes and he said, thank you for coming!"
Volunteers who made 100 calls and a mixture of other folks got green tickets for the standing room on the floor. We opened the doors for them at the same time as the general admission in the seats. People flowed in like a cold, bouncing river for literally hours. Once the floor filled, I went inside, done with my job of directing legislators, super delegates (I'll explain later) candidates and other Democratic Party folks who were supposed to go to a special section of the bleachers together. I think it was no small feat to be sure everyone in this section felt equally, or perhaps I should say, appropriately treated. Remember a legislature is a hierarchy and right or wrong there is an order of seniority and tradition which is pretty foreign to the lives of most of us. As forceful as that whole order may be, it was beautiful today how hard work on Kassie and TJ's part went so well recognized and how they and Brett Adler and others who have dedicated their lives often without any pay got time with the senator.
Kassie and TJ were to open the rally with chants and talking about the caucus, but I missed it because they heroically pulled me out of the crowd on the floor and hauled me backstage to the green room through a maze of black cloth clad tunnels to where Governor Andrus and BSU President Kustra were waiting for Senator Obama. I was supposed to stay with them, my staff badge and my Obama buttons on, feeling like I'd just been mistaken for someone important and had made it under the rope so far undetected.
I waited and the super delegates were brought down from the special section of the bleachers. Gail Bray explained what the mysterious super delegates are. I think there are five of them out of Idahos 23 total delegates. Cecil Andrus and two Tribal leaders, Chaiman Axtell and Chairman Allen (none of whom are super delegates) came in with the delegates so together they looked like a wonderfully dignified group which included new Democratic party chair Keith Raork, Grant Bergoin, House minority leader Wendy Jaquet, Gail Bray, Jeanne Bhuel and Jerry Brady who I understand is the Idaho Obama Campaign co-chair.
Super delegates exist in all states. They are not like other delegates and so are not bound to vote for who the caucus goers choose. They are free agents elected in parts of our party process and can go to convention and choose the presidential candidate they please. In my opinion, the number of them and power they have potentially skews the simple democracy of the process, though I am sure there is a reason for it which relates to the power of states. In some states in fact many super delegates have long times ties to the Clinton administration and that has fueled speculation that Hillary Clinton, while she has won an equal number of primary races and fewer state delegates than Obama, may have more total delegates when you count super delegates. If presidential primary races are anything like Idaho's recent House Speaker's race, the idea that you might promise those voting for you something in exchange for a vote is not unheard of.
So I stayed in the green room with its TV-set-simulated-mini-living-room corner and striking photos of rock stars and athletes on the walls, until Senator Obama himself came in. Let me just say this, as someone who has spent far too much time at caucus-watching parties getting my photo taken with a card board cut out of the senator: he is about as tall as his card board cut out. (Which went missing last weekend from the Bouquet on main street where a music event for Senator Obama was taking place. Let me know if you have it. Jerry Brady, who carried it everywhere for a week, is heart broken.)
The Senator came in the room talking casually with Kassie who has met him several times now I think. How can he not be grateful and pleased by Idaho today? He seemed it. Cassie, TJ, Brett and others came together last year spontaneously as soon as he announced he was running, some even before, and put together a grassroots campaign determined to organize Idaho for the senator whether Idaho was a targeted state or not. That Idaho now does matter only makes those efforts more amazing. With staff here now there is groundwork, and networks, and a base of volunteers in place ready for the caucus on Tuesday.
The local Obama campaign created a community, one of the few things I suggested early on and which I'm sure this group of warm, passionate young people would have done anyway. It makes being involved feel good. It reminds you how much you are part of something greater. If Change is the operative word of 2008 then may Idaho politics look like this day for decades to come.
One arena filled beyond capacity with more cheering bodies than probably caucused statewide for Democrats in Idaho ever before. For Democrats everything has whispered to us that this would be a great year. This day today yelled at this sleepy state that if we work at it, this will be a year where our hope sees strides rather than simple steps. Senator Barack Obama is giving voice to something we all feel. We tire of so much of the same leaders who look and sound and limit themselves to what they have grown accustomed to limiting our nation to. We can be more than a nation which promises prosperity and equality. We can inspire change in a nation, ask ourselves to give a little more to make this place grow closer to the dreams those leaders generations ago had for us. Why would we give up on hope for that? Compromise is an option after all else fails, but where lives are at stake, no other skill is as valuable as rolling up our sleeves to persuade, bending down to listen and ask for consensus, knowing how to look into the eyes of others to change minds and change what is broken in health care, in energy production and consumption, in poverty, in overcrowded classrooms, in our bullying relationships with other nations and our wordless relations with each other. We don't ask enough of ourselves in terms of what we can give others in need. If we did, what might we accomplish as a nation? What might we finally be?
We are ready Idaho. Tuesday is the day that matters. The votes at caucus are proportional, and are not "all or nothing" so every vote for Obama could mean another critical delegate.
The Line Stretches Across Campus
Inside Where it Was Warm
Senator Obama Arrives
The Green Room with Super Delegates and Dignitaries
Arena Full to the Rafters
Senator Stennett Looking Good After Surgery with Chief of Senate Democratic Staff Marie Hattaway