13 February 2008: Reflection on the 2008 caucuses, campaigns

Lady Liberty is the Comeback Kid of the Year

Pick your metaphor about organizing Democrats: herding cats or frogs in a forest fire. Which either—on caucus night, chaos theory was validated across Clear Creek, Colorado, and America around an organizing principle: We, the People, are taking our democracy back!

The precinct captains had made the best game plan we could, given that we could only guess the number to expect—a lot. We bickered about the layout, where to strategically place tables to facilitate the anticipated elbow-room crowd. We worked to devise the best plan imaginable and then prepared to be flexible, allowing it to come together as it will, understanding that meandering cats and hopping frogs tend to have minds of their own.

Mary, wanting to be absolutely sure she was at the right place, was the first to show in Precinct One, a full hour before she needed. Close to 100 fellow Democrats and observers—youth, independents, and Republicans—soon followed, toting election materials and cookies, and promptly got about the business of covering the tables with forms, literature, and coffee.

The room echoed with folding chairs being unfolded, filling the entire space. I wondered if the fire marshal had stuck his nose in, we might have been ordered to adjourn to Sixth St. in the cold and the snow. Bitter as was the weather, I have no doubt the faithful would have happily vacated to that venue, resolutely, defiantly, and proudly clutching their yellow voting cards if that is what it took to have their voices heard.

It was quintessentially Americana. Had Norman Rockwell been there, he could have painted it for the Saturday Evening Post.

Commentator Mark Shields has observed, “Republicans fall in line; Democrats fall in love.” In this case though, chaos theory did apply, with order arising from the oftentimes local-issue infighters. While not falling into line on the candidates—two to one in Barack Obama’s favor over Hillary Clinton, mirroring statewide results—the participants became a critical mass based on what they ultimately want: a fundamental change in leadership and direction for their beloved country.

As often as the call for change has been made, this time it seems more than palpable. In November’s political super bowl, Republicans are destined to be the New England Pats and the Democrats, the New York Giants. Many Republican elephants have sensed the developing tsunami and, like the animals near the Indian Ocean in 2004, have headed for higher ground by not seeking re-election. With the bitter after-taste of 2004 still stuck in its craw, the Democratic donkey is raring to kick some pachyderm ass.

Silver-spooner turned draft dodger-in-chief George W. Bush has been an arch-enemy of our inalienable rights. His crimes are legion: an illegal war, disbanding habeas corpus, spying on his fellow Americans without court order, and much more. The great irony of his cavalier haste to undo our Constitution, however, is that he has struck a spark, which has ignited the American people.

Pre-Bush, the rate of participation in the voting process steadily declined. But now because of him, Americans are showing up in unprecedented droves, drawing a line in the sand in defense of their country and crying out, “This far and no farther.” And while he will see fit to pursue his destructive policies until the last gasp of his rule, Bush’s legacy might be having served as the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the democratic spirit in America and having breathed life into what was becoming a moribund republic.

Towards the end of the caucus, planks for the platform were discussed, voted on, and approved in overwhelming fashion: immediate phased withdrawal from Iraq; restoration of habeas corpus; insistence on corporate accountability; impeachment for both of the malefactors; end of spying on Americans; end of torture that has been a black stain on our country’s honor; affirmation of gays and lesbians’ inalienable rights endowed by their Creator; and more.

Echoes of Obama’s exhortation to his followers silently reverberated among Obama and Clinton supporters alike with each assent: “Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can.”

Eli Manning’s miraculous escape in the Super Bowl from a crushing pocket that should have seen him sacked and his lofting the football to a receiver who made an impossible catch, clutching the ball in a death grip against his helmet while being tackled by swatting defenders, have provided goose bumps for sport aficionados across the planet. Eli’s and his teammate’s heroics pale, though, in comparison to what we are witnessing across America.

Like the phoenix rising out of its ashes, American democracy is back and destined to be the Comeback Kid of 2008. And when it does, maybe, just maybe, Time magazine will name Lady Liberty as its Person of the Year.

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