The Washington State Caucuses were today. For the second election in a row, I came away from the Democratic caucus uncommitted, this time as one of the 343 delegates statewide who will go to the next level of the process as an uncommitted delegate. My wife, however, will be attending the legislative district and county caucus as a Hillary Clinton delegate.
Attendance was overwhelmingly heavy. In a precinct that typically sees 15 to 20 attendees, we had 89 people today. Participants spoke passionately about their candidates and the caucus was closely split between Clinton and Obama, with the latter winning nine of the 16 delegates from our precinct. Generally, I would characterize the support as built on Senator Obama‘s eloquence and potential for transformative leadership, while Senator Clinton was seen as a skilled political negotiator. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were also described as divisive figures by several people in the room.
Obama won the caucuses in Washington on his positive campaign. It is a campaign that I still find lacks substance in key areas. This is why I went to the caucus with a vote for former Senator John Edwards, whose social investment and justice positions were the most clearly explained and documented.
As a Democrat who believes the most important feature of our party’s legacy is the willingness to invest in the American people, not just American business, I believe Edwards spoke most powerfully about the need to re-unite this country through concerted investment in education, healthcare, and equitable rewards for success.
Hillary Clinton’s healthcare position is more specific than Senator Obama, as Paul Krugman explained in The New York Times recently. It is the major difference in substance between the two candidates, in my opinion. My concern, listening today to Democrats describing the Clintons as divisive figures, is that they have chosen to focus on the candidate’s (and their spouses’) personalities rather than the policies these people will enact.
As an uncommitted delegate, I will be looking at policies, asking the state party to include planks in the platform that include:
- Ending poverty by 2036, as proposed by John Edwards. It is a worthy goal, one greater than any the Republicans have ever proposed.
- Making college affordable. Schools record the minimal efforts of students, by setting standardized goals, and do not provide incentives for achievement. I think we should pay for college as a reward for the best performance and quit saddling the young with a debt as the first step into adult life.
- I would be happy to see increased investment at every stage of American life in exchange for continued emphasis on free trade. Economic competition is good for the United States, especially if Americans are given the opportunity to be leaders in every field by encouraging the greatest internal competition among Americans.
- Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of Americans. I agree with Warren Buffett that is is absurd that a capital gain is taxed at a lower rate than a secretary’s salary.
- Higher minimum wages are a priority for the presidential candidate.
- Unequivocal support for a global campaign to stop global warming, with a “space race” level of investment by the U.S. government.
By the end of the caucus, I was able to convince five people to join me and the other uncommitted voter, in order to capture one delegate of the 16 total. I will make my decision about the candidate I will support at the legislative district caucus based on the positions described above.
The presidential campaign isn’t a horse race, it is a debate. It is time we recognize that policy positions are the only thing we can hold candidates to after they are elected. Rhetorical flourish, character, and ability to raise money are temporary distractions from the business of running the country. In the future, states should race to be the last in the primary process, rather than the first, based on the principle that the nominee chosen after the longest possible debate is the best candidate to run the country.
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