Democrats & Liberals Archives

Adventures In Texas Caucusing

What a night.

Under most circumstances, I’d have been sitting on the computer, typing and watching the results come in on my television. Not this time. This time, I not only can comment on what’s happened tonight, I can relate some of it personally.

My voting day bookended my working day. I waited in line to vote in the primary portion of Texas's admittedly complicated hybrid system early in the morning. That was something I would be thankful I did later when people really started showing up! If there were lines in the morning, there were lines in the evening. Part of the issue is that low Democratic Party turnout in past elections lead to a bunch of precincts being bunched together in one place. Well, I'm pretty certain the next election won't work that way. This would contribute to later chaos of course, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I got off work, I went straight there. I was dropped off at the polling place. My sister was already there, having voted later in the day. She was talking with an old friend from high school who served as a precinct chair. Last time this caucus was held, she was the only person who showed up.

She didn't have that problem this time.

It was like being in a David Lean picture The line wasn't single file in the least, but it nonetheless extended hundreds of feet out. At least it would as the night wore on.

But between about six or seven o'clock, I was still with my sister. Though I've never been officially affiliated with a campaign to this point, nor had my sister to my knowledge, my sister was helping the Obama campaign, and I said, why not? I'm not the most sociable person, but I was an Obama supporter to start with, so I pretty much stumbled into handing a few fliers out. I can be friendly enough, in a goofy sort of way. I managed to get through what I had, which wasn't much.

A little warning at this point: because this is first person, you're not going to hear about what many of the volunteers and other people did. And they did a great deal, and are more responsible for creating order out of the chaos of the night than I am. So please don't get the idea that I saved the world here.

Which is something I gotta say pretty much because I did ended up having an eventful night.

There were plenty of nice Clinton supporters around, so when I say the first problem I really got involved with dealt with a Clinton supporter, I'm not cutting them down, or alleging generalized dirty tricks. What happened essentially, is that this volunteer went about splitting people up into lines according to the candidates they supported. This seemed off to some, and I went to the official in charge of our primary and asked her about this. It was in fact not an appropriate course of action, and we both got the caucus-goers back in one line like they were supposed to be.

But that wasn't the end of things. We didn't quite realize what I've already told you about: that many precincts had been smashed together in this one voting location. Typically, with most year's turn-out, it wouldn't have been a problem. With this year's turn out, it was David Lean time. Cast of thousands, caucus-goers for hundreds of feet in all directions. And now, you have to take that crowd, and separate them into precincts.

There were no signs. It was difficult work, and if we wanted to go home any time soon, we had to get organized. One guy helped by essentially working the line to see if people were from our precinct there. We had the precinct chairman and others helping. We had a significant crowd to pull people out of, and to get people into.

My contribution, which may either be viewed by some as important or humorous was that I decided to use voice and my registration card held up as a means of gaining people's attention and getting them to cluster in our area. I did my best to explain what I could and made suggestions as to how we could organize people.

I got a warm coat for Christmas, and was fortunate to have it. it was fairly cool when we started, and it got cold as we continued. Near then end, I put on my gloves, which I had brought along with my coat, but kept in reserve.

We never got into the warm building, really, not my precinct. The building wasn't allowed by law to have that many people in it. So that's how we ended up caucusing near the tennis court bleachers.

That alternatively spooked and amused the higher-income and probably more conservative voting tennis-players on the court, who thought God knows what as literally hundreds of liberals organized out in the open, filing in to sign up and apportion the delegates. I think there was a brief discussion for some, but for the most part, the back and forth was of the typical variety, which one caucus-goer's kid watched in the traditional tick-tock sort of way, back and forth.

The result in our precinct was a split, and we nominated delegates for the convention for our state senate district. The way I heard it from one person, they'll probably be changing venues for that because of the incredible turn-out. It's something I will be paying attention to, given the fact that I was nominated, by the end of that night, as a delegate to that senate district convention. It's nothing official, yet, but, in a way, this caucus isn't quite over for me yet. Oh well, said the hydrologist. I didn't really go out of my way to refuse it, but I never really planned to let the participatory nature of the event get that participatory! Still, it's a nice change of pace, a shift from passive to active voice.

Do I think the system, for all the fun it produced, is too complicated? Yes. I've been content myself to vote, and though I've had at least one primary and two general presidential elections under my belt, only this year did I hear about the arcane system we have in Texas. But it's the system in place, and doubtlessly, if turnout remains high, the rough edges of the system and the process in general will get worn off by the shear abrasion of so much attention. Either the system will become well known and and properly taught, or more extended contact with it will lead people to chunk it completely.

Lastly, on the subject of turnout, I believe it is a wonderful thing. Remember what I said about the rough edges of this system getting worn off by extended contact with the public? I think the same holds for politicians. In a way, the candidate I supported is literally right: we are the change we are looking for.

The change is an evolutionary one, one built not on one single decisive election alone, but years of pressure applied and not applied. Politicians do what they can to get elected and remain that way. The pattern over the years of the voter's responses are what shape the politics in Washington. It's more gradual than we'd like most of the time, but sometimes it comes together with a certain sort of punctuated equilibrium.

Or put another way, somebody figures out where the wind is blowing, and has the guts to fill his or her sails with it. Such candidates only come along very rarely. Most of the time, it's amazing how much effort and time politicians devote to resisting the will of the people. Every once in a while, somebody gets it, sees things differently from most everybody else.

Here's hoping that change will come. What small part we can do, we should do. We can only shape a Democracy to the extent we particpate in it. If we fail to do that, things are truly out of our control.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at March 4, 2008 11:29 PM
Comments
Comment #247104

Local level works best. It wasn’t a President that organized your voting area. It was local people taking the initiative and working together with what they think best.
Good Job, Stephen Daugherty

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 5, 2008 4:33 AM
Comment #247105

Weary Willie-
First let me acknowledge the compliment intended. I don’t want to be ungracious.

But then let me explain: it shouldn’t have been necessary, and it wasn’t necessarily for the best.

Let me preface my response first by saying that I’m not cutting any of the state party officials who were there. They did the best they could. However, a little coordination from the top might have saved so much time and trouble.

First, education wise, the Caucus should have been better explained, procedurally. The Campaigns were some help, but many of the people on the ground didn’t have much experience of Texas Caucuses either. A few people were well informed, and part of what I did to help organize was inform people of where to look for their precinct number, in addition to what my number was. When people knew, they could organize themselves better.

Second, logistics-wise, we should have had a nice building to ourselves for a meeting of our size, and it shouldn’t have taken a couple hours for things to even get moving. If somebody had brought out precinct signs held up for people to see, it also might have cleared things up and saved my voice a little strain.

A little planning and coordination from the top can get better results from people’s own self-organizing abilities. I enjoyed last night, but I would have prefered to do more caucusing, and less waiting to caucus.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2008 8:09 AM
Comment #247107

Stephen-

You’re ready for the next step; County Council meetings! Just remember to make a scene when they try to take all of the juicy stuff to an “executive session”.

Although I enjoy the “sport” of national politics, I’ve been active in the local scene for quite some time. In a county of only 20,000 it gets very personal as you might imagine. One of the more interesting concepts is that there is no loyalty to either party. If you want a seat you run in whatever party the incumbent is running during the primary. That way you only need a few hundred votes to defeat them (primary turnouts are usually very small), and then you can run unchallenged in the general. Insider’s trick there..

In the end all politics are an inefficient and messy affair, but that’s what makes our form of government so special. I’m sure the voting for Raul Castro last month went a lot smoother.

Glad you had a good time!

Posted by: George in SC at March 5, 2008 9:52 AM
Comment #247108

David,
Speaking as a former election judge I can comment on the matter of locations and organization.

When the county party officials arranged for the facilities several months ago they had only the history of past elections to go on as to projected turnout. Texas’s hybrid extends further than the manner in which presidential politics is conducted because the primary also chooses candidates for the parties’ general elections in November. That is why we are resistant to moving the election earlier in the year- it’s all the harder to maintain interest in the down-ballot races. All that means Texas usually has no impact on the presidential primary contest. The difficulties experienced all over the state on election night are the result of the national races meaning something. Who could have known six months ago that more people would vote early in this year’s primaries than voted at all in the 2006 primaries? Furthermore, people who complain about our Democrat’s odd delegate system forget that this is the same system Democrats have used before, a system devised precisely to encourage more people to vote in Democrat primaries when the national races have long been decided.

Given that we election judges are virtually all avocational volunteers the kind of advance planning necessary to revise procedures and separate venues sufficiently to accommodate the unexpected flood of interest was all but impossible. For one small example Texas law requires prior notice of the location of a voting venue. That’s only reasonable so people will have published sources of that information. Election judges had to have been chosen before the middle of January, so combined polling places could not practicably have been split out, even in response to what was obviously going to be a crush of voters. Finally, paper ballots, where they are used, had to be printed in advance, and they would obviously vary by local precinct according to things like races for Constable and Justice of the Peace. Official paper ballots come with a unique identifier to assist in fighting ballot fraud and many machines for counting paper ballots require magnetic ink so once one must resort to something like xeroxing ballots election officials slip into a kind of election hell.

I’m kinda glad work had me out of town. I hate hand-counting with a passion.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at March 5, 2008 10:22 AM
Comment #247114

Lee Jamison-
You’re right about the reasons why things got a bit more chaotic than usual. That’s why I choose to relate this with good humor rather than indignation. Nobody expected this. Maybe in the future, even if yesterday’s turn out is a rarity, it will inspire somebody to write up contingency plans and prepare for these kinds of incidents.

But I think my earlier point also holds, and it speaks to the kind of liberalism I espouse.

Some systems work fine when people self-organize them, but such ground up organization becomes inefficient if the parties to it become too numerous. This is one of the few meaningful points to come out of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: once you get an organization larger than 150 people, it’s too many folks together for everybody to really know each other. Larger than that, systems tend to take on administration.

At the same time, of course, no government or bureacracy can bring perfect order, and bureaucracies and government often take on their own set of interests.

This happens whether we’re talking about a community, a corporation, a government of whatever size, or whatever. Inevitably, power accrues to a few elites, and if left to itself, we see not merely an imbalance of wealth and power to the top, we also see different interest groups, communities and classes of people fighting to determine just who gets to be on top. Inevitably, this leads to violent conflict and various injustices. Corruption also results.

Liberalism is first about distributing and recirculating political and economic power. Inevitably the rich and the poor remain, but the parties get something out of the deal: the poor become less poor, and the rich don’t have to live in fortified compounds fearful of the kinds of popular revolts and criminal underworld that develops in situations where such redistribution of power and wealth doesn’t take place.

But it’s about more than mere self interest. It’s also about acknowledging that some efforts, to be done right, require cooperation and integration at all kinds of different levels. Government sometimes is needed to make sure that certain ducks are lined up in a row. By regulating properly, we can keep people’s interests from clashing too violently, and prevent the more sociopathic kinds of behavior from corporations, state and local governments, and other smaller organizations.

Government can be a force for justice, prosperity, and advancement in the sciences, the arts, and education, if it is employed properly.

This, by no means, is easy, simple, or accomplished with any finality at any given point. We cannot regulate a utopia into existence, but that is not the point. The point is to improve more than perfect.

Which is what informed my thinking going in. When I was trying to help get the crowds together, my impulse was the notion that people needed certain information, a certain reduction of confusion. The key is not to do everything for people, but instead to do the meaningful and important things first and foremost.

You can’t prevent all stock market crashes, but you can prevent some of the more pointless ones. You can’t prevent oil from costing a fortune eventually, but you can get in the way of problematic behavior and speculation that drives prices up without truly adding value to the equation. You can’t prevent emissions entirely, but you can reduce them, and get things on track to start a change in paradigm concerning how energy is gained and used.

You can’t prevent some students from failing and leaving themselves behind, but you can help create a system where the standards don’t get in the way of learning the things that can’t be reduced to rote lessons and multiple choice tests.

Liberalism for me is about the government being helpful to the general welfare and the freedom of people’s lives, rather than being the plaything of the elite.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2008 12:30 PM
Comment #247120

Stephen, I actually think that a good many conservatives would share many of your basic views. Very, very few conservatives who speak out against government actually want to get rid of the government. In fact, such a person would be an anarchist or a very radical libertarian and wouldn’t be at home in the Republican or Democratic party. So when you contrast what you call the liberal idea to the conservative idea I think you’re oversimplifying some.

Liberalism is first about distributing and recirculating political and economic power.

I don’t really think that’s what liberalism is about at all. At it’s best, liberalism is about ensuring rights, freedoms, and opportunity for all. In that sense, conservatism and liberalism as they exist in America as opposed to many other places have a lot in common, although there are strong disagreements about how to to reach those ends.

To my mind, you’ve introduced a huge paradox into your description of liberalism, and it’s a major reason conservatives wouldn’t agree with you.

Here’s the problem. In order to “distribute and recirculate” economic and political power, you have to first centralize and control it. You can’t distribute and recirculate what you don’t have. The problem is that once you institute control and centralization, the next step of redistributing it may or may not happen. The nature of institutions, be they government or anything else, is to not give up the power they have consolidated.

Posted by: Liam at March 5, 2008 2:41 PM
Comment #247123

Municipalities seem to do very little planning ahead for voting facilities. The last time that I voted in Florida, the entire town voted in one polling place, and it had grown considerably since the previous election. The line went around and around and outside. Ballots were given out to people once they were inside the building, with an hour more waiting to get to vote.

In Illinois, I have voted in a school, with kids running around, and a church, with very poor lighting. Since early voting began, I have always voted at the municipal building, but this has not caught on. Spreading the voting out over 10 days is a more sensible method than trying to cram everyone into one place on the same day.

The election judges here are all senior citizens. A community group asked me to be a judge this year. It pays $100. I didn’t do it, since you have to be there from 5 am until closing.

The caucus system was supposed to benefit Obama. The media here was reporting how different districts elect different numbers of delegates, not based on population.

This is a humorous take on last night’s results:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lbn8yOweRVk

Posted by: ohrealy at March 5, 2008 3:35 PM
Comment #247124

Liam-
You don’t have to control all of it to control some of it. The key is not merely to hand people power, but to put feedback loops of accountability and repsonsiblity in effect.

It’s no easy task, and nobody’s judgment will be perfect.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2008 3:40 PM
Comment #247126

Liam-

The paradox that I do not understand is this new wave against corporatocracy coming from the left. The left has continued to push more power to a central government in an effort to provide justice for all as you say, or as Stephen puts it to distribute and recirculate power. Yet by making such a powerful central government, the only persons who have the means to influence its decisions are the corporations (and the wealthy) that people like Edwards rail against. If universal health care becomes a reality doesn’t it just create more opportunity for corporatocracy?

My question is can European styled liberalism live within the framework of U.S. federalism (i.e. the Constitution)? Seems like that’s been the battle; to put the square peg into the round hole.

Posted by: George in SC at March 5, 2008 3:48 PM
Comment #247133

George in SC-
First, we insist on certain rights being honored. Second, we insist on public utilities for the legislation; it can’t merely be good for the economy. Third, we use the authority of the government to break up the centralization of business.

And last but not least, we insist on greater voter participation. Voters are the environment that puts selective pressures on the candidates. They evolve to fit that environment, or they die as candidates, losing elections.

If you choose to assume helplessly that government will inevitably be corrupt, or you negligently leave the observation and the decision to others, you will see special interests, of course, take over.

If, however, they figure that voters might roast them for their excesses, that puts a check on things.

As for liberalism and federalism being a square peg and a round hole? Liberals see the federal government as a force for coordination. We’re perfectly fine with the distribution of power. We tend more towards centralization, but we’re not absolute unitary government folks.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2008 4:37 PM
Comment #247135

Stephen,
The client I’m working for now is a very powerful union lawyer and, of course, a Democrat. He voted yesterday for Clinton. When we sit down to talk politics we have to clear literally hours for the process and it is, believe me, a joy and a privilege.

Like you and me, he and I have different ideas about how to achieve good for the American people, but we do not disagree very much at all about what is “good”. One thing we do agree on completely is that the way we go about discussing politics in this country is broken. It is built not upon the discussion of goals but on the exposition of differences. We are encouraged not to see where we agree and to understand the sources of our disagreements and how to solve them but, rather, we are trained up in our prejudices and pushed to crush and demoralize the opposition.

As an artist I may be reaching a stage where it is possible to become financially successful. The reason I have persisted in my career, though, is the window art gives to the human intellect and the way we “know” things. It is so tenuous and frail even as perception and understanding seem so “real”. To discuss the insights this long study in human perception with my client and his friends is to open their eyes to how our different perceptions often rest on no more than a veneer of difference. How, for example, was the order imposed on the oil industry in the 1870s by John D. Rockefeller substantially different from the order imposed by Lenin on the Russian economy, save that the Russian people had no higher authority to whom to turn when the organizers had run amok? When empowered greed is in private hands government may check it. Is such still the case when empowered greed becomes the province of government? Which organization is not made of men?

There is where our deepest differences lie, Stephen. What I believe I see today is that people who call themselves “liberal” or “progressive” today forget that the organization on which they would rely is no less made of men than the organizations they despise, but they take solace in labels that propose to be promises of goodness.

It is out of enlightened self interest that I have, in the past, volunteered to become a part of official government (An election judge in Texas has the powers of a district court judge and his polling place is, effectively, a courtroom.) for a day and cooperated in the great adventure of American governance. That is a check on the temptations of power by an army of people who, like Walt Whitman’s observations of American armies, “melts away into the fields” when the need has past. I have never enjoyed the task, but I shudder to think of the government, with so much to gain by manipulations, professionalizing it.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at March 5, 2008 4:50 PM
Comment #247136

Thanks Stephen.

Seems to me though that if you move government further away from the voice of the individual voter you lose the application of pressure. That is, unless the larger voting pool is not dissimilar (hardly the case in the U.S.). I don’t see special interests as corrupt as you say but rather as necessary in order to influence a more powerful central government. How else am I to have a voice if I don’t organize with others of similar interests? Special interests, and yes some corruption along with them, are born out of more centralized government.

Just as you are not unitary government folks (you’re showing your roots there) I’m not advocating a confederacy. If I were to advocate a confederacy it would not be based upon geographic divides but of population clusters, as I feel I have far more in common with people in the Oswego New York (home of a great friend) than I do with people in Atlanta. But between the extremes of unitary and confederacy lies the balance intended by federalism, and in my mind liberals have in some places pushed the balance towards Washington beyond the structural integrity of our framework. And in doing so the voice of the individual has been suppressed by the voice of groups banding together for a common cause.

Posted by: George in SC at March 5, 2008 5:20 PM
Comment #247158

Lee Jamison-
If you look at our attitude towards government, it’s not at all trusting. We don’t call on government to do the things we do because we trust it.

We call on it to do those things because we believe them to be in our interests, and whether we are inhibiting government or letting it loose, we want it aligned with the public, the average American’s interests.

Liberalism is about taming government to serve the people. Not rejecting government out of some wish to return to the social structure that a more agrarian, more class-stratified society once had, but setting up a relationship where Government helps to balance against the power of the elites, rather than simply serve to extend their power.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2008 10:19 PM
Comment #247160

The thing is, Stephen, that the “elites” take many forms.

A union boss or a trial lawyer can be at least as powerful and elite if not more so than a blue-collar guy who wants to start his own plumbing or construction firm. A parent whose kid is stuck in a crappy crime-ridden inner-city school might want to get a voucher to send their kid somewhere else because they don’t make enough money to afford private tuition. That parent and that kid are not as elite and connected as the teacher unions who are able to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions and who get to write education law.

Truthfully, a lot of so-called liberal ideas and solutions have absolutely nothing to do with spreading power around to include the little guy.

The thing about a lot of “conservative” ideas in the US is that they are more classically liberal than what liberals propose. What a lot of conservatives want to conserve is a truly liberal approach that allows people to make their own choices and keep the government from making those choices for them.

Posted by: Liam at March 5, 2008 10:47 PM
Comment #247162

Stephen,

Neither do we want a powerless government. That is the very essence of Libertarianism. Rather, it seems best, at least to me, to use government as the check on power. The ballot box is a piddling check on its own. Were it our native prediliction to distrust incumbency rather than to embrace it office holders of brief tenure would chafe against the bureaucracy and inefficiency of government. As it is, office holders embrace those very attributes and even utilize them to provide themselves comfort and cover.

Mind you, I think not a whit better of international corporations, nor even plain old large companies. Large organizations are inherently dehumanizing- all of them. It takes great leadership to prevent the corporation from developing a personality that subsumes all others. That is true whether it is Wal-Mart, Toyota, the AFL-CIO, The United Way, the United Methodist Church, or the United States Government. If we grant to the Government such latitude as I see most liberals willing to give the ballot box is an utterly inadequate control, just ask voting shareholders of Office Depot or Tyco. At least the aggrieved owners of a corporation have two other controls- the marketplace and the watchful eyes of the government. No such luck for the people of Argentina, where the press is being muzzled and even the honorably productive people of the middle class disenfranchised.

Government has, at the very best, the en-masse moral capacity of a teenager. It is as manipulative, as impetuous, as bright, and as stupid. It can do wonderful things when well supervised, and abominable things when not. If we give it too much power with nothing more effective than the ballot box between us and its excesses we will inevitably be forced one day to try to kill it.

That is, in a nutshell, the most secure lesson of history.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at March 5, 2008 11:06 PM
Comment #247175

Liam-
Those vouchers are intended to push people on the private school system without the kind of charges that would come as a result of efforts to just outright destroy the public school system.

Unfortunately for its advocates, what it really creates is a sort of tragedy of the commons. What advantage private schools do have depends on competition, and vouchers essentially flood the market. Worse yet, you would likely see a two tier system developing eventually, as voucher values and the value of tuition at the truly good private schools that give the institutions their reputation depart from one another.

This has been the pattern of conservative involvement in business. While it’s long been a conservative principle (at least in practice) not to do things that hurt business (at least the ones lobbying them best), they’ve had no such ideological problems with using government to make businesses more money, their help often choosing the winners in various markets.

This is what much of deregulation is aimed at, rather than at wholesale freedom of business from interference. Or, put another way, the deregulation is better stated as reregulation, made in business’s favor this time.

On account of this, employees, citizens, and investors have suffered, and prices for many items have gone up as mismanaged resources and finances, both in the government and outside of it have screwed up things.

The government shouldn’t be concerned about helping or hurting business, but rather about applying law and order in the public’s best interests. If we better regulate finance and accounting, this will hurt some companies by taking away their financial tricks, and help investors and other companies by rewarding companies whose figures do add up and punishing those who don’t.

For me, much of regulation is about getting in the way of cheaters, making it easier for people to establish the value of things in the market correctly, and preventing problematic conflicts of interest and ripple effects. It use to be that you couldn’t finance corporate debt and sell the stock in those corporations at the same time, at least not without keeping the different divisions behind walls of secrecy. No longer.

The real trouble is, nobody knows what anything is truly worth, and that means people don’t buy or invest so easy.

The truly conservative have not done the work required to create a small government society, not found ways to get the benefits of big government without big government being there. That’s the issue. Unfortunately, instead of the system working better under the conservatives, it seems to have proven the liberals right. American seems to need more government and leadership than it’s getting.

Conservatives can’t merely be against the current paradigm of how our society provides for its financial and infrastructural well-being. Republicans, to remain relevant, must figure out working solutions to the problems that government deals with, if their efforts are not to be perceived as a dangerous subversion of the order that supports the country’s prosperity and safety.

Katrina is a good example of this problem: Few Americans were truly satisfied with the response that the federal efforts were screwed up because that was the nature of big government. People knew from experience that big disasters had been handled well. The Republicans simply had no working substitute for that intervention, and for many Americans, Katrina demonstrated it.

Ultimately, if you can’t answer the same challenges, people are going to see GOP leadership as a liability for the country, not some reality they have to get use to.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2008 8:46 AM
Comment #247177

Stephen-

Katrina is a good example of this problem: Few Americans were truly satisfied with the response that the federal efforts were screwed up because that was the nature of big government. People knew from experience that big disasters had been handled well. The Republicans simply had no working substitute for that intervention, and for many Americans, Katrina demonstrated it.

Do you really believe this? I was in Orangeburg County, South Carolina on 22 Sept. 1989. The next morning it was labeled a “federal disaster” based on the 1,000 or so tornadoes hit spawned by a Cat 4 passing to the North. I saw Red Cross, I saw my neighbors, I saw the members of my Church, I saw the local utility companies, I saw the guardsmen, and I saw people from areas not affected by the storm who came by to help. But I never saw one single FEMA person ever. Rumor had it they were handing out MRE’s at the Guard post, but what good was that when you couldn’t drive on the roads to get there for all of the downed trees.

Then Governor Campbell was the face of recovery after Hugo, not FEMA.

From Wiki:

Extensive relief aid was provided throughout by The Salvation Army, the Red Cross and various churches.

In South Carolina, which bore the brunt of the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was slow in responding. Senator Fritz Hollings referred to them as “a bunch of bureaucratic jackasses” during a speech on the floor of the United States Senate. An investigation was launched, which led to some reforms in FEMA procedures that helped the agency do a somewhat better job during Andrew, the next catastrophic hurricane to strike the United States.

Posted by: George in SC at March 6, 2008 9:29 AM
Comment #247180

Some states are trying to do an end run around the electoral college by commiting their electors to the candidate who wins the majority of the popular vote. It’s called the National Popular Vote Movement.

http://www.fairvote.org/

Posted by: ohrealy at March 6, 2008 12:20 PM
Comment #247181


Wasn’t a Bush in control of the Whitehouse and FEMA on Sept.22,1989?

Posted by: jlw at March 6, 2008 12:23 PM
Comment #247183


Stephen D. Would you explain how the caucaus system encourages people to register and vote?

Would you explain how the Texas caucaus helped the Democratic party and especially how it benefited those Democrats who only voted in the primary? Weren’t they penalized for only voting once? Do you think it encouraged them to make sure they vote twice in the next primary election or possibly not bother to vote at all the next time?

Posted by: jlw at March 6, 2008 1:13 PM
Comment #247188

George in SC-
Under Clinton the agency shaped up far better. he put somebody in charge who knew what they were doing, rather than parking cronies there.

This is where the crux of my replacement argument goes. Republicans, if they went through wholesale trying to eliminate bureacracies, would find themselves dealing with a firestorm of complaints regarding who would do what the agencies formerly did.

So what typically happens? Neglect and cronyism. As long as things were fine with the world, but when these services were actually needed, people did not fail to notice what was going on. It’s one thing for the government to devolve authority and leave behind a working system to replace it. But it’s another thing for folks to retain the system, but let it become decrepit. As long as people see that a service exists, people expect it to work. When they see it not doing so, “tough love” is not what they read from it. They read “institutional decay.”

Such are the dangers of reduction without replacement. Republicans have been focused on the destruction of the old liberal order, but unfortunately, not so keen on replacing it with something that aids them. They toss offhand references to charity out, but don’t really organize the substitute in earnest.

This is not merely about changing a society, it’s about altering its Paradigm, and not having people resent that so much they go back.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2008 1:38 PM
Comment #247194

jlw-
I would think it doesn’t encourage or discourage people to vote.

As for everything else, I have no idea. I’d say it’s not had much of any effect to be honest, because before a few weeks ago, I’m not certain many people knew it even existed.

One thing for sure, though, the odd nature of our system is surely going to attract political curiosity, if only to snuff it out of existence! The silver lining in this long, drawn out primary campaign for the Democrats is that it’s encouraging a ton of turnout, and probably helping to cast a light on these wierd, insider friendly party practices.

Attention and vigilance, I think, are critical elements of Liberal politics. Though no party is immune to the depredations of inattention, Liberals have to pay special attention to what happens in Washington if we want to maintain credibility, and serve our political philosophy best.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2008 2:45 PM
Comment #247218

jlw-

So an agency like FEMA only performs when a Democrat is in the Whitehouse? Better, how about only Cat 4’s and terrorist attacks hit Republicans (Hugo, Andrew, Katrina, and 9/11) so vote Democrat….

Wiki on Hurricane Floyd 1999 Clinton-Witt-Star Performance (only a Cat 2 storm)

Flooding in Greenville, North Carolina on the Tar RiverThe Hurricane Floyd disaster was followed by what many judged to be a very slow federal response. Fully three weeks after the storm hit, Jesse Jackson complained to FEMA Director James Lee Witt on his CNN program Both Sides Now, “It seemed there was preparation for Hurricane Floyd, but then came Flood Floyd. Bridges are overwhelmed, levees are overwhelmed, whole towns under water … [it’s] an awesome scene of tragedy. So there’s a great misery index in North Carolina.” Witt responded, “We’re starting to move the camper trailers in. It’s been so wet it’s been difficult to get things in there, but now it’s going to be moving very quickly. And I think you’re going to see a — I think the people there will see a big difference [within] this next weekend!”[31]

The point is FEMA has never had a reputation as a great performer


Posted by: George in SC at March 6, 2008 5:16 PM
Comment #247226

Actually, it’s reputation did improve during the Clinton years. But nobody bats a thousand. At least they were willing to admit something was wanting straight off, rather than blame it on Big Government problems.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2008 6:08 PM
Comment #248810

Probably too late to matter to anyone, but it is a shame that this thread had to denigrate to arguments over FEMA.

That which was written above the last paragraph of comment #247175 was just beautiful. The debate was polite, well-intended, and incredibly well-written on all sides. It was a nice change of events from the usual point scoring method usually employed here. I was truly better off for having read it.

Stephen, I highly encourage you to take your comments from #247114 and expand them in a future post. Lee your’s from #247135 would also be great. If you guys would be up for it, I suggest a collaboration. There really is no time like an election year that we need such thoughtful writing to remind us of what we all hold dear and that more often that not we are debating how not what we want for this country.

Bravo to you all.

Posted by: Rob at March 21, 2008 5:28 PM
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