Friday, June 22, 2007

Nebraska Democrats Prepare for 2008 Presidential Caucus

by Kyle Michaelis
I've stayed almost absurdly quiet about the Nebraska Democratic Party's attempt to see that Nebraska Democrats might have a real say in who their party's 2008 Presidential nominee will be for the first time in more than three decades.

Right now, Nebraska Democrats' plan is to hold their first ever statewide Presidential Caucus on Saturday, February 9th - which would make it the first contest after the huge February 5th SUPER DUPER TUESDAY that looks likely to host more than 20 states' primary elections.

The presidential nominating process has simply become so screwy that it's really hard to pin down whether this is likely to prove a good or a bad idea. There is definitely potential for the idea to be remarkably sucessful and worthwhile, but there are also plenty of dangers considering that it will require statewide organizing that isn't currently in place without any outside funding or taxpayer assistance. And, of course, there's no guarantee of relevance since a) we're in a state with very little potential to vote for a Democratic President in 2008 and b) there's a very real chance the nomination could already be decided before February 9th rolls around.

In response to this latter concern, Thursday's Omaha World-Herald reports on an amended proposal that will be considered by NDP leadership this weekend:
Nebraska Democrats may join the throng rushing to hold presidential contests on so-called Super Duper Tuesday in February.

The party, which plans to hold its first-ever presidential caucuses next year, will discuss Saturday whether to move the date of the caucuses up four days to coincide with Super Duper Tuesday.

Currently, the Nebraska Democratic Party plans to hold a Feb. 9 caucus. Some in the party and some presidential campaigns would prefer that Nebraska join more than 20 states holding primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5....

Earlier this year, the Nebraska Democrats agreed to hold caucuses to try to lure presidential candidates into the state and attract some national attention.....

The Nebraska Republican Party does not plan to hold caucuses and will stick with its May primary to choose a nominee.

Nebraska Democrats will gather in homes, cafes and town halls to declare a presidential preference. Delegates are then chosen at the precinct level based on support for a presidential candidate.

[T]he party's caucuses already have generated interest from three presidential campaigns: former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
I'm going to be perfectly honest - Nebraska is never going to receive enough attention from candidates and the press to make this caucus worthwhile. Rather, what benefits are likely to result are those that fall quite naturally from just giving Nebraska Democrats a reason to get active and to give a damn.

The Nebraska Democratic Party has no doubt paid a price for the decades of disregard from its national counterpart and their 30 years of successive presidential campaigns. Although Nebraska's Democratic candidates have found most of their success in distinguishing themselves from the national party over those three-plus decades, our state's traditional Democratic voters have become increasingly disengaged - perhaps even politically alienated - as a result.

There is potential and promise in this Presidential caucus only because it might give those traditional Democrats a voice once again - not on CNN, not in the New York Times, but rather in their neighborhoods and in their daily lives.

The success of this caucus has nothing to do with how many campaign visits or campaign commercials Nebraskans see. Its success begins and ends with its ability to mobilize Democrats - getting them together, getting them involved, and getting them to believe that they can still make a difference right here in Nebraska. The hope is that, with this caucus, the people will find their voice and - in the ensuing months and years - the dream is that they will damn well learn to use it.

That's a tall order - with higher expectations than we have any right to in the Nebraska Democratic Party's first attempt at a project of this scale. At the end of the day, it's probably worthwhile to continue with the caucus just because Nebraska Democrats don't have much to lose. If they're a failure, our votes weren't going to count anyways, but at least we tried to do something different while Nebraska Republicans lazily sat back and let the rest of the country decide who'd be representing their party on the November 2008 ballot.

The caucus is a sign of life for Nebraska Democrats - proof that the party is willing to try new things to reach the people of Nebraska and to give them a voice in their own future. There are no guarantees of success - just the knowledge that we can't do a whole lot worse than our total voicelessness over the preceding three decades. For now, that has to be enough.

Tuesday, February 5th or Saturday, February 9th? Honestly, it probably doesn't matter much. It's going to be a craps-shoot either way, and we won't know which would have been the better date until after the fact.

Personally, I say just pick one. I'll be at my caucus regardless - even if I'm not yet sure for whom I'll be caucusing. If readers have any suggestions, consider this an open thread - except for you Nebraska Republicans who aren't going to have any say at all.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Alias Al said...

Kyle, I think that you are missing the point. Why is Iowa so important??? It only has 47ish delegates to offer, and New Hampshire is not rich in delegates either. The reason is that voters see that a particular candidate has won, and that particular candidate gets some momentum. One just has to look at the 2004 Dem primary/caucuse turnouts to see this in action. But, if you look at the 2000 GOP primary, Bush and McCain were ducking it out back and forth. If not for some dirty tactics by the Bush followers, McCain could have won in South Carolina, and the primary season would have gone on.

The "Super Duper Tuesday" is going to take a lot of money and stategic planning. We could have case where each of the major three (more likely two) split on the major states, Nebraska could be a cheap, momentum swing to the next "less the spectacular" Tuesday. Campaigns have already acknowledged that they are going to campaign less in some and more in others. This could be the opportunity Nebraska needs to at least some say. Our May primary has 1% chance of having any say in who our candidate will be for President.

Or I could be just pissing up wind.

6/22/2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion this radical ideal of a caucus gives me hope that Nebraskans will start looking at political issues with a more "awareness" over tone, so to speak. Like you said Kyle, Feb 9th is our chance to voice what we believe in. Nebraskan's don't really do that in general and in fact many Nebraskan's don't believe that their voice should be heard because someone else is doing the talking. Well not this Nebraskan here! No one speaks for me except me. What is more tragic is that even the outspoken citizens of this state are ostracized from our fellow Nebraskans because our words supposedly threatens their notion of Patriotism. I think it is patriotic to question authority. I think it's patriotic to wonder "Could this be done differently and if so better?" Republicans don't think like that, they perfer status quo because the status quo gives them comfort, while I see complacency in their actions. I applaud the Nebraska Democratic Party for doing the caucus. It's not going to be the dream ideal it should be but it's certainly a fresh start and begining for something grand. I can't wait for Feb 9th! It will be like Christmas and my birthday for me but all in one day.

Luke Peterson

6/22/2007  
Anonymous JFinNE said...

Caucus' in Nebraska are a Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained proposition. Feb.,'08 probably won't have the turn out we would like, but momentum usually begins slowly.

6/23/2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So today, we say with one voice, give us the child who wants to learn, give us the people in need of work, give us the veterans who need our care," she said as her husband, former president Bill Clinton, looked on beaming.
I loved this.... please keep it going Nebraska democrats....we will all be beaming at you then for sure...thanks get the vote out for Hillary...please

2/06/2008  

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