The League of Young Voters

I survived the 8 hour Democratic Caucus of 2008… by Jenna Vendil
February 11, 2008, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Everyone’s been talking about hope lately.

I’ve been trying to find it for myself. With expected 8 inches of snowfall, long lines to register for the caucus that spanned several city blocks, and for a few folks who entered into caucus, officials telling you to vote absentee because there wasn’t enough room for everyone to caucus–I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with hope. Let’s provide some context: this city is so small that we’re really not used to waiting for anything except shopping lines at the supermarket. But thousands of people turned out to the Portland Democratic Caucus this past Sunday, with an inspiring amount of young people, as well as many immigrants and people of color turning out to vote. While the event was suppose to start at 4pm at Portland High School, we didn’t even finish registration until the last person in line came through after 7pm. For many caucus attendees, it was probably enough to kill the spirit.

But it wasn’t. As Massachusettes Governor Deval Patrick said after giving us a speech in the gymnasium, “there’s a lot of energy here.”

For everyone’s exhaustion, impatience, and confusion, there was enough hope and even more importantly, a sense of urgency that somehow we’re a part of something bigger. We’ve been told that this will be the most important election in our lifetime and yesterday demonstrates how we’re listening loud and clear. For many of the young people present, it was their first time participating in a caucus.

Within my ward and precinct caucus, folks were showing amazing solidarity by sharing food, offering rides to caucusers who were stranded because the nearby parking garage closed early on Sundays, and calling their friends to find out and letting everyone know the rest of the state’s results. In short, I haven’t felt the same kind of “we’re in this together” feeling since the anti-war protests in 2004. We knew that if we started the caucus process even when there were still people downstairs registering, we would be disenfranchising their votes.

I stuck around an extra hour after the delegate amounts were assigned for Obama and Clinton, in order to help vote on delegates to the State Convention in May. On a whim, I decided to run for a delegate because it would be an amazing chance to learn more about Maine’s political process. In addition, there were only three people of color left in the room who wanted to be delegates to represent one of Portland’s ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods. Besides, after surviving the eight hour caucus, what better way to wrap up the night than to represent your hood at the state level?

Rarely do I like to jump onto candidate bandwagons often because I don’t find many candidates that reflect similar values or strategies nor inspires me to throw myself into their campaign. And while I had favored other presidential candidates before jumping onto the Obama train, a big part of what has changed my perspective has been how Obama’s campaign mobilized and inspired many youth and people of color not just nationally, but here in Maine too. Barack Obama has been someone that has inspired many of my friends–both political and apolitical alike… He’s the reason why my sister, who will turn 25 in March, felt inspired and motivated to actually register and vote in the 2008 California primary for the first time in her life. And even despite my critiques of Obama, I still stand by him because he’s able to harness real power: to inspire and empower people not just to believe in the candidate or even the movement, to but believe in yourself to be an agent of change.


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