Yesterday I participated in the Democratic caucuses in central Maine. I am nearly 50, and I've never seen anything like it. The turnout was amazing - four little towns in the same small community center, with over 200 people attending. In 2004 the total number might have been 40. But that's not the interesting part.
When our little town split off for our individual caucus, I realized much of what you have been saying about Obama being a game changer is true.
*Bold highlights by me.
There were 30 of us, with about 10 for Hillary and 20 for Obama (27 when absentee ballots were counted). Four of the Obama voters spoke up - there were all independents who had switched their registrations to Democratic so that they could participate. And this on a snowy day. In 2004, we had only 8 people caucus in our town, so in a typical year, that would have been half of the draw.
The most poignant words came from one of the independents, a clean-cut career military guy in his 40s who said he had always voted a straight Republican ticket, and was devastated at what has happened to the military in the last seven years. He said early in his career his was treated like royalty overseas; just last year he was spit on twice.
The most heated moment came late in the process, when an elderly gentleman for Hillary said, "I want everyone here to make a pledge, and I'm talking to all you Obama supporters. I want you to pledge that you will be loyal Democrats, and vote for Hillary if she gets the nomination." The 4 (former) independents all said flat-out if it was Clinton vs. McCain, they would be voting for McCain. One Obama supporter said, "I'm an American first, not a Democrat, and I will make no such pledge." The rest of us Obama supporters were quiet because we didn't want to offend our neighbors, but I did a quick poll of 4 around me as we were leaving, and their position is the same as mine - we are not voting for Hillary for president under any circumstances.
I have voted for the Democratic candidate in every election since I was eligible to vote first in 1980, and sometimes I had to hold my nose. But no more - I simply won't vote for someone I know will be a poor president, and bring so much baggage to boot. My key issues are education and health care - Hillary started the debacle of more and more testing and federal intervention in schools, bringing the dubious Arkansas programs she championed with her when Bill was elected. She set health care reform back a generation. We all have our reasons for opposing her, and there are plenty of them. I think many people who have claimed blind loyalty to the Republican or Democratic parties have seen what acting like sheep has gotten us, and we're done with it. If it's Clinton and McCain, we'll still be voting for the other offices on the ballot, but the presidential one will remain blank.
Many of us Obama supporters are a strong anti-Hillary vote, more than a pro-Obama vote like you. And that's why it's such a pleasant surprise as we get to know him, see what he is building, and start to believe.
I think the Clinton supporters had to be struck as everyone was by the numbers, and the new people. The kid elected chair of our caucus was 20, figuring out the delegate split with the calculator on his cell phone. The average age of our caucus attendees is usually 50+ - we've never had college-age kids show up in the time I've been involved.
Just imagine this same scene played out in thousands of little towns across the country, as independents, life-long Republicans, and kids show up to Democratic caucuses. Game changer indeed.