June 09, 2008
Still two-stepping

Among other things done at the convention, Texas Democrats decided to keep the prima-caucus system for the time being.

The state Democratic convention ended Saturday with no decision about whether to abandon the "Texas two-step" system of awarding most nominating delegates according to the primary's popular vote and almost the entire remainder according to party caucuses after the voting ends. The system, often chaotic and heated at the precinct and district levels, allowed Barack Obama to edge Hillary Rodham Clinton in the contest for Texas delegates even though Clinton won the popular vote on March 4.

There was no lack of debate Saturday about whether to trip up the one-of-a-kind two-step. But the convention essentially delayed a decision until 2010 or later.

In an effort to avoid a convention fight over changing the system, party Chairman Boyd Richie named a special committee headed by state Sen. Royce West, an Obama supporter from Dallas, to report any needed changes to the state convention in two years.

West said avoiding the fight this year is an important part of healing the party for a unified front for Obama in the fight against presumptive Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain in November.

"There's strong feelings all over the place about this issue," West said. "The issue is a visceral, divisive issue that would not be appropriate to take up at this convention."


Some said the caucus system brings neighbors together after the polls close and embodies the spirit of grass-roots democracy.

"It's good for democracy. Keep momentum going," said Irma Gutierrez of San Antonio. "We need to simplify things, but I really don't know what the answer is.

"I loved seeing the little grandmother, along with the 18-year-old voting for the first time, coming to the caucus and taking an active participation in being involved," she added.

But David Ross, a Houston precinct chairman, said he had deep misgivings about caucuses, even though the one he conducted went smoothly. He said some voters may leave a caucus demoralized about their candidate winning the popular vote but losing delegate strength after the statewide election ends.

"It's difficult to describe and explain the process to my wife, who comes from another country," he said. "As far as the justification goes, I admit it's half-hearted."

I lean more towards keeping the current system than scrapping it. The argument about it being chaotic is unlikely to be as resonant in future years where the Presidential primary is less competitive, and besides, logistical issues can be managed. The method of allocating delegates based on previous general election results in each Senatorial district can certainly be tweaked, and I'm sure there are other opportunities for improvement, but I found the process to be a positive one, and I think it does foster participation. So I'm happy to see it kept around for now.

For a more full-throated defense of the system, see this Observer piece by Susan DuQuesnay Bankston, a/k/a Juanita.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 09, 2008 to Show Business for Ugly People

Looks like my comments in support of the present system with modifications were cut from this Chron article. At the first meeting of the TDP committee examining this issue the reporter came up after my statements in support of the caucus to double-check my name and city.

Posted by: gary d on June 9, 2008 9:26 AM

Originally I didn't really like the idea (once I "discovered" it this primary season), but after participating and seeing the enthusiasm it generated, I'm in favor of keeping it as is. I can't think of another way that brings Democrats and progressive together in such a fashion, and bringing folks together is a good thing.

Posted by: DP on June 9, 2008 1:50 PM