05 February 2008

Caucuses and Shame

I went to my precinct caucus tonight, resolution for single-payer in hand.

I walked away pondering how we can use people's unwillingness to be seen as uncaring to our advantage.

The caucus took place in the cafeteria of my old high school in southeast suburban Denver. Back then, I attended on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday. Honestly. I never would have gotten that diploma had I faced the attendance requirements my children faced. Back when I was in school the administration had the option of graduating kids just to get 'em out.

Tonight a crunchy, dry snow covered the roads -- enough to provide a good excuse to anyone who hadn't really wanted to go. We got there about a quarter til, and the parking lots were already filled. It's a suburban school, so there are plenty of parking lots.

There were about 10 precincts, 600 - 700 people in the cafeteria. It was hot, crowded and noisy. At 40, we were one of the smaller precincts. I passed out copies of the resolution to the various tables, explaining that we'd be voting on it later.

We moved through the straw polling, delegate selection and other business, and some of the people melted away. I've been sick but did my best to shout out why we were pushing this resolution -- the only one considered by this somewhat apolitical crowd. I explained that single-payer was already part of the state platform, but not explicitly. I read the HCAC resolution --
"The current health care system in the United States has reached crisis point. The fragmented, administratively wasteful model of commercial health care costs and bureaucratic nightmares for health care providers, patients and employers. Therefore, as a matter of basic economics and the common good, the Denver County Party supports guaranteed, quality, affordable health care for all through a single-payer financed system..."
And so on. We voted -- first for it, then against.

No one raised their hand against it. No one.

But afterwards I learned that someone had muttered, "Right, and who'll pay for it?"

But they didn't openly vote against it.

What if it had been a curtained booth, though? How often do we vote against the common good when there's a curtain there? I did it once. I'm usually a reliable vote for increased taxes when it's for the cause of civilization, but on that election day, for some reason, I was feeling churlish. I still remember it. I wouldn't have done it if it had been visible. It felt like I'd slipped a five out of the church offering instead of putting one in. Or lit a bank of candles without giving an offering.

The trick is, once that curtain is pulled behind you, it's just between you and God -- or you and the thought of your grandchildren's future. What kind of country will we leave them?

Of course, fortunately, single-payer actually means it's less expensive. So it's a fairly easy concern to allay, if a person actually looks into it. But there will always be the folks who don't get the message. And aren't they the same people most tempted when the curtain's closed?

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