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Seattle Times Political Caucus

The Seattle Times Political Caucus is an online community aimed at adding diverse voices to our coverage of politics. How we'll use the Caucus will evolve over time. But the idea is to create a conversation with people of various backgrounds and political beliefs. As the election season unfolds, we'll ask participants to weigh in on key political questions and then post their comments here.

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August 29, 2008 12:20 PM

A thumbs up for McCain's VP pick

Posted by Richard Wagoner


This post is by Brendan Woodward of Woodinville, who is an alternate delegate from Washington state to the Republican National Convention. He's been interested in politics since high school and worked on former Congressman George Nethercutt's U.S. Senate campaign in 2004.

By Brendan Woodward

A fellow conservative activist e-mailed me this morning and says that "To know Sarah Palin (John McCain's choice for vice president) is to love her as a candidate, a public servant, and an American - this is change that works!" Also she hunts, rides a snowmobile and is easy on the eyes. What more could a Republican delegate want on his way to the Republican Convention?

They say that all roads lead to Rome, but in Alaska few roads lead anywhere. Certainly, none lead out of Juneau (it's true, check it out on Google maps). Yet perhaps a new trail is being blazed by a woman who has proved herself to be a competent executive and maverick American mother.

As America gets to know Sarah Palin over the next week, I expect the refrain of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to echo throughout Republican Convention parties: Babies, guns and Jesus, hot damn!

Sarah Palin is change that I believe in. She is a reformer who stands against earmarks and corruption. She is a conservative who believes in life and traditional marriage. She is an executive with experience managing the interests of an entire state. And she is not just another D.C. good old boy. She is the change that we need, and I have hope that the Republican Convention will make history of Denver.

Brendan Woodward became politically active during high school as a volunteer with the John Carlson Campaign for governor and later was a staffer on George Nethercutt's run for the U.S. Senate. Woodward attended Wheaton College and started a home business selling carbon offset credits and consulting for organizations interested in fighting climate change. He said he's excited about John McCain's free thinking brand of politics that promises to protect American families, economy and national security.


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August 28, 2008 3:23 PM

Commemorating women in politics

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Carey Christensen of Stanwood, who is volunteering at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Christensen is a member of The Seattle Times Political Caucus. She'll file occasional dispatches about her experiences at the convention.

By Carey Christensen

Although I am an Obama supporter, as a woman, it was easy to feel the poignancy of the Emily's List event celebrating the 88th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Gathered to commemorate the strength of Democratic women in politics, we were again praising another man at the top of the ticket. It had been oh, so close!

Hillary Clinton was the top draw at the Sheraton Hotel Ballroom; she spoke early and eloquently in the line up, in order to accommodate her busy schedule. She took many of the thousands in the crowd with her when she left, obviously some not interested in the rest of the speakers, who included Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama.

A surprise treat was the unscheduled appearance of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, who was tapped as a last minute speaker when the originally slated governor could not attend. Gov. Gregoire was given the choice responsibility of introducing Michelle Obama, which she did with a forceful endorsement of the Obama/Biden ticket that was fortified by her early support for Obama, including their joint appearance at the Key Arena in Seattle in February. She was able to tell the crowd that she and Michelle had already formed a close working relationship based partly on Michelle's fundraising efforts for her in the state, a relationship that Mrs. Obama emphasized in her own remarks.

Another Washington state point of pride was the appearance of Darcy Burner's picture and bio on the revolving big screen slide show of "Rising Stars" that played repeatedly before the event began. Supported by Emily's List, Darcy is hopeful of unseating Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th District.

My daughter, Elizabeth, and I then took in the general scene along Denver's 16th Street Mall, filled with convention goers and locals alike. Protesters were easy to find, usually attended by a squad of police officers and an audience that treated everything more like a circus sideshow than a political event.

Regarding security: I heard reporters interviewed on Denver radio yesterday say that the security was tighter for the convention than it had been for the Olympics in Beijing. This is easy to believe, as law enforcement is ubiquitous, including bicycle, horse, and motorcycle mounted squads, foot patrols, roving SWAT teams, and rooftop riflemen. It makes you wonder what can’t be seen!

My next report will be after Obama's speech at Invesco Stadium. Hope it lives up to the hype.

Carey Christensen, 50, has worked on several political campaigns and has served six years as the Washington state representative for the Parkinson's Action Network, traveling yearly to Washington, D.C., to learn and lobby. "I grew up a Republican, and cast my first vote for Gerald Ford in 1976, then for Reagan in 1980. That was the last time I pulled the lever for a Republican."

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August 27, 2008 11:21 AM

Sunburned and weary, a DNC volunteer relishes her work

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Carey Christensen of Stanwood, who is volunteering at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Christensen is a member of The Seattle Times Political Caucus. She'll file occasional dispatches about her experiences at the convention.

By Carey Christensen

This morning in Denver I find myself bloodied, burned, sore and weary, and I wasn't anywhere near a protest. The blisters and sunburn are courtesy of 10 hours on my feet under the blazing Denver sun on behalf of the DNC Transportation Special Services team.

Yesterday I joined fellow volunteers and delegates on the downtown shuttle to the Pepsi Center, a 30-minute wait for a 15-minute, six-block ride that got us close enough to walk another six blocks to the perimeter entrance. The trek continued, through security (remove ALL those campaign buttons), around the CNN Grill, until we finally glimpsed our destination, the Pepsi Center. But, no, we kept going, past the arena and the media center until, thankfully, we arrived at Parking Lot F, our Special Services home. It was a journey that left everyone gasping and grasping for water and sandwiches as soon as we found the shade of the volunteer tent, not yet expending a minute doing anything resembling work.

Within minutes, transportation workers were whisked on golf carts to serve as greeters at all of the arena entrances. I was deposited at the one serving both delegates and media, and our group quickly coalesced into a cheerleading gauntlet, greeting everyone (including a bemused James Carville and Donna Brazile), with cheering, clapping, and a hearty "Welcome to Denver!" and "Obama (fist) bumps" were given to anyone sporting one of his buttons (there were lot's of Obama buttons). Outward displays of support for Hillary were less apparent. The DNC has made it clear that this is Obama's party, and those delegates who still support Hillary tend to speak in whispers.

As the convention began, we took a short break before getting a new assignment: parking the cars of the "electeds" - members of Congress and governors arriving for the primetime speeches. The VIP's were deposited at the arena entrance, carefully shielded by a white tent; their cars (mostly black SUV hybrids) were then deposited in our lot by their drivers. This is as close as I got to any politician: moving cars used by Madeline Albright, Walter Mondale and our own Patty Murray (her assigned volunteer driver "loved" Senator Murray, and thoroughly enjoyed ferrying her to many meetings during day). The Secret Service with Jimmy Carter's motorcade told us they would park anywhere they liked. We were chastised by the "parking professionals" not to let it happen again. Right. We'll let you tell that to the guy in the suit with the shades and the State Patrol posse.

The setting sun relieved the heat, the traffic subsided, and I was stuck in a parking lot between the glittering arena that held all of the excitement, and the tent holding off-duty volunteers and the big screen TV showing all of that excitement. Every once in a while I'd hear a big cheer, wonder who was speaking, and then return to asking arriving chauffeurs, "Lot F or Lot VF?"

No shuttle on the return trek home; I walked back to the light rail station at the Colorado Convention Center among throngs of celebrating Democrats. I crashed on the sofa at my parents' house, put up my aching feet, and settled in to catch the analysis and highlights of everything that had just happened a few feet from where I had been standing, but could not see or hear. Would I do it all again? Yep, later this week, toes bandaged and sunscreen in hand.

Carey Christensen, 50, has worked on several political campaigns and has served six years as the Washington state representative for the Parkinson's Action Network, traveling yearly to Washington, D.C., to learn and lobby. "I grew up a Republican, and cast my first vote for Gerald Ford in 1976, then for Reagan in 1980. That was the last time I pulled the lever for a Republican."

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August 26, 2008 3:14 PM

Conflicting vibrations in Denver

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Keith Houser of Bellevue, who is traveling to both Denver and St. Paul to "to observe history 'unembedded' and write about my experiences." Houser is a member of The Seattle Times Political Caucus.

By Keith Houser

When I arrived at Denver International Airport on Monday I was fueled by one hour of sleep and a thirst for information. I had approximately zero knowledge of the city I was entering and about the same level of experience with conventions of any sort. Stepping off the plane I immediately noticed about four young volunteers for the Democrats greeting newcomers to the city with welcome signs and cheery smiles. I grabbed a bottle of water from a store in the airport and glanced at the most prominent headline on the newspaper stand: "TO THE STREETS" was written in large type above a picture of angry protesters waving their fists at the camera. I'm not used to demonstrations generating much news coverage at all, regardless of the amount of people involved, but the paper had obligingly reassured its readers that their number was "much lower than expected."

Waiting for the bus I took in as much as I could. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the air was thick with a kind of bright heat that I'm not familiar with. The horizon was a perfect horizontal line, stretched for miles in all directions without so much as a tree to keep it varied. Lifeless dirt and yellow grass were the only details to a bleak landscape distinguished by its flat idleness. The people standing around my bench made eye contact with one another in a casual fashion Seattle should aspire to. Being several miles from the epicenter of this week's events I couldn't be too sure whether the mood I was reading was representative of the people of Denver or the kind of breed the Democratic National Convention attracts. Confident but politely subdued, the people around me were a mixed bag of young thoughtful metros and graying adults indifferently fiddling with their cell phones.

The airport loudspeakers informed me that the "terror level has been raised to orange," though the significance of this was lost on me as the "terror level" always seems to be above yellow and below red. I discarded the advice to be paranoid and climbed aboard the bus, taking a seat toward the back next to a geeky gentleman looking into a map of Denver. There certainly were a lot of nerds on the bus with me, though they were from a subgroup much more benign than our own khaki-clad computer industry drones, and marginally less socially awkward.

I was soon told by the nice dork to my right that there's a place near the convention center where over a hundred bloggers from across the country will be gathering to tap away at their keyboards throughout the week, for the hefty entrance price of a hundred dollars. It might be worth it to chat with politically minded folk who like to write, but I figured more good would come spending the same amount of money on beer with strangers. A man at the back of the bus loudly talked into his phone, proudly informing everyone there that "his carbon footprint would be zero" thanks to the bicycles provided to delegates for free. I was more impressed by the spectacle out the window, where neatly stacked bales of hay made a pathway from the road to the front of a large white tent. A big sign read "Road to the White House," though the fee charged by the enterprising lad who thought that one up was known only to himself and inquiring minds curious enough to pull over.

Once off the bus I noted the multitude of empty cafes and open parking spaces. Maybe the teams of police and security guards patrolling each block had persuaded consumers to avoid downtown. Or maybe Denver is always dead on Monday afternoons. Three bags in hand, I clumsily walked around the city center looking for a place to rest until a shaggy Greenpeace member made a stab at selling me something.

I tell him $15 a month is too steep a price for saving the planet. He persisted as I steadfastly denied him access to my bank account, almost buckling under the pressure of his sincerity. A loud convoy of unmarked SUVs and police cars whizzed by. We paused as it roared past us, himself mentioning how annoying it's been with the police escorting politicians around the past two days. I asked him if there had been any disruptive protests and he assured me that they commenced the day before and will be going on all week. "Earlier today some guy was yelling at 'homos' down the street with a megaphone," he added. Odd, the thought of a hippie activist on the same block as a deranged bigot, both preying on the same crowd for opposite reasons. He finally let me go under the sole condition that we bump fists in solidarity.

Nearby I found a restaurant with outdoor seating, and umbrellas to protect my pitiful Irish skin from the oppressive sun. I demanded beer at once and soon I was scribbling notes on my legal pad with the kind of zest that comes with cold drinks in an alien environment. A waitress comes over and asks what I'm writing. "My heart is in humor but my mind is in politics. This is an attempt at some kind of synthesis. I will be King one day." She informed me that she also writes, though "mostly foo-foo poetry." In an eager stream of consciousness she tells me that she's an avid Ron Paul supporter and wishes she could go to Minneapolis to see his Rally for the Republic counter-convention like I am and that the recycling bins on every corner are new as of this week as are the surveillance helicopters and that I should go to Pat's on 17th and Market tonight to go play beer pong and take advantage of $6 pitchers. Two drinks later she gave me her number and left me unsure how to proceed.

I met up with my gracious host soon after. Unwilling to spend money on lodging, I had found someone online willing to grant me the use of their couch for free. Once off her shift, we went to her house to drop off my things, and sped off for a late afternoon tour of the city. The waitress from earlier had told me that a group of protesters were going to gather at the Mint and try to levitate it off the ground and shake the coins out of it. Driving by I could see a thick row of bizarre young people in front of the building chanting "Peace, Justice, Freedom" in unison, directing their mantra to the old building itself. Heavily armed police on horseback watched in confusion as the grinning unwashed vainly tried to lift the structure.

Concluding our tour we headed back to the apartment where I collapsed from exhaustion on the couch. After a solid forty second nap I was awakened, springing to attention to head downtown for another whiff of history. The sun was setting, and with helicopters overhead we walked along at a rapid clip. There was a large crowd of pedestrians, perhaps 100 in all, being forcibly pushed down a street perpendicular to our own. Police in black riot gear were forcibly clearing the streets, and not a protester was in sight. We avoided being clubbed or trampled, though the fate of others closer to the hardened boots and clubs was visibly less fortuitous. Resentment rippled through the onlookers and dozens more riot police marched to reinforce their fellow cops.

"Wow. I've never seen that before," remarked my associate.

"What, fascism?" I asked incredulously.

"Well, actually when the Broncos won the Superbowl, there were riots, but not since then."

I imagined that a jubilant outbreak of property destruction would be quite a bit easier to pacify than an ideologically charged angry mob. Either would be more difficult than pushing people around who just happen to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. In keeping with the authoritarian aesthetic of the hour, storefront after storefront was crowded with police, particularly the Federal Reserve building and the nicer hotels and restaurants. Delegates wearing Obama T-shirts mingled with the locals, both migrating away from the turmoil a few blocks away.

We finally arrived at our intended location, and I took a seat at the bar. Lighting equipment with NBC logos printed on it had been set up in the other room, apparently for use later as they had been left unattended. The bartender had little use for the convention and had the TV set to sports. I scribbled down more notes until the guy sitting next to me decided to make conversation. He worked for a private security firm and was in town for business, also informing me that the police had been clearing the street I passed earlier to make a path for Michelle Obama, all the way from the Westin Hotel to the convention center.

The rest of the evening is something of a haze in my memory now. The locals were happy to talk with me, though as the night progressed their commentary became more slurred and tangential, shifting more from political conversation to base gossip with every passing hour until what was once thoughtful banter descended into the foggy realm of unconscious jabbering. From what I gathered, everyone seemed pleased that the convention was giving them something to talk about, whether they were Democrats, protesters, or hapless pedestrians shoved out of the way of our rulers. These days people hunger for controversy as much as inspiration, and so far the Democratic National Convention is providing all camps with at least one or the other.

Keith Houser, 26, describes himself as "a white suburban slacker from Bellevue with a knack for understanding belt-way intrigue and synthesizing global macro phenomena into a coherent world systems theory." He isn't affiliated with any political campaign.

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August 25, 2008 8:46 AM

A "white suburban slacker" takes on the DNC

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Keith Houser of Bellevue, who is traveling to both Denver and St. Paul to "to observe history 'unembedded' and write about my experiences." Houser is a member of The Seattle Times Political Caucus.

By Keith Houser
A quintessential Seattle evening bid me farewell as I prepared for today's journey to Denver. Gentle drizzle will undoubtedly give way to something alien, and with any luck, strange, upon my arrival. The Mile High City has come a long way since its days as a 19th century criminal backwater, an evolution Seattlites can appreciate looking back on their own history of transformation from soggy lumber town to shiny tech center.
Progressive change defines the history of both cities, and will be the theme of this week's Democratic National Convention. Early today I left to see how well it resonates with the people of Denver.

Conflicting vibrations can be felt emanating outward from Colorado. Glib pronouncements of pride and celebration are readily projected by the party faithful while draconian security measures quietly add a more ominous tone to what is supposed to be a purely festive occasion. As opponents of the city's makeshift concentration camp are calling it, the "Gitmo on the Platte" looms large for those of us who remember what happened 40 years ago in Chicago. As does the government "fusion center" set up to integrate surveillance activities in Denver between the Secret Service, U.S. Northern Command, the FBI, and state and local law enforcement. Public demonstrations will be confined to a predetermined area away from the convention center, surrounded by chain-link fence. I doubt the locals appreciate the militarization of their city but I'll have to check with them.

Just how democratic is the Democratic Party? They obviously fear the demos enough to keep them out of sight, lest they spoil the event by waving a sign at a delegate. Or reminding the starry-eyed party optimists that the Democrats in Congress have signed onto virtually everything Bush has ever asked for. War funding continues, as do post-9/11 police state institutions. It has been my contention for the past seven years that Democrats have been the willing collaborators of the Bush administration not only due to their innate cowardice and ideological similarity to the GOP, but also because they understand something that most of us don't: as the American people continue to suffer under the Bush-Democrat alliance, the Republican Party will take the blame, leaving the Democrats to reap the electoral benefits.

It has been in the interest of the Democratic Party to help Bush ruin America.

And Barack Obama's recent choice of Joe Biden as his running mate underscores this principle. Biden, champion of the Jim Crow War on Drugs (that aren't alcohol), eager supporter of the Iraq War from the very beginning, and supporter of the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill that made life harder for millions of debtors, exemplifies how committed to change Obama really is. That Biden will help Obama in northern Appalachia, make a great attack dog over the coming months, appeal to older voters, and protect the campaign from accusations that it is weak on experience and national security is beside the point. The choice of Biden demonstrates that Obama cares more about winning than governing. That is the fundamental problem with the Democratic Party today.

So as delegates descend on Denver, congratulating themselves between speeches in a four-day-long exaltation of empty rhetoric, I will abstain from embracing Barack Obama the way so many of my generation have already. He represents an improvement over a long line of fraudulent populists, and that might be reason enough to vote for him. But it isn't enough to replace my frustration with enthusiam.

Keith Houser, 26, describes himself as "a white suburban slacker from Bellevue with a knack for understanding belt-way intrigue and synthesizing global macro phenomena into a coherent world systems theory." He isn't affiliated with any political campaign.

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August 24, 2008 3:08 PM

A warm welcome to Denver

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Carey Christensen of Stanwood, who is volunteering at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Christensen is a member of The Seattle Times Political Caucus. She'll file occasional dispatches about her experiences at the convention.

By Carey Christensen
Airline passengers arriving in Denver Friday night were greeted by dozens of smiling volunteers in Broncos-orange T-shirts emblazoned with "DNCC Denver '08"; 12 hours later I was wearing one too, decked out in official gear for my tenure as a Transportation Special Services volunteer at the Democratic National Convention.

My daughter and I are in Denver for our annual summer vacation with my parents and extended family, timed this year to coincide with the Democrat's big meet-up. Elizabeth, a sophomore at the University of Washington, and I are the black sheep Dems in a large family of bedrock Republicans (a lot of love, a little understanding), and we're excited to soak up a week of progressive politics in the Mile High City.

Saturday morning I took Denver's efficient light rail train from suburban Littleton; 22 minutes and 11 miles later I was at the Colorado Convention Center, queuing up with hundreds of others to receive our volunteer assignments. I was given the orange shirt of the Transportation Division (yellow for Human Resources, green for Recycling, red for Access Control, etc), and joined my fellow workers for a rousing welcome and pep talk from Leah Daughtry, CEO of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Party strife was not evident in this group of partisans who whooped and cheered at the mention of the Obama-Biden ticket and the historic nature of this convention that will nominate the first African American contender for president of the United States.

My credential allows me access to the Pepsi Center security perimeter, but no further. I'll be working as general concierge, meeting, greeting and assisting delegates and media up to, but not through, the doors to the convention floor. Close, but not close enough - I'll still have to watch the proceedings on one of the televisions provided for volunteers.

This week I'll file reports from the Pepsi Center on Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday, the 88th anniversary of the women's right to vote, I'll be at the Emily's List event featuring Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Nancy Pelosi. On Thursday, Elizabeth and I will join the 75,000 filling Invesco Field for Barack Obama's acceptance speech.

In between I'll be taking in the sights and sounds of the convention at large, paying special attention to the nomination drama featuring the Clintons, Hillary's disgruntled followers, and signs of meaningful party unification. Can't wait!

Carey Christensen, 50, has worked on several political campaigns and has served six years as the Washington state representative for the Parkinson's Action Network, traveling yearly to Washington, D.C., to learn and lobby. "I grew up a Republican, and cast my first vote for Gerald Ford in 1976, then for Reagan in 1980. That was the last time I pulled the lever for a Republican."

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Recent entries

Aug 29, 08 - 12:20 PM
A thumbs up for McCain's VP pick

Aug 28, 08 - 03:23 PM
Commemorating women in politics

Aug 27, 08 - 11:21 AM
Sunburned and weary, a DNC volunteer relishes her work

Aug 26, 08 - 03:14 PM
Conflicting vibrations in Denver

Aug 25, 08 - 08:46 AM
A "white suburban slacker" takes on the DNC

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