Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Kingfisher in Yelm

Early in the campaign, the leader of the Democratic district in and around Yelm called me midweek and asked me if I wanted to come speak to the caucus meeting on Saturday. This was one of my first invitations to speak at a political meeting, and I immediately said yes.

He said, "We should have about 800 people there, and last time we might have had 85 people show up." I knew what he was referring to because my wife and I went to our caucus meeting the week before, and we were glad to get there before it was too crowded to get in the door. There was a certain energy this Spring that made me glad I decided to participate in this election season.

Yelm is on a flank of Mt. Rainier, southeast of Olympia, southwest of Tacoma, and very far away from the very liberal neighborhoods of Seattle. It is rural, hard by the Nisqually Indian Reservation, and growing rapidly with families who are happy to find an affordable place to live. The caucus meeting was in the junior high school gymnasium.

I got there on time, found a table for my flyers, and set out to introduce myself to these Democrats. I checked in with the man who invited me and he said I'd get a few minutes to say something when they got started.

Five candidates were there that morning, four who were running for local legislative seats and me, the only judicial candidate. Everybody I met said they'd never seen a candidate for the Supreme Court before.

After the meeting was called to order and the formalities completed, the candidates were called up to say something. The first three legislative candidates gave what I would call a typical, boring, long winded candidate's speech and each of them received tepid, polite applause, at best. This was one of my first campaign speeches and it was by far the largest audience I had ever spoken to -- the gym was full to the rafters. So I planned to keep it short and simple.

After I was introduced, I said a few things about who I was, what I was running for, where I went to school and where I had been working. And then I said, "I want to leave you with this, the most important role of the courts is to protect the people from the power of government."

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, over 800 people erupted in a roar of approval that nearly blew me off the stage. And all the way back to my table at the back of the gym, folks clamored after my flyers, my handshake and a chance to pat me on the back. It was a very remarkable experience.

And to think -- these were Democrats.