I’m a "just do it" kind of person. As I walked in to the Nevada Republican caucus today I had not even considered being a delegate but when they asked for volunteers I volunteered!
I am a registered Republican and today was the day for Nevada voters in each party to begin the process of choosing our candidates for the Presidential election next November. I have scrupulously avoided the subject of politics in this blog but today will be different. I enjoy new experiences and today was a new experience. I will talk more about the experience and what it was like to caucus than about the candidates and my political beliefs. Nevada has never held caucuses and I have never caucused before. So everything about today was new.
The Republican caucus was at 9am. My precinct was meeting at McQueen High School. When I arrived at 8:45 the parking lot was almost full. There was a long line of people waiting to go in.
After we had waited about 15 minutes someone came along and said we didn’t need to wait in line if we knew our precinct number and if our precinct number was above 5000 you should go to the cafeteria. I’m in precinct 5046 so off I went to the cafeteria.
The cafeteria was packed. There must have been at least 30 precincts meeting in the cafeteria. Each precinct had a piece of paper with the precinct number on it on a cafeteria table or being held up by someone.
It was total chaos. We were packed in, you couldn’t hear yourself think and it was getting hotter by the minute. As I stood near the precinct 5046 table I chatted a bit with a few of the people I know from Sierra Canyon. It sure seemed like the party didn’t expect as many people to turn out as did.
Finally a lady in red sweater stood up on a chair and started our precinct 5046 caucus. Of course the same thing was happening for every other precinct in the room and no one could hear anything. I heard someone say "this is ridiculous. I’m leaving". The lady on the chair shouted that she was the temporary chairperson and we needed to elect a permanent precinct chairperson. I didn’t catch the name of the man who volunteered. It might have been Jim so that’s what I’ll call him. It was too loud to hear much. The lady asked for a show of hands to elect him. Everyone around our table raised their hands.
Jim said that the next things we needed to do was to elect 15 delegates to the county Republican convention for our precinct and then elect alternate delegates. He also said that the delegates would not be committed to vote for who we voted for so they should be people whose politics we agreed with. They asked for volunteers and I decided what the heck I’d put my name in. The woman in the red sweater wrote all the names down on a little piece of paper.
Eventually Jim said they had 15 names and asked for a show of hands to elect the 15 delegates. We then did the same thing to elect the alternates. At this point I was pretty disgusted and appalled at what a disorganized chaotic process this was. I heard several people say that we should go back to primary elections. A lady near me said that contrary to what Jim had said earlier the delegates are committed to vote for the candidate that wins the precinct voting.
Someone suggested we should move outside and Jim announced that we were all going out into the courtyard.
Things got much better from this point on. I would estimate that there were 200 of us there from Precinct 5046. Jim stood on a bench and I could finally hear what he was saying. Each of the delegates and alternates who were elected inside had to fill out a formal county delegate form.
Jim then asked for a volunteer to speak for each candidate. As Jim called out each of the candidate’s name someone volunteered to speak for the candidate. But when he came to Huckabee not one of the 200 or so Republicans there offered to speak for him. It was amazing and interesting. There was someone for Duncan Hunter, someone for Ron Paul, someone for Fred Thompson but not one person for Huckabee.
Each person spoke for their candidate for about a minute. It was obvious that some candidates had better organizations than others and had given their speaker some preparation about what to say. The Romney speaker was compelling and convincing. His final words were "I believe in Mitt." Joanne, a friend from Sierra Canyon spoke passionately for Ron Paul who she called a modern day Thomas Jefferson.
The woman who spoke for Rudy Giuliani seemed to be doing it because no one else volunteered but she was articulate and did a good job. The Duncan Hunter speaker said that he met Duncan Hunter yesterday and he was impressed with him. I thought the best speaker was the gentleman for John McCain. He said he had been a U.S. citizen for 5 years and that he was born and raised in Lebanon. He said that he doesn’t agree with all that McCain stands for but he has studied all the candidates and he is convinced that McCain is the best. He made several good points but the bottom line was that he believes McCain is the only one who can beat Clinton or Obama and that McCain will make the best Commander and Chief.
Jim asked again if anyone wanted to speak for Huckabee. No one volunteered so they handed out yellow paper ballots and asked us to vote for a candidate, fold the papers in half and hand them in. They had to get more ballots because there weren’t enough for our large group. I voted and left.
I have always loved voting. It makes me feel like I am a part of our democracy, like I am making a difference. But this experience was so much better. It made me feel more a part of the political process than I ever have before. It was so much fun. I loved it. I don’t even know when the county convention is or how it works but I will learn and I am very excited about being a part of the process.
If you would like to see all my pictures from the Caucus you can see them on Flickr here.