Apples and Oranges, Caucusing
Before heading off to Heaven, my grandfather told me to do three things:
1. Buy American
2. Buy Union
3. Vote Democrat
As such, when I turned 18, I registered Democrat. Soon thereafter, of course, I started being the Bobby to his Hank Hill (and I’m sure that if we could harness the power from his spinning in his grave, we could move the Luxor to Detroit and keep the sky beam on all night). I never un-registered though.
As such, come 2008, I found myself wondering “huh… should I caucus?” and was pleased to discover Mike Gravel.
So I figured that, yes, I should. I figured out what district I lived in, figured out where this district caucused, and then wandered down to the high school and sat in the room on the appropriate Tuesday Night. The rules, at that time, were that any group caucusing for a candidate that had less than 15% of the caucusers was then broken up and redistributed, smallest first and then everybody counted again. I was, like, the third person there and I thought “Huh, cool. If only 3 more people show up, I won’t have to convince someone else to join me!” When #7 showed, up, I thought that I’d only have to convince one. At #13, I thought that this would be tougher than I thought. By the time we started caucusing, we had 35 people in the room.
My group was broken up first.
That night, it was Hillary 17, Obama 18. I was not the swing vote.
So, tonight, my main thoughts were about how many people were likely to be there, whether I’d recognize anybody, whether I’d get a good story out of it… that sort of thing. The first thing I noticed is that we were no longer in classrooms. We were all in the cafeteria. It was a mass of humanity and I don’t know whether the cafeteria had that many people in it during lunchtime earlier in the day. Standing room only, everybody talking over everybody else, it felt a lot more exciting than back in 2008 as well. Back in 2008, I was one of the youngest people in the room. This time, I was the very middlest. Tons of boomers, tons of young people.
I stood in line to sign my name on the paper and get my nametag (which had to be torn in half because they thought that they would run out!), and the line wrapped around the room for my district. There were more people in line than caucused last time!
We opened with the Pledge of Allegiance to a sign on the wall that had a flag on it, hammered out that the sound system did *NOT*, in fact, work, then yelled the rules of the caucus to a cafeteria full of people (we didn’t do the “human microphone” thing, though), and then we had Mike Merrifield give a speech about how hard it was to be a Democrat in Colorado Springs and how exciting it was to be a Democrat in Colorado Springs. That was quickly followed by Pete Lee giving a speech about how tonight might be a disappointment for many of us but he warned us that we had to stay engaged because if we were disappointed tonight and then shrugged and gave up, then we’d *REALLY* be disappointed in November… and then we all split off into our own precinct group. There were six in total.
Now, as I said, back in 2008, my group was 35 people. Tonight? My group more than doubled that! Hrm, I thought. Maybe something is going on here… We split off into Hillary or Bernie or Undecided groups and when Undecided turned out to be in the single digits, we broke them up and reshuffled and recounted.
The numbers for the night ended up being:
Hillary 18 (2 delegates)
Bernie 28 (4 delegates)
Hillary 35 (2 delegates)
Bernie 80 (4 delegates)
Hillary 23 (2 delegates)
Bernie 68 (4 delegates)
Hillary 39 (2 delegates)
Bernie 62 (4 delegates)
Hillary 10 (2 delegates)
Bernie 16 (3 delegates)
Hillary 7 (0 delegates)
Bernie 41 (5 delegates)
Holy cow! Look at that! Hillary got 10 delegates to Bernie’s 24! As I wandered around the floor after the caucus collecting these numbers and smiling and nodding to the people I recognized from around town, I made small talk with some of the caucus “leadership” and mentioned that this was a lot more energetic and had a lot more people than 2008 and there were a *LOT* of new faces. (I don’t intend “leadership” to be derogatory… they were more giving off the vibe of anarcho-socialists who were trying to facilitate a bunch of caucus newbies through a confusing process than a bunch of folks telling us what we needed to do.)
The lady I was talking to sighed and said, “Yeah, there aren’t as many people here this year.”
I’m sure I looked confused, because she said, “We consolidated a lot of districts for budgetary reasons. We’ve got bigger districts, but a lot fewer of them.”
“So I’m comparing apples to oranges?”
So I really can’t reach any conclusions when I compare tonight to 2008. There was a lot more people in the room I was in and the cacophony created a sense of excitement… but that was, apparently, somewhat illusory. The caucus itself had fewer people who showed up.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the Republican “Leadership” cancelled the straw poll portion of the caucus in order to keep the delegates from being bound to the winner, whomever it may be. They cancelled it unanimously.
So what’s left is to try to figure out what’s going on based on my little group and extrapolate out from there. Colorado Springs is really, really conservative. It makes it easier to be really, really liberal because, hey, in for a penny, in for a pound. You’re going to be called a pinko if you go for the center-left person so why not actually *EARN* the title! Heck yes! Feel the Bern! (This also seems to be a shift away from the 50/50 idealistic/pragmatic split that we had going on back in 2008… but I didn’t get all the numbers for all the districts back then. Just mine and I only got those because I remembered that there was a swing vote and it wasn’t mine.)
Also, back in 2008, I had a friend who went to the Republican Caucus and he and I compared notes the next day and we hammered out that his was dull and rote and resigned while mine was fun and excited and energetic. He’s since moved and I have no idea what the Republican Caucus was like tonight… except that the cancellation of the straw poll has probably done a spectacular job of alienating the crap out of every single person who wanted to show up for their guy, whomever it is, tonight.
And, of course, that this election season is weird and there’s a lot of noise and the party leadership on both sides seems to be flailing against a tide it doesn’t understand.
Heaven help us all.