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I believe that Bernie Sanders poses an existential danger to our Republic, so is it incumbent on me to do all that I can to stop him. To that end, after leaving work on Friday, I drove 250+ miles to Las Vegas. Once I arrived, I googled “Nevada Biden Office” and drove to the nearest office, arriving at 9:16 p.m. after they had finished their last class.
I spoke to the staffer asking how I could help. She gave me a crash course on how to be a “Precinct Captain.” I learned more about the byzantine nine-step caucus procedures that probably 99% of people who have not been in a caucus know about. It was mind-numbing. I was then given a bag with written instructions, a t-shirt with “Biden Precinct Captain” emblazoned on it inside an outline of Nevada, and a huge four-inch button with Joe’s smiling face and “Biden Precinct Captain” on it. Ah, the swag! I then went to Walmart to get a battery pack to supplement my iPhone. The first hotel I went to was sold out. I finally tumbled into bed just before 1 a.m. I set my alarm to get up at 5 a.m. given that I had a 6:45 a.m. meeting to go to.
I woke up at 4:58 a.m. Was I tired? Sure. But I was energized. I zoomed over to “The Strat” (formerly known as “The Stratosphere”) and went to their Starbucks to meet with other “out of town” team members. I was 15 minutes early. I followed the Jack Reacher maxim to never miss a chance to eat, so I got oatmeal and a Danish. (I was surprised to discover that unlike any other Starbucks I have ever gone to, this Starbucks charged for soymilk for my oatmeal. The server noted “I am on camera” as she apologized.)
We had a great crew of people, several from Arizona and California who had driven in and one man who had flown in from New York! Then we were sent off to another Biden Headquarters to receive more last-minute instructions. While there, I picked up more tee-shirts. Then I was off to Desert Oasis High School in Enterprise, Nevada. Since I was running early, I followed the Jack Reacher maxim and stopped at Denny’s to fuel up.
I got to Desert Oasis High School before 9:30 a.m. This was the time for the campaign staff to check-in. Since I was out of state, I was given an orange armband designating that I was an “observer” and could not talk once the caucus started. The Bernie campaign had the most volunteers, followed by Pete, Joe, Amy, Steyer, and Warren. All of the volunteers were respectful and friendly. The most common statement by a volunteer for Campaign A to a volunteer for Campaign B was to praise the strong points of the other candidate. (Note: I did not strike up any conversations with anyone from the Bernie campaign, as I have nothing positive to say about him.) At 10:00 a.m. the doors were opened to the voters. The place was packed. There were massive lines some 20 deep. But there was no complaining. Of note, some of the early voting sites had had waits of up to four hours, so this was seen as a better option. By far, the most popular person in the cavernous hallway was a member of the Nevada Assembly who was there to hand out free water bottles to her constituents. Smart lady.
I was given the list of people from my precinct who were “1’s” and “2’s” and was told to call them. I left voice-mail messages and a couple of messages with people who relay to the voters. I got two voters. One said that she had a family emergency and could not come. The other one, Valerie, said that that she would be seeing me at the Middle School. “Oh no, they have combined precincts, we will be at Desert Oasis High School.” “Thank you, dear, I would have gone to the middle school, and then would have gone home. How will I recognize you?” “I am a 67-year-old bald man.” “I will look forward to visiting with you.” More about Valerie later.
At noon, they stopped accepting voters. The toughest job in the room was to be designated as a “stopper,” the person who would stand at the end of the line and not allow anyone else into the line.
I stood behind where people were checking in and offered them “Team Joe” stickers. Next to me was a nice lady who was begging people to consider Amy as their second choice.
Despite the long lines, people were of good cheer and chatted to each other. My precinct area started to slowly fill up. I mentioned that since I was out of state, once the caucus began, I would not speak once the caucus got going. I asked if any Biden voters would be willing to serve as “Biden Precinct Co-Captains” noting that they would get a cool t-shirt like mine and a huge four-inch button. Two women volunteered and I gave them their swag.
I was walking by an elderly black woman with a cane. She said “Gary?” My response was “You must be Valerie! I am so happy to see you!”
We finally got started at 1:20 p.m. We had 19 voters, and observers from the Biden, Sanders, and Klobuchar campaigns. (The three observers and the Precinct Chair had all parachuted in from out-of-state.) We then started this intricate process. First, we elected our Precinct Chair. Then she asked for someone who had clear handwriting to serve as our Precinct Secretary. Two different people counted the 19 voters present. Okay. Please raise your hand if you are voting for Biden. Six hands went up. The Chair saw that Valerie had a cane, so she asked that Biden voters all cluster around her. The original alignment of people present was as follows:
- 6 Biden
- 5 Buttigieg
- 3 Sanders
- 5 Warren
I was thrilled. Sanders had only three people. Ha, ha, ha.
The next step was the great reveal of what the “early votes” were. Ugh. They were as follows:
- 1 Bennet
- 4 Biden
- 5 Buttigieg
- 25 Sanders
- 4 Steyer
- 2 Warren
- 1 Yang
Ugh. 25 for Sanders! Yikes! Adding the numbers together we had:
- 1 Bennet
- 10 Biden
- 10 Buttigieg
- 28 Sanders
- 4 Steyer
- 7 Warren
- 1 Yang
The total number of people was 63. 15% of 63 is 9.45 people. Rounding up would be 10 people. Biden and Buttigieg were barely viable. Warren was not. The five Warren voters were crest-fallen. They were such a committed earnest group. I felt sorry for them (but not sorry for Warren as she is almost as bad as Bernie). I turned to Valerie. “You made the difference. If you hadn’t been here, we would not be viable.” She smiled back at me.
The early voters had to designate their first three to five choices on their early votes, so those votes were reassigned as follows to the three viable candidates:
- 6 Biden
- 10 Buttigieg
- 27 Sanders
Then the poor five Warren supporters were given a harsh choice. They could join the Biden, Buttigieg, or Sanders groups. Or they could leave. The five crushed Warren supporters consoled each other. They were heartbroken. They did not understand how anyone could not see the obvious merits of Warren. The Chair said that each of the five would need to make their own decision. The three remaining groups were each given one minute to make a pitch to the forlorn Warren supporters. The Sanders voter said “Elizabeth was my second choice. Please join us.” I forget what the Buttigieg voter said. The Biden voters turned to me to speak. I said that I couldn’t speak as I was not a Nevada voter. One of my appointed “Co-Captains” then stood up and said that Biden had the best chance of beating Trump. People started joking about washing a Warren voter’s car if they would join their group.
Biden got only one of the five Warren voters, and Buttigieg and Sanders each got two of the Warren voters.
The final result adding the early votes and the voters in the room was:
- 13 Biden
- 17 Buttigieg
- 32 Sanders
We had nine delegates to send to the County Convention. There were 62 votes altogether. (One of the early voters did not include Biden, Buttigieg or Warren, so their vote didn’t count.)
Here’s how the math went:
- Biden: 13 X 9 / 62 = 1.8571 delegates
- Buttigieg: 17 X 9 / 62 = 2.4286 delegates
- Sanders: 32 X 9 / 62 = 4.5714 delegates
Using the first round of rounding this ended up with
- Biden: 2 delegates
- Buttigieg: 2 delegates
- Sanders: 5 delegates
Since we were assigned nine delegates, this all worked out.
However, there are terribly complicated rules as to how to round up if this had resulted in eight delegates or round down if there were 10 delegates. If those rules ended in a tie, then we entered the world of chance. In Iowa, they flipped coins. But this was Nevada. They would draw cards, with an Ace being high and a Two being low. If they had the same number, then they went by suits, with Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs in that order. Thank goodness we didn’t get to that level of detail. (This is not unlike the NFL where one year under Tom Landry where the Cowboys had to beat the Redskins by at least 15 points in the final week of the season to get past the eighth or so tie-breaker. What a mess.)
The final step was to elect delegates to the County Convention. The three people who had made pitches to the Warren delegates all decided that they wanted to go to the County Convention. I assume that the other delegates will be filled in by their campaigns in the future.
The observers took pictures of the worksheet and texted it to our headquarters. At 2:50 p.m. we were done.
I got back on the road to Flagstaff. I was dead tired. I had resolved to stop driving long distances at night in the last year. But heck, Flagstaff was only 250 miles away. I zoomed along the interstate. I noticed that I had a sore throat coming on. It began to rain. The sky grew dark. And I persisted. When I arrived in Kingman, I decided to drive through town. I then noticed blue and red lights wig-wagging behind me. I pulled over. The officer came up to me.
“Do you know why I stopped you?”
“Do you notice that it is raining?”
“Do you notice that it is twilight?”
“What would that suggest to you?”
I paused and could not think of the answer. Then, “Oh, I should turn on my lights.”
“Yes. I flashed my brights at you twice, but you ignored me. Are you almost home?”
“No, I live in Flagstaff [150 miles away].”
“You might want to get a room to stay the night as you appear to be exhausted. I don’t want to scrape your body off of the pavement.”
I took this as good advice. When I was in my 20s I would be in a seminar in LA until 2 a.m. and then drive 400 miles to get home. Driving 150 miles is a piece of cake. But I am now 67 years old. I got a room, and then treated myself to a nice dinner. I went to bed at 9. I slept for 11 hours.
A final thought. Caucuses may have made sense 100 years ago when people needed focus groups to come to decisions. But they appear to be hugely ineffective and inefficient. My heart went out to Valerie who was exhausted by the process. I hope that we have seen the last caucuses in America. They are a relic that needs to be retired.Published in