inessential by Brent Simmons

How It Went at the Caucus

On Saturday morning we went to a nearby school (in my neighborhood in Seattle) and attended the caucus for our precinct. Sanders beat Clinton 94-35 — four delegates to one.

I was nervous, since I hadn’t been to a caucus before, and since I knew I’d be voting on the losing side. I was afraid my wife and I would be the only Hillary people there! But we weren’t.

I was also a little nervous that the proceedings might be other than completely civil. And there was one guy — Mr. Well Actually — who interrupted Hillary speakers until other people reminded him that everybody gets their turn. That was the worst of it, which means it wasn’t bad at all, and I needn’t have worried.

* * *

On the night before we pre-registered online and printed out a form and wrote in our initial preference.

On Saturday, just before 10 am, we took our forms and went to a gym room at the school and waited with a few other precincts for about half an hour. Then the guy running our precinct’s caucus called us together, and we walked out into the hall and found the particular hallway where we’d be caucusing. It was crowded and hard to hear, so the guy suggested we go outside.

We went outside. It was warm enough and sunny, so it was nice.

The people who run caucuses aren’t professional caucus-runners, obviously, so we didn’t totally stick to the script. We missed doing the initial tally. We did split physically into three camps: Sanders, Clinton, and undecided. Undecided had just a half-dozen or so people.

* * *

Then people volunteered to speak for Sanders and Clinton, and they alternated. There were four of five speakers for each, and each spoke for about three minutes. Nobody had a practiced speech that I could tell. (I didn’t speak, though I was tempted.) (One undecided voter spoke too.)

Only one of the speakers was at all provocative — a woman who said that Clinton supporters were “voting out of fear,” which elicited a bunch of head-shaking and audible no’s. The speakers who did best were the ones who talked about why they were for their candidate, rather than why they were against the other candidate.

* * *

Very few people changed their votes. We turned in our forms to the person running the caucus, then people huddled around him and did arithmetic. It took a while.

About half the crowd left during the math phase. But we wanted to stay for the whole thing, because that part is democracy too, and we like democracy. (It ended before noon. It’s not like it took ridiculously long.)

Once that was done, and the tally and delegate totals were announced, then each side elected their delegates. For us (since we had just one delegate), it was easy. A person volunteered, and we all just agreed. We needed two alternates, and people volunteered and we agreed. Simple.

Those delegates go to a local convention. There are layers of conventions before there are delegates to the national convention. So it’s no giant commitment to be a delegate — but still, it’s very cool of those people to volunteer.

* * *

I expect to caucus again next time. It’s kind of fun.

But I still massively prefer a secret-ballot primary system. You get way more participation that way: it’s more democratic. I’m not saying the outcome would have been any different — probably not. I just think it’s fairer. More people have a voice and feel like they have a stake when they can actually participate. It’s why we’re Democrats, after all.

* * *

It was my 48th birthday. For my birthday I got to cast a vote for the person I believe will be the first woman President of the United States of America. It felt great.

(No offense meant to Sanders supporters. I like Sanders too — I’ve been a fan for years. I think Hillary would be a better President, so I voted for her. Reasonable people may disagree.)