From the Trenches at the Nevada Caucuses – Part 2 – Wallowing in the Democrats' Ennui

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on the Nevada Caucuses. The previous part is here.

2.0 The Democratic Caucus – sorta dirty, but not in a fun way.

My wife dressed my 7 year old daughter in a tutu that looked like an American flag and my son in a shirt that had a print of the Constitution on it. We figured if it was going to be their first exposure to democracy, we should have some fun. We explained what was going to happen, and they gave no shits at all. I'm sure they will just remember it as some goddamned place they had to go before their friends' birthday party.

As we approached the Democratic Caucus, it was clear that this was no place for fun, lightheartedness, or child like wonder. There was a green haze made of metamucil-induced farts bonded to industrial-grade ennui. The voting had not yet begun, in fact the doors were not even open. There were only two candidates to vote for, but everyone in line was already defeated.

You got the impression that everyone felt like they had really missed out on something. They were neighborly enough, but just so downtrodden. None of them had been happy, or even smiled, in 20 years. The only person smiling was the guy running up and down the line from the Atheist Alliance. You could tell that he had changed his bong water and set his alarm early for a wake and bake. He hugged me after I gave him a fist bump. There were a few other people that smiled weakly at him. Like the gothapottamus about 10 yards back who had obviously taken the day off from listening to The Cure and cutting herself. Everyone else was relatively colorless. It looked like a morass of humanity that had been washed on "warm" by a college kid for an entire semester. Even the black people in line seemed pale — and bizarrely enough, every one of them had one eye that looked like it was not quite human, but more like something you would find on a giant grouper. It was like they found all the broken black people and made new ones out of the busted up parts.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the suburban Democratic electorate.

It really shouldn't have been that way. My neighborhood is actually a vibrant and happy place full of bicycles and delightfully spoiled children. There aren't that many very young adults, but there are a lot of youngish MILFs. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf down the street is known for two things — kosher pastries and hot MILFs in yoga pants. Honestly, if you can go to a strip club or hang out at the Coffee Bean, you might as well go to the Coffee Bean. Imagine if the crop of strippers at your favorite pole-dancing establishment decided that they were going to quit while they were ahead, so they hung up the lucite heels and traded them in for Lululemon, and then just decided to hang around and drink matcha tea while trying to give me a hard on. I feel like a 15 year old at the chalk board when I go into this place.

So where the fuck did they put all those MILFs? Where did they find the "walking dead" to replace them? Fucked if I knew. I was confused though. An entire crowd of voters, and not a single hot mom in yoga pants…

They scheduled the caucus on a Saturday morning. That struck me as a bit sketchy right off the bat. My precinct is pretty heavily Jewish. MILFy and Jewish. Not just Jews from back East either. Los Angeles Jews who came to escape California's income tax, and Israelis who came to escape Palestinian home made rockets. Beautiful MILF Israelis.

Needless to say, there are quite a few observant Jews who do not roll on Shabbos. Would they have come even if it was on a weekday? Would they have voted one way or the other? Hard to say. But, if I were the DNC, and I had already anointed Hillary as the heir apparent, I'd probably want to discourage Jews from coming to the polls. Lets face it, if you jog on over in your Yoga pants and you're not sure who you want to vote for, you might as well throw in with the fellow Tribe member, right?

Since you can't just throw bacon at people in line, having the caucus on Shabbat seems like the best way to keep as many Jews away as possible. I dunno… maybe Hillary could develop a sonic weapon that drives Jews away next time one challenges her authoritah.

Caucuses generally favor the party favorite, since it takes a lot more effort to caucus than to just come in, mark a ballot, and then go home. For a caucus, you go there and get locked in for a while. The Democratic Party held its caucus with a one hour window of opportunity — the line started at 11 AM, and if you were not in line at 12:00 PM, you were out. I showed up at 11:15, and there was already a line snaking around the corner, with cars dropping off carloads of dead-looking people wearing Hillary shirts or buttons.

It was awfully early in the day for anyone who was up late the night before though. In other words, not a lot of millennials in line. A few. Not a lot. The gothapottamus was clearly a millennial. A few kids here and there who weren't sure if they were registered to vote. They generally didn't seem to grasp the concept of soap either, so voter registration was clearly a huge bummer. Of course, I never saw these kids at the Coffee Bean either, so maybe they just inhabited a corner of my precinct where the walking dead lived. I personally try and practice good hygiene, not for myself, but so that the yoga pants MILFs will talk to me.

My precinct took quite a while after 12:00 for everyone to get inside. At another, an eyewitness told me that he dashed in at 11:59 and some change, and that a group of 5 kids wearing Bernie shirts got the stiff arm about 10 seconds later. "Nope, you need to be in at noon. You're late. Buh buye". I did not ask him about yoga panted MILFs at his precinct.

Once inside, the stench was unbearable. It was in an elementary school cafeteria/gym and it smelled of bug spray and the impending death of at least 10% of the people inside. In my precinct, there were just a few Sanders supporters, and they herded us into a small penned off area. It felt like we were in one of those "free speech zones" that the kids are all into these days. Hillary supporters were there, in shirts announcing which union had sent them, and they slowly circled the Socialist Petting Zoo we were in. On a table was a fresh, unopened deck of cards.

I figured the cards were there so that we wouldn't get bored. So I cracked them open and started playing Scopa with my kids. I found out later that this was the deck of cards they would have used to break a tie, had there been one. A woman near me asked what we were playing, and when I tried to explain the rules to the game to her, she got flustered and said "that doesn't make any sense, you're just making the rules up! I don't understand! Its too complicated!" My five year old whispered to me that she was "a dumbass," and my seven year old asked me if she had Alzheimer's like her grandmother. I told her I didn't think so.

The benefits of a caucus for the "party candidate" were clear. You could tell that there were some people there who genuinely adored their chosen candidate. Others were there picking her as the lesser of two evils. But, the Hillary squad also had some very clear "enforcers" there to make sure that nobody thought better of where they were sitting. When my wife checked in, the woman before her said she was there to caucus for Sanders. The woman checking her in said "Are you sure about that? You sure you wouldn't rather be undecided?" She changed her mind and went with undecided. At that, she went to sit down, with a guy in a "carpenter's union" shirt going over to talk to her. This idiot could have been convinced to vote for the giant grouper that gave its eye to one of the broken spare-parts bin black people.

The racial divide was pretty clear — with absolutely zero black people on the Bernie side. I only talked to two of them directly. Both of them had been told by their preacher how much better the Clintons are for "us black folks." When I addressed them about that, the words "my African American friends…" got out of my mouth, when someone who had been silently listening jumped in with a "don't you dare go there!" I'm not sure who they were, or why, or if they were talking to me or my new friends… since that grouper eye always looks somewhere in the distance. I guess that in ennui fart land, you are not allowed to fraternize with the negroes.

And the union reps were always circling. When the speeches got too much in favor of the Bernie camp, they started interfering. One guy told me to sit down and shut up. I yelled at him to wander on over and try and make me. Another guy in a union shirt joined in, and I yelled to him "give it a shot, you fucking punk…" Yes, we were in the middle of a caucus, and it was about to turn into a fist fight. Someone who claimed to be in charge told me that she was going to have me removed if I wasn't "nice." Pointed to her Union buddies and said, "who's going to remove me, those fucking cunts? Fuck you. You're not getting me out of here without physically removing me, and the first motherfucker who puts their hands on me isn't leaving here with all their teeth."

Yeah, there was almost a brawl. Go figure, I was in the middle of it.

Then we voted.

All in all, I wouldn't call it "very dirty" though. Scheduling it to make sure only old people came? Well, if Madison and Tyler can't get the fuck out of bed in the morning, that is hardly what I would call "voter suppression." Saturday to keep the Jews away? I would imagine it wasn't by design, but then again, how the hell do you schedule an election on a day that so clearly means that an entire segment of the electorate is religiously prohibited from showing up? I'd chalk it up to the DNC wanting less Hebrews at the election, given that the disfavored upstart is ostensibly one of them. But, it was on a Saturday in 2008 too. I'll call this one just a hell of a faux pas.

The preachers, union reps, and poll workers who were actually pushing people to change their vote, or making damn sure "their" people stayed exactly where the hell they wanted them? Classic politics, but still dirty shit. All in all, on a scale of 1 to 10 with a 1 being a town meeting in rural Massachusetts, and a 5 being what a first world country should expect, and a 10 being Florida or Chicago, I'd call the Democratic caucus at a 6. Still dirtier than a first world country should be, but I wouldn't chalk Hillary's win up to dirty games. What really won her the election is that she was organized, even if it meant payoffs to ministers and unions. When your base is people who mainline geritol, you're always going to beat an enthusiastic band of voters who have to ask "aw, Mason, is that today, dude?"

I stole the deck of cards. Good thing there wasn't a tie.

NEXT: Part 3 – Amongst the Republicans

by Marc Randazza

Last 5 posts by Randazza


  1. Erik says

    "The benefits of a caucus for the 'party candidate' were clear."

    Not necessarily. Ron Paul ran some caucus-based campaigns where he was hugely successful in a manner that grossly overstated the actual percentage of people who supported him – proof that caucuses, in fact, can be an excellent mechanism for an insurgent campaign. The problem is that in addition to outright thuggery (as you've documented), caucuses can also reward passion*, hard work, and detailed organization – three things that most Sanders supporters are, for practical purposes, deathly allergic to.

    *No, re-posting badly considered Facebook memes does not equal passion. Passion requires, at the barest minimum, actually getting out of bed and showing up and shit. Even on a Saturday.

  2. Erik says

    And not to pile on the schadenfreude*, but for all of the whining and bellyaching we hear from progressives about the influence of the Evil and Dreaded Koch Brothers (who are barely in the top 10 for political spending in the last few years, barely in the top 50 since they started becoming seriously involved in politics, and probably have more beliefs in common with progressives than progressives would be comfortable admitting), the real 500-lb elephants in the cash room (8 of the top 10 spending organizations) are the unions, something that progressives tend to get all heart-warmed and dewey-eyed about. And as Mr. Randazza has so pointedly noted, the "progressive" unions are so deeply in bed with the political establishment that they'll support a candidate that is basically Dick Cheney with better hair and a pantsuit. They are not just in bed with the establishment, they are the proud and hardened political shock troops of the establishment. So at what point will the Sanders supporters fall out of love with their deeply-unfaithful Comrades-in-Hope-and-Change?

    *Well, yeah, actually to pile on the schadenfreude, but don't feel too bad – I do stuff like this to my Cruz-loving Tea Party friends, too. Also, I like saying "schadenfreude." It just sounds cool. Like Fjord.

  3. jtf says

    What does MILF mean? The only thing Google is giving me is Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

    Ah, I suggest Urbandictionary…

  4. DanA says

    I suspect that the Saturday thing is more a case of ignorance and stupidity than any sort of malice. Whenever I try to set schedules for things there is always massive resistance to Sundays 'because people have church' and I get looked at like I grew an extra head when I suggest that Christians could mildly inconvenience themselves by going to a different service time or *gasp* missing a week rather than entirely excluding Jewish folk. For people who don't think about Jews other than how they figure in to their end times fantasies or as a cudgel to beat their political opponents with for being 'unserious about security' making schedules that are convenient for 'their' people makes sense and their thoughts about how it will effect different groups is minimized if it even gets thought about at all.

  5. Scott Jacobs says

    Yeah, there was almost a brawl. Go figure, I was in the middle of it.

    I'm shocked to hear this.

    Also, nicely done with it. :)

  6. anne mouse says

    From my experience with Israeli women who wear yoga pants, not a single one would consider the Sabbath an obstacle to voting.

    I have zero friends among the types of Jews who wear black every day, but within the Tribe there is a long tradition that small sins can be forgiven for the greater good. If Jewish leaders felt that holding the election on Saturday was a power play designed to exclude them, their most likely response would be to organise buses to the polls. Religious conservatives have no love for the Democratic Party, though, and a deep contempt for Bernie. Being nominally Jewish may get him some extra turnout from reform temples who would have voted for the most left-leaning candidate anyway, but the side-curls crowd votes overwhelmingly for Republican candidates and prefers the most hawkish of those. They're not voting for Bernie, Sabbath or no Sabbath.

  7. Echo says

    I worked a democratic caucus in '04, when I was still just a little kid interning for the local democratic commissioner/crime boss. Seems legit, except Washington has more patchouli stench and you'd be more likely to notice someone who hadn't been taking bong rips.

  8. The Wanderer says

    If Jewish leaders felt that holding the election on Saturday was a power play designed to exclude them, their most likely response would be to organise buses to the polls.
    According to my understanding, there are schools of Judaic thought which hold that riding in a car or other powered vehicle counts as doing work (or causing work to be done), which is prohibited on the Sabbath.

    Thus, even riding in such a busload – much less organizing for such a ride to be offered – would be a violation of religious strictures.

  9. Bjorning says

    The Wanderer, you're a little off. I'm what most people would consider an Orthodox Jew (though I'm not the all-black type by far, and don't self-identify as Orthodox per se) and… I don't have the time to write up a full explanation of why busing wouldn't work. Suffice it to say that for Jews who observe Shabbat, it's actually pretty complicated but it could in theory be arranged. That said, it wouldn't matter, because the voting process itself would involve activities prohibited on Shabbat, especially if it's using written or punched ballots. The issue of electronics use on Shabbat is more complicated because there's no firm basis for prohibiting it, but because it was prohibited at one point (due to a combination of factors, some involving a misunderstanding of the nature of electricity, others involving what it was being used to do). Anyhow, the long and short of it is that it excludes Sabbath-observant Jews.

    As for what anne mouse has to say about Jewish ladies wearing yoga pants, s/he's probably right, but not so much about the other parts. For starters, I know a good number of religiously conservative (i.e. Orthodox) Jews, who are pro-Sanders. Of course, that's just anecdotal evidence, but I don't think he's as hated as s/he suggests. As one of the 'side curls' crowd myself (well, I don't curl mine, but I follow the religious prohibition against cutting the sideburns back above a certain point, which, by my community's standards, is the TMJ), I can tell you that there are a lot of members of both parties, and some unaffiliated. The thing about hawkish Republicans is that they're the ones who tend to be most strongly pro-Israel, so for those who are single-issue voters of the Zionist variety, that's who they'll go for. Personally, my family and most of our friends usually vote Democrat, even though we disagree with some of the party on some matters, because we think that they'll ultimately do the most good. So… yeah, there's a lot of political variety, and it's not the monolithic crowd anne mouse implied.

  10. Anne mouse says

    Wanderer, you are correct. Starting a car or operating a combustion engine counts as lighting a fire, which is prohibited. Operating a bus would usually count as working. Those sre actually no big deal, You're allowed to hire a goy to do those things for you, since the covenant only applies to jews. But there are additional prohibitins, eg you're not allowed to travel farther than the distance to temple and back.

    The majority of jews in the US and elsewhere do not consider themselves bound by the letter of these rules. We're talking now about n orthodox minority who do take these rules very seriously.

    But even the most devoutly orthodox jews are considerably more pragmatic than you might imagine. Any rule can be set aside in the face of an existential threat, and minor rules can be bent, with rabbinic approval. Working on the sabbath is perfectly ok for policemen or soldiers, for example.

    Members of the strictest sects will go to great lengths to avoid breaking the rules, eg by not bevoming a policeman or soldier in the first place. I have trouble picturing a hasid attending a caucus, where women might accidentally touch him. But convince his rabbi that it's for the greater good, and all bets are off.

  11. anne mouse says

    Wanderer, I had a long reply that got stuck in moderation due to a typo in my email address.

    Short version: you are basically right. My point was that even Orthodox jews have a history of willingness to violate those restrictions if you piss them off badly enough. (The theological concepts justifying this phenomenon are not stated in quite those terms, obviously.)

    One of your more interesting minor mistakes is to assume that Jewish tradition follows modern notions of agency law: that if Jews are not allowed to do something on the Sabbath, then they're also not allowed to hire somebody (like a bus driver) to do it for them. That's not actually the case. "Causing work to be done" (and/or causing fires to be lit) on the Sabbath is traditionally OK as long as the work isn't being done by a Jew. Sabbath restrictions don't apply to gentiles, because gentiles aren't party to the covenant of Abraham. Causing a gentile to work on the Sabbath isn't a sin: a gentile can't dishonor the Sabbath, because the Sabbath doesn't apply to him.

    (Hiring a gentile to commit murder is still a sin, though. Religious group applies theology in bewildering fashion, film at 11.)

  12. Anglave says

    I attended the Democratic caucus in Iowa.

    On a Monday night at 7pm, in a relatively affluent suburban neighborhood near a state university, I experienced a very different crowd than Marc describes. There were a lot of vibrant young people, and even the older people I encountered were animated and enthusiastic. I saw relatively few MILFS in yoga pants, but a large number of single millennials, and a surprising number of young families who had brought infants.

    For the several block stroll between where I parked and the school where the caucus was held, I walked behind a beautiful young woman in her early twenties wearing tights, a dressy top and short coat, and a very pleasing hint of perfume. Sharp contrast to Marc's experience of Metamucil farts and ennui.

    Sitting on the floor in the school's gymnasium (because all of the bleachers were already filled), I was directly between two 20-something couples, each wrangling a bright, inquisitive, but quiet child under two years of age. Also near me I overheard two young men (one of whom was of some Middle Eastern descent) having a conversation about the technologies involved in manufacturing an iPhone, and the process of bringing many fields (materials science, computing, software design, battery development, etc.) together into one product.

    The caucus itself was exceedingly simple, and consisted of not much more than a simple head count. The organizers seemed a bit harried and slightly overwhelmed (the atmosphere was similar to that of a play or musical on opening night), but I didn't see anything that seemed even remotely shady.

    On the way back to my car, I walked behind a young family with three kids between about five and ten years old. We chatted about our experience, and it was a generally pleasant, almost holiday atmosphere.

  13. princessartemis says

    @anne mouse

    (Hiring a gentile to commit murder is still a sin, though. Religious group applies theology in bewildering fashion, film at 11.)

    I have been told by a Jew that the covenant with Noah is the one that holds for Gentiles, and murder is against those seven laws. That application strikes me as consistent, in that it makes sense that a Jew can't hire a Gentile to commit a sin that counts for the Gentile. So no rules-lawyering your way into getting a murder or theft done!

  14. Ron says

    I was at the Nevada Democratic Caucus myself, in Carson City. It was a mess too. I didn't register to vote until the Thursday before the Caucus and since this is my first time caucusing, I didn't know you could pre-register for the caucus itself. My punishment for my laziness? Getting to go to a far, far shorter line with other people in the same predicament, while my friend who had registered weeks before and was already registered to vote had to wait in line for an hour with the other responsible people.

    I wouldn't say the crowd in Carson was as morose as Marc describes his crowd. It was as friendly as I would expect any crowd of strangers to be. Not remarkable in either direction. We had one crazy lady and one realy angry lady though.

  15. KingDave says

    I've always found in urban Minnesota Dem (we say "DFL", because the party here is the "Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party", owing to merger with a more populist party, the Farmer-Labor Party, in 1944) caucuses in Minnesota to be lively and friendly. There will certainly be guys (and women) wearing union jackets, but no goon behavior. It's not that we're exempt, but caucuses elect delegates to a district convention, which elects delegates to a state convention, which elects delegates to the national convention. The conventions are where the goons and apparatchiks and dirty tricks become prominent. Since our caucuses are precinct sized (30-100 attendees, depending on the year, it will be toward the high end this year), they tend to stay pretty fair (you see other attendees on the street, and know where some of them live). Some only stay for the presidential straw poll, taken early. Enthusiastic youths stay until the very end, and offer resolutions that are mostly adopted unanimously, which after amalgamation at the conventions may become planks in the party platform, and thereafter uniformly ignored by candidates and officeholders.

    This being winter in Minnesota, any MILFs wearing yoga pants are also wearing down jackets that make them look like the Michelin man.

  16. max says

    "with a 1 being a town meeting in rural Massachusetts,:

    with this the author demonstrates his lack of familiarity with small town Massachusetts politics. Just because there is a blizzard causing declarations of a state-of-emergency in 5 states and there are announcements on the radio every 15 minutes that the town meeting is canceled does not mean that the town meeting is actually canceled, it might just mean that someone made a mistake talking to the radio station and while the selectmen tried to call everyone in town to let them know the meeting was happening but only had time to call the people who were in favor of whatever the selectmen were pushing (which lost by 5-1 margins the last twelve times it was voted on at a town meeting).

  17. Sami says

    When else do you schedule an election *but* a Saturday? Weekdays, people work. Sundays are also the Sabbath – and, more importantly, is often a problem for people who are dependent on public or other alternative transport options to get there. Plus, voting on a Sunday will screw up your whole weekend.

    I admit to cognitive bias, here: I'm Australian, and here, *every* election is held on a Saturday, because it's the day that's going to work for the most people to be able to vote. (Observant Jews can get postal ballots or vote early at any electoral office at any point between the election's announcement and polling day.)

    I realise that this wouldn't work very well with a caucus, but caucusing is inherently hideously undemocratic anyway, and excluding the Jews is likely to be statistically insignificant relative to all the other ways a caucus is subject to manipulation.

    If it's not a secret ballot, any electoral process is going to be a joke.