Hello all. Sebastian Blax here. As many of you may have heard, since my previous Boots on the Ground published piece, “I Just Don’t Have a Parole Officer — A BOTG Experience”, I have uprooted from the deserts of Phoenix and moved to the deserts of Las Vegas. Unrelated, you may have also heard that Nevada is a caucus state (for parties that do not just cancel primaries to protect their Nazi leader, Donald Trump). I would like to tell you about my inaugural caucus experience today.
The Nevada caucuses were held at noon on Saturday 2/22/20. Following Iowa and New Hampshire, all eyes turn on Nevada for our First in West allocation of some like 30 delegates. 2020 marked the first year that NV implemented early voting in addition to the in-person caucus vote. Coming from a state that has enjoyed the immense popularity of early and mail-in balloting, early voting days with 3+ hour lines and midday weekend caucus events lasting one to four hours just seem stupid. Still it was nice to get out and meet some more of my neighbors.
Caucusing is really quite simple. My caucus site was an area high school and each precinct was given a classroom to hold their votes (I think we had like 42 precincts at the school). So you check in, get your ballot, and they assign you a room number to be in come noon. I don’t know how many people make up a precinct but our total votes (early and in-person caucusers) was like 108. Someone showed me a map and I can’t imagine our precinct is more than about a square mile in the middle of our master-planned community; so a fairly population dense area for a town that does not have much in terms of non-single family housing options.
The cool thing about caucusing is that it is an exercise in ranked-choice voting. That is to say, based on the number of candidates in the race, you do a first round of voting and any candidate who does not meet a 15% threshold of votes received is then deemed non viable and those voters who selected that candidate will vote again. In the second round voters may join any of the groups who were viable in the first round or they may coalesce to make a previously non-viable candidate viable. Anyone who voted for a viable candidate in the first round may not vote again. So, basically, once you vote for a viable candidate, you are locked in.
The total votes are then counted and delegates are awarded based on proportionality with some simple rules for rounding and tie-breakers to allocate the exact number of allotted delegates.
So I didn’t get a lot of pictures because I don’t take a lot of pictures. Also, I know this is a public thing but I don’t really think it’s good manners to walk around taking photos of people who are just voting. Still though, below is my BOTG Caucus Day experience.
I was an Elizabeth Warren (“Booooooo!!!!!!!” – People with Mike Bloomberg Wealth) caucus captain — which means I get to wear a shirt and basically fill out my own scorecard that the campaign then keeps in case they need to contest something. It also means I got to arrive hours before the caucusing began to hang signs, report any funny business to the campaign, and “persuade”. When I arrived at 7am, the place was empty and I ran into a fellow Warren captain so we hung up the few signs we brought and then went to get some coffee.
Caucus day happened to be one of the about four days this year that Las Vegas will receive rain. So I chatted with my fellow Warren fan as we drank our tea: “I’m from Indiana. I’m an intelligence veteran. I am a lesbian. I am a millennial. I have no interest in Mayor Pete,” she told me and I laughed because I’m a white guy with conservative upper middle class roots, also an intelligence veteran, about the same age as PeteButt and, I too, have no interest in voting for the guy or being his top/bottom/verse/furry.
So about 9am is when the other campaigns start showing up with their people to hang signs. Silly me, I thought everyone else was like me — just a voter who was also helping out the campaign I liked. Absolutely was not the case. I mean, I saw some Bernie Bros (they were Bernie Bros — under 40, chubby, white guys with early male pattern balding) first and they were super friendly. Trying to work the line of early caucus-goers who had arrived but not at all aggressive or unfriendly. But then came the Tom Steyer lady.
Let me preface by saying, I don’t know his plans nationally but, here in Vegas, Tom Steyer was laser-focused on black voters [3/2/20 Update: Whatever his plans were, I hope they included dropping out because that’s what Tom did.]. His billboards are in the black areas. His commercials were all about like investing in inner city parks and had little testimonies from black women being like, “He can beat Trump!”. However, of the roughly 2 million people in the Las Vegas area, 12% are black (which, upon some research, actually about matches the national average. I did not know this.). Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with black people, black people voting, or Presidential campaigns reaching out to black voters…but I’m also not a Patriots fan.
That’s it. That’s the end of the thought.
So this Steyer lady rolls into the courtyard of the school where everyone is kind of gathered and signs have been hung and she just starts plastering the place with Tom Steyer signs. I mean, she must have hung a hundred signs easy; even went back to the parking lot to restock a couple times. She was all over the place. We were kind of trying to be friendly with her and the lesbo I was with said something complimentary of the signs that were just cutouts of Steyer’s tie. The lady was NOT having it. She got all her signs up and then was going around handing out blue Tom Steyer tee shirts. Then I lost track of her and that was fine because the black population of Arizona is Larry Fitzgerald and so I’m really intimidated when I see a black woman on the war path like this.
Then there were the Joe Biden guys. Three prep school studs who rolled up, did a half-assed job of hanging some signs, and took off. I’m 100% sure they were only there to get volunteer credits for their elite private high school senior curriculum. Yeah, we all scoff now but these bros could definitely party with Don Jr if they wanted. I ran into a couple JOE precinct captains and they were exactly what I expected — kept up, kinda MILFy and obviously pretty insecure, committed women who knew they were voting for Biden but were strictly just going with the establishment candidate they knew. Not judging here — just giving you the BOTG deal.
Pete Buttigieg had exactly one girl working the courtyard. Just some cute 20-something with her understated hoodie and a college-style Pete tee. While I get having a positive impression of the good Mayor, I do not understand who supports him. I’ll get more into this later but, throughout this election cycle, I have been dumbfounded by from where his non Golden Domer support draws. My conspiracy theorist older brother says Pete Butt is a CIA asset planted to defeat Trump. Super deep state but way more believable than middle America voting for the cooking one from the Fab Five.
The doors finally opened at 10a and the queue was moved from the courtyard to the gym. My wife, who had registered Republican because that’s the habit you develop when you live in a red state and don’t want to deal with being periodically purged from the voter rolls, was able to change her registration on the spot and then we got our ballots and were assigned a classroom to be in at noon for the caucus.
At this point, it is entirely clear that defeating Trump is the number one issue on most people’s political agenda. The Bernie supporters have on the most gear naming their candidate but the repeating conversation I hear as I walk around the facility is how can he beat Trump; what do Trump and Russia have planned to attack him with in the general; and how will he execute his plans when he’s pretty well known for fighting with everyone all the time. Now this is going to be a long piece but I’d like to pause right here and talk a little about how great caucusing is because you actually have the opportunity to speak face to face with your neighbors — actual neighbors, not just fellow citizens in town — hear directly from them what they know, how they see things, and what their concerns are. It’s not polling. It’s not dip shit experts. It’s reality. And here’s the reality — every single intelligent person knows — KNOWS — Donald Trump is aligned with Russia. How much it matters and what is the appropriate response is very much up for discussion but it is a fact that Donald Trump works with Russia. Period. Full stop. End of story.
Okay, so back to the BOTG…
The rule is that anyone who is in line to get a ballot at noon will be able to vote. So there’s a pretty good energy throughout the place while they work through the queue and give everyone time to get to their caucusing rooms. I was camped out in my room which had about 40 people crammed into the classroom. In addition to the voters and each room’s volunteer with her script and caucus math poster, there were photographers, outside poll watchers, and campaign-level persuaders walking freely about the place. The overall energy reminded me of hanging around a competitive track meet waiting for your event to run. Like, yeah we’re all here competing or whatever but it isn’t like you’re gonna solve anything by talking trash anyways and so there’s not much passion against any candidate’s supporters here either (note: Mike Bloomberg was not on the ballot).
In my room — and again, this is a sample size of about 40 people who all literally live within a mile of me in the same master planned community — there were some very controlled conversations about the different candidates. For the most part it was, “I like Biden because I think he’s experienced and a moderate can win the general,” or “Bernie consistently polls ahead of Trump in battleground states,” or “I like anybody who isn’t Mike Bloomberg.” “Bloomberg isn’t on our ballots.” “Then anybody but Tulsi.”
Except for the Joe Biden dude and Bernie Bro seated behind me in a suit. Those two were going at it all policy differences style. Middle aged Biden guy who I think — and this isn’t all middle aged Biden guys — has probably missed a lot of great experience in life because he was too timid to say yes to big chances/changes/opportunities. Nonetheless, the heart of their argument was still electability. I think these guys would have gone all day if not for the announcement that we’d actually be starting voting soon.
So before we get to the actual voting, I want to say one other thing that I found interesting about caucuses. I want my candidate to win, of course, but we’re all there for the process. Like, the last thing I want to hear about is interference or trickery or whatever. Just cast your damn vote so we can figure out what everyone prefers. Besides, we’re in fucking Nevada. It’s the equivalent of a basketball game with a score of 4-2 at this point and our caucus results are a jump ball with 10:30 left in the first quarter . Not exactly the most clutch votes in the nation happening here in February. Still though, there are some people who take this shit SERIOUSLY.
So they give us the greenlight and the lady reads from the script. This is for choosing your preference…blah blah blah…okay, let’s rock. So it’s literally just, some guy raises his hand and goes, “Pete supporters come over here!” and then every group goes self-segregates (I wonder why us suburban whites were so efficient at this?). Then the caucus math begins. It goes like this, so we’ve got like 41 people here and like 109 early voters. So the 15% viability threshold is like 23 votes. We count off each group and record the number on the big Caucus Math Poster on the front of the room. Then they read off the early vote tallies for each candidate.
The candidates who met the 23 vote threshold? Sanders, Warren, Pete Butt. So the voters for those candidates mark their ballots and hand them in. We’re done voting because our ballots have been cast for a viable candidate. Now things get fun. There are about seven free voters in the room — two for JOE; two for Steyer; three for Amy Klobes.
Re: A-Klobes — I don’t know what the deal with AMY is. I know she didn’t spend much on advertising out here and, I guess, the results bore out accordingly. I’m not sure what the base of someone whose platform is that she will work with Republicans. I mean, that’s gonna happen the day Mexico pays for Trump’s border wall. So she seems nice enough and whatever but, come on, you’re not the man for the job in 2020.
At this point, we’re all waiting for the lady to play with her iPad and plug in all the results that are recorded on the caucus math sheet. Our room then begins having a friendly 40+ person conversation about how good it makes us feel for our neighborhood that Tulsi got no votes at all. Then there was some dogging on Bloomberg and, naturally, everything came back to Fuck Trump. Frankly, I wish the general were held this way. People hiding behind anonymous voting? Fuck that. Face your neighbors.
Anyways, with these seven people left to realign for the next round every group then gets the option to give a one minute persuasion speech. I didn’t mention this earlier but, prior to the caucus starting, some campaigns had non-caucusing people available to give these persuasion pitches. In my room, the Bro in the suit was talking with a couple of the Bernie Pros before the caucus and they were WAY overthinking this and asking him how the room looked, who would give the speech, how they felt about the second round. The Bro was like, “Yeah I got it. I’m going to talk about M4A, his polling against Trump, and his popularity with Hispanic voters.” The Bro was just a sincere and involved Bernie supporter — and he was hitting on all the high points. These two Bernie Pros, a guy in a thrift-store bomber jacket and an obvious wannabe political operative chick, were just like dismissing this young man in the suit. The guy didn’t even respond to the proposed talking points; just was like, “Well, do you got this then or not? Because she can give the speech if this room needs it but she can’t be everywhere at once.” He told them he had it and they seemed unconvinced but probably thought their efforts were needed elsewhere so took off. I was going to joke with the guy about what dicks they were to him but I could tell the interaction kind of let the air out of his sails — and this all happened right in the middle of the room so everyone saw him get neutered by the campaign in front of the neighborhood.
So speeches. The lady just did everything in alphabetical order, as the candidates are listed on the ballot.
Michael Bennett? No voters, no one to give the speech.
Joe Biden? The dude who was arguing with the Bernie Bro in the suit was obviously dismayed. But he just kind of gave the token “we need a moderate” plea while the Steyer people were already negotiating a move to Pete Butt’s group
Bloomberg? This dude jumps into the room and hits it all short and sweet.
THIS GUY MIKE BLOOMBERG, I CALL HIM EZEKIEL ELLIOT BECAUSE HE’S SMALL, MADE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON THE SCENE, IS UNAFRAID OF FIGHTING FOR BIG PAYDAYS, AND WILL NEVER REACH THE PINNACLE OF HIS CURRENT PROFESSIONAL PURSUITS. ALSO, HE ISN’T AFRAID TO PUT HIS HANDS ON A WOMAN!
*This may not have happened.
Pete Butt? I don’t even remember. That whole group just looked like children of the corn to me. Again, I know I do not live in the most diverse neighborhood but the entire group of Pete supporters seemed like could have just walked out of the same rural church. I would later find out that Rep Susie Lee (D-NV) was caucusing for Pete and so I wonder how much of that Pete support could have gone to Biden (or whoever) had the local establishment officeholder expressed her support that way. But maybe that’s just an assumption of SHEEPLEISM because I didn’t learn of Lee’s support until after the caucuses and maybe this was organic. Again, the Mayor Pete base just feels like it’s mostly made up of bussed in robots or something.
Nothing from the Klobes camp, though one dude did mention that everyone else that everyone else had baggage that Trump would exploit in the general.
Then it was Bernie Bro in the suit guy time. He came up to the front of the room with passion, respect, and an earnest plea for the outstanding votes — and everyone in the room, come Sanders’ eventual nomination — to back the guy who consistently polls ahead of Trump; to back the guy who has consistently fought for the same values for decades and has a plan to execute M4A; and to back these popular progressive policies that Sanders is working to enact. By the end, you could feel the clock bearing down on him. His glances to his paper became a stare as he tried to get out as much information as possible to these people who….how the hell did they not get it already?!
Then it was time. Very good speech though. I mean, not a good speech itself but I’d rather hear someone speak with some measured emotion about something that they obviously feel passionate about that some wannabe cool gal persuader who is going to come in from L.A. to tell me and my neighbors what our priorities are. I seriously could not think of a worse strategy in a caucus than to bring in an outsider to make any speech. But they didn’t do that so good for this guy for putting himself out there.
Steyer? “We don’t have a speech. We had hoped for a different outcome on the first ballot.”
My one-minute speech was effectively, “Hi I’m Sebastian from 12 Oaks Estates Exclusive Gated Community [crowd of fellow 12 O’ers all cheer] and I’m a veteran who supports Senator Warren because we need institutional reform and to rebuild our broken government and I’ve been impressed with her since the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which recovered billions of dollars from crooked bankers. She led the creation of a brand new government agency that was so effective from the start that Donald Trump, in his first year, had to stick Mick Mulvaney in charge of it to gut the thing. And she passed it by working with others who make things happen, like Amy Klobes and Hunter Biden’s dad (I learned this little trick in Dale Carnegie). She’s also the anti-corruption candidate and has pledged to release all the documents Trump has refused to turn over to Congress on Day 1. She –“
And then I ran out of time. Pumping up the cheers for the neighborhood was probably not a good time management decision, wasting a good 35 seconds. No matter. The outstanding voters realign — three to Pete Butt, four to Warren — and then the iPad spits out the second choices of early voters with the same viability filter in place. Ranked choice voting in the way to go. All the ballots are marked and turned in so the caucusing is over.
Now we’re just doing delegate math. There’s some rounding and stuff involved. It’s very simple. You can eyeball it that we’re issuing delegates to Pete Butt (4), Sanders (2); Warren (3).
I think we are one of the first rooms done. This is no surprise as there were some larger rooms with auditorium-style seating (thinking maybe a band room or AP Avocado Toast Ordering Symposium Curriculum) that were as full as ours. I notice a lot of volunteers and media around but the overall energy is relaxed. You know, you got people coming in from out of state to poll watch and everything and it kind of naturally brings up the tension in the air. Then, like with sports, you get the first ten minutes out of the way, realize it’s just another day, and you and your competitors bond over the fact that a Trump reelection means another huge tax cut for us while his stupid white trash base gets shat all over so, hey, whatever we’re doing our part,
The courtyard is a wasteland now. The rain has passed but all the signs rushingly plastered over any vertical surface have been drenched and many are ripped, the tape released, or simple shriveled from the passed storm. I start going around cleaning up the Warren signage, as campaigns are responsible for their own clean up. Honestly, I would have just cleaned up everything if I wasn’t concerned it would become some, “Warren guy seen tearing down Bernie signs at caucus site!”
On that note, there was a surprisingly large amount of media around all morning. I saw the Pete Butt groupies from our room being interviewed by iPhone when we got out and I later saw that footage on the area news. The lesbian I was hanging with at the beginning actually volunteered both of us to be on the local CBS affiliate early on but I declined hard on account of, if any of my customers saw that I supported America, I’d be without any work on Monday. Of note, we ran into the reporter girl a little bit later and asked who she voted for and, after a lot of roundabout ho-humming, I can tell you that there is no way she knew anything about any of these candidates.
And you wonder why everyone hates the media.
So back to 1:25PM! I’m cleaning up and I see the other campaign folks doing the same with their candidates’ signs. I’m still high and a little drunk so I’m having fun and just light-heartedly asking how everyone did. Everyone was basically like, “Bernie took the room” and then some combination of Joe, PeteButt, and one from the field. But everyone was in good spirits. It was good. It was democracy at its finest. We got some rain. We got to see how everyone felt. We held a political event that wasn’t ruined by MAGA trash being…themselves. It’s Spring Training baseball is what it is.
Then I saw the Bernie pair I’d mentioned before. The lady persuader and her bomber jacket buddy. I exited the courtyard behind them, asking how they did. They were clearly grievanced. Bomber jacket guy told me the lady in the front of his room, “disenfranchised 60 people” when she read the script verbatim. The girl told me the numbers looked good “but let’s see what the party does with the results.”
And I don’t tell you this to paint the Bernie Revolution with a broad brush. But screw these outsiders. Go back to POL-SCI 303: American Elections you wannabe beltway insiders.
And so that was about it! You’ve probably gleaned it from the above PK-length feature but caucusing is terribly inefficient but very much the best way to have elections. Ranked choice still for everyone who does not show to caucus. Other than that, since my BOTG experience, Tom Steyer, A-Klobes, and Pete Butt all dropped out after JOE demolished everyone in I-Can-Read-You-Know-I-Just-Don’t-Like-To-Sometimes South Carolina. So keep this all in mind as you head to the polls this Super Tuesday.