The Texas Precinct Caucus experience.
Overall, the Obama camp prevailed because of their caucus blast. We were walking. We were calling. We were talking on our off time at the grocery store or at the coffee shop. Some of us were doing it casually, a little sick that this ugly thing called politics was seeping out from under our skin. Others were working on their fifth or sixth Presidential campaign, their fortieth campaign overall. They had their wearable American Flags, their clipboards, and their unnaturally bright campaign smiles. I could not tell the difference between the dirty politicians I just about hate and four volunteers I worked side by side with. That is not to say that the opponent's was any better. Indeed, I found those supposed to be neutral were by far the worst.
Politics isn't reason or efficiency. Sometimes it is just the kind of person eager to have everyone he meets congratulate him.
There was a triage in effect. I knew that people of like temperament were being placed at similar launch stations. I saw that the lunatics were being moved to precincts with the fewest people. It did alarm me for a day as to why I was placed with these curmudgeons, but the launch station was four blocks from where I live; and the smart, young Field Organizer knew I already had a partner. I dropped in to my launch station give them local intelligence, but mostly I reported back and picked up a Capri-Sun or Wheat Ale whenever the situation warranted. Specifically, a few arguments were the kind of petty I would have been driven to drink if work didn't need doing. I am the first-time campaigner who is involved in this election because room must be made for people like me whether the old guard wants it or not.
It is said that if an institution is corrupt, you can't help but absorb that same immorality. That no one person breaks the foundation.
The actual voting day there was a woman, if I can call her that, who had no business being the Election Judge. She didn't seem human. Maybe she works for Xenu. An election judge is responsible early in the morning for the voting machines, and who closes up shop by the end of the day. She gets paid little money, volunteers a good 20-40 hours, and gets the satisfaction of playing referee in American democracy. Ours looks like spiders do her make-up, hair, and possible etiquette training. The mascara boggles its way across her eyelids, up through her eyebrows, and into her hairline. When she talks, it is with such a violent shaking stir that I can see she put her make-up on herself. She is immediately offended that any person checks her competency, and only warms up to my partner Dori's fiegned reverence for this woman's self-sacrifice. She was lost and behind all day.
The following day, she calls into talk radio to complain about a precinct captain who was obnoxious, disrespectful, and troubling her civic consciousness all day. Her name is Suzy, she is a regular political talk show caller; and she got exactly what she wanted. My dad told me she calls in every day to various morning talk shows, that she seems mentally unbalanced, and is the type of person who tells people at dinner parties stories in hopes they will become her friends. He listen to morning talks shows on AM radio. He gets a kick out of the wackos taking themselves seriously.
Some trolls are only on the internet. Some of them walk around, get appointed an Election Judge, and accuse me of stealing Social Security cards. That's how disorganized she was. She lost freaking Social Security cards I am damn sure she shouldn't have kept in the first place.
One last note; she did have it right when calling me obnoxious. She doled it our and I gave it back better. Of all the arguments she lost with me that day, my favorite was:
Suzy- "If you come in here to use the bathroom again, I am going to have you removed from the grounds."
Estlin Jack- "This isn't elementary school."
She is a professionally a long-time substitute teacher. I won't say what that probably reveals about her personality. What a bitch.
This year's election took my entire city by surprise. The Demo HQ is still in chaos. No one knew how to run the caucus, and they obviously didn't take time to do their research online. A week before March 4, I read everything I could about primary and caucus rules for Texas and any other states I could use in my arsenal. The info was available, however cloudy.
That preparation was for naught. Caucuses all over El Paso went for Hillary Clinton. There was no discussion in mine. Indeed, there was no discussion with the overall genial conversations I had with Clinton supporters. People showed up to be counted. I lost the Permanent Chair spot by one vote to Clinton supporter who admitted no orientation with the caucus process. Dori ran for secretary and lost by a landslide to an 18 yr old who did nothing after getting elected. I talked to the 2 undecideds and swung one of them. No argument, no speeches other than mine. Only a few people got up out of their seats. People were tired and angry; and just wanted to go home. NONE of Clinton supporters voted that day. Dori and I'd been there since 6:30am, and we didn't see any of those people that day. They were organized behind the scenes. They smacked us around in El Paso despite our efforts. We lost the city 70% to 30%.
Pride stinging, I went to bed early that night. A glass of wine for potential future high blood pressure, and I dreamt of snowy forests. I walked around town the next day trying not to blow-up at a stranger who looked like they voted for Clinton. I realized my dream meant I wanted to be far, far away from here. Instead, I went to Obama HQ and helped clean-up. I vented. I made contacts with the people from El Paso who would need to continue to work on here until November. I took the loss personally and am in it for even these backwards Hill-billies who won't let a good man help their country.
I know Hispanics/Chicanos/Tejanos. When Hillary doesn't get the nomination, of that 70% that voted for her, 70% of them are going to stay home in November. They are very similar to college kids. They can be excited into short time commitment, but soon fade out. Soon they are gone and the long-time, selfish people are the ones left. I tell you, from the people voting on the day, and the amount of support I received in the public, this cocky Texan thought Obama would smash all those presumptive pundits who spew their oil. I thought we were gonna set their heads afire. Even if what I thought was right, that Obama was loved in El Paso, not enough of them went to vote early or on the day. We did 60%-40% on March 4, but got smashed in the caucuses. Some Republicans voted on the Democratic side, but not enough of them to give either side any kind of advantage. In our caucus, there was one Republican who went for Clinton. She thought it was good for women and good for John McCain. She has sons in the military. She agreed that Hillary even if elected would be blocked up the wazoo, and either way she would not be able to of anything to harm her sons. She would either bring them back or keep things generally as they are. She didn't like the idea that American soldiers would have to remain overseas for much of their careers if our idea of diplomacy continues.
I am trying to be fair here. That's why I mentioned the Obama people first. The young people from out of town were fantastic. They were somewhat overwhelmed, but I never saw them give up, put the books down, or go home early. They were intelligent, well-trained, and good managers. They had everything ready and if anything, they didn't have enough local volunteers to accomplish everything they wanted to.
It was a delight to work with people everywhere from California to New Hampshire, from New Orleans to Minnetonka. A number of these good people went right on to Wyoming, and many more are taking a short break before heading off to Pennsylvania.
Me, I am digging in. I am having a tuna melt on sesame and air-popped poporn; then I'm getting back to emails and Congress persons. County convention is March 29.
Next time, I tell you what's next.
Seth Grahame Smith, an ex-Hillary politico