in the Nevada Democratic Caucus last week gave me an interesting
perspective on the Presidential race this year — a look at things on the front
lines, where actual votes are cast and recorded.
Prior to the caucus I got a phone call from a live Clinton supporter
who urged me to vote for Hillary (“because she has the experience to
get things done”) and told me where my caucus site would be. I
got a recorded message from Edwards, inviting me to a meeting of his
supporters in Henderson. Nothing from the Obama campaign.
That struck me as odd — I thought perhaps his campaign had decided to
cut back on the expense of outreach calls because of the boost he got from his
endorsement by the Culinary Workers Union. If so, it was a big
My caucus site was the auditorium of an elementary school a few blocks
from my house. When I got there, one side of the room was filled
with Clinton supporters, mostly older white women wearing yellow
Hillary T-shirts that the Clinton coordinator was handing out.
Behind them sat five or six undecided voters. On the other side
of the aisle were the Obama supporters, mostly blacks of all
age-ranges. Behind them were a handful of Edwards supporters, and
later in the proceedings a single Kucinich supported identified himself.
I sat with the Obama supporters. The Obama coordinator had no
T-shirts, just some campaign stickers to put on your shirt front.
There were 55 voters in total present for the caucus.
At one point I overheard two of the Clinton supporters, older white
males, whispering to each other about caucus strategy. One of them said, “We've got
to make sure none of the undecideds go over to the dark side.”
They smiled conspiratorially at the phrase, which I didn't feel was a
reference to Stars Wars.
There's a lot more of this sort of casual prejudice abroad in the land
than people might like to believe and I think the Clintons have made a
deliberate decision to exploit it — to position Obama as “the black
candidate” and make people feel o. k. about indulging their sense of
blacks as “other”.
It's pure, cynical Rove-ian politics, morally sickening in itself and
even more sickening because it will probably work, at least as long as
Hillary can make plausible denials about her involvement in the
statements of her supporters, including her husband Bill. To me,
such denials are not plausible, and I won't vote for Hillary in the
general election if her tactics succeed, unless it's absolutely
necessary to defeat an even more objectionable candidate, like Mitt
Romney. In other words, John McCain has become my second choice
for President this year.
If the Clinton tactics can so thoroughly alienate an old-time lefty
like me, I hate to think how she would fare with more moderate
Democrats and independents in a general election. I think we
might see a Democratic defeat of McGovern-like proportions.
At my caucus, there weren't enough Edwards supporters or Kucinich
supporters to make either of them eligible for delegates from our
district. In the end, all the Edwards supporters and almost all
the undecideds moved over to the Obama camp and the vote ended up very
close to even, with Clinton edging out Obama by a few statistically
insignificant votes, as it turned out. We awarded 5 delegates to
each candidate. This mirrored the way things went throughout the
state, with Hillary getting more votes overall but splitting the
delegates just about evenly with Obama. (The press tended to
report only the vote totals, which gave Clinton the “beauty contest”
win, barely mentioning that in the race for delegates the Nevada
contest was essentially a dead heat.)
When it came time to elect the delegates themselves, most of the
volunteers on the Obama side were undecideds who'd crossed the aisle
that day. I thought that was a good sign for my guy.