I recently experienced my first and (in all honesty) probably only caucus. I left the caucus confused as to why a caucus is considered to be a legitimate form of selecting a candidate. Caucuses are annoying, long, and extremely ineffective at finding out the true opinions of the people of the state. I don’t like them, and I wish we (Mainers) had a primary…or something that actually resembles democracy.
I arrived at the Scarborough Town Hall to caucus at around 9:55 a.m. the morning of February 4, 2012. After a few minutes of small talk and petition signing for various local candidates, the small group of approximately fifty to sixty people sat down and the caucus officially began. Although I was still unsure as to what a caucus actually was, at least we had Tim Horton’s.
After a few minutes, it soon became apparent that the caucus was overwhelmed by Ron Paul die-hards. Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking Ron Paul, but when an actual army of people armed with lists and information about the caucus comes in to the room, it transforms the “organic” feel of a town meeting into a systematic campaign stop for Ron Paul. But, I digress.
After the typical nitty-gritty intro speech by town officers, and the unanimous election of the leader of the party for the town and director of the caucus, we got down to business.
First, someone from the Ron Paul campaign spoke. Anyone who’s attended a conservative conference in the past 3 years knows the ability of Ron Paul supporters to mobilize for a poll. The room was pretty enthusiastic during questioning; a member of the audience who wasn’t permitted to speak tried to speak and was shut down. Who he was and why he wasn’t thrown out has yet to be answered, but he definitely had that ‘crazy old man’ vibe.
Next, a well-dressed woman Mitt Romney supporter from New Hampshire spoke, admitting she had initially been a Tim Pawlenty supporter. She spoke for quite a while, and her presentation was much more professional than the speaker from the Ron Paul campaign. A representative from the Ron Paul campaign attempted to bring down the Romney worker with hostile questions, but she did a pretty good job defending herself.
Then, a speaker supporting Newt Gingrich spoke for about 45 seconds. I wouldn’t have minded him, except for, after the caucus while I was driving back to school, I noticed a piece of paper under my windshield wiper saying that Newt Gingrich has a plan for 250,000 jobs. Fantastic. Don’t do that. I thought it was a parking ticket and had severe anxiety until I stopped for gas in the middle of Massachusetts.
Nobody from the Santorum campaign spoke.
After the speeches, the caucus officials announced that the maximum number of people had not signed up as delegates to the state convention, so everyone who had said they wanted to go gets to go. Hooray. Then we voted. I’m not sure as to which candidate won locally, but if the crowd and amount of Ron Paul stickers present were any indication, it was probably Ron Paul. I honestly wouldn’t have known about the caucus had a Ron Paul worker not called me a week in advance to make sure I was going
The whole caucus was, quite frankly, annoying, long, and irritating. Why did we need to stay at a meeting for two hours to be able to vote? Why can’t voters absentee caucus? The whole process reeks of inefficiency. Caucuses attract mostly the die-hard followers of a candidate; if a person happens to be busy on the day of the caucus, well, they’re SOL. There are more people in the state than just diehards of certain candidates and they deserve to have their voices heard as well.
Post-caucus, I was greeted by my brother with a, “What the hell are you doing home?” He had no idea the caucus was taking place. Nobody really did. The system is flawed and should be fixed.
There’s a reason the Iowa caucuses do such a poor job at picking the eventual nominee. There’s a reason why a miniscule number of Nevada voters came out to caucus last week. That reason is that nobody in their right mind would want to spend their Saturday morning (or afternoon, whatever) caucusing. Caucuses are terrible ways to pick a candidate. Period.