One Man’s Experience on Caucus Night

This year, I was asked to be the convener of (i.e., to preside over) my precinct’s Republican caucus, which took place tonight. I agreed, largely in hopes of making the caucus shorter. My wife served as the caucus’s secretary.

Republican turnout in our area was overwhelming, as it has been around the country. GOP caucuses are usually held in one high school; this year, there were overflow crowds at two high schools. Around 80 people showed up from our precinct. It was striking how many participants were new to the caucus process–a large majority, in fact, were caucusing for the first time. We assumed that most of these would be Trump voters, but that turned out not to be true.

The process in Minnesota was completely different this year. For the first time, the precinct caucuses were in effect a primary election, not just a straw poll. By later this evening, the votes will have been tabulated and the winner announced. The fact that votes were meaningful no doubt helped to drive turnout. We held the presidential vote first, and those who wanted to leave at that point were able to do so. Around a third did, but the rest stayed for the remainder of the caucus.

Who won? Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tied 28-28. Donald Trump got 14 votes, John Kasich got seven, and Ben Carson three. At the critical moment, I held up an envelope and everyone filed by and dropped in their ballots. It was actually quite inspiring. Is this democracy, or what?

After we reported our vote totals, we addressed remaining items of business. We elected delegates to the convention one level up from the caucuses. This was really a matter of soliciting volunteers. My wife and I both volunteered to help make up the requisite ten delegates.

We signed up a number of election judges and poll challengers, and then passed around forms where caucus participants could volunteer to help the party by placing lawn signs, making calls, marching in parades and so on. I gave a little speech about how our party is the one that has the energy, the passion and the record turnout, and how the real strength of a party is at the neighborhood level, where individuals contribute their time to a cause they believe in. Happily, we got lots of volunteers.

Next, we asked for platform resolutions. There was only one: a resolution to join 33 or more states in convening a constitutional convention pursuant to Article V of the Constitution. A couple of participants spoke eloquently for and against the resolution, after which it was voted down. Too risky, most people thought.

After around three hours, we were done. Several people stopped by on their way out to say that they are Power Line readers and to thank us for our efforts on behalf of the conservative cause. Others thanked my wife and me for our, frankly, rather amateurish efforts as convener and secretary of the caucus.

Periodically through the evening, I sneaked a look at my phone, where all four of my kids were texting about various election results. My sense was that things weren’t going very well, but our own experience was reassuring. It was grass roots democracy at its best. Our Republican neighbors are passionately engaged and exquisitely civil at the same time.

I was left feeling that, should the worst come–a Clinton-Trump race–our republic will survive whichever suboptimal administration may result. Americans stubbornly believe that they are free, no matter what liberals may tell them, and if you doubt it, just spend a few hours at a neighborhood caucus. It is good for the soul. Our democracy isn’t perfect, but it is strong. Strong enough, I think, to survive either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump with ease.