I wasn’t planning on going to the Republican caucus in Maine on Saturday, mainly because I no longer really consider myself a Republican. But when I woke up and decided to check out if I could still caucus if I wasn’t registered (I wasn’t sure if I was still on the rolls or not) and discovered I could register the same day if I was independent, I decided I’d go and participate. Not because I really wanted any one specific candidate to win, but rather because I felt it would be hypocritical of me to be such a loud mouth against Trump online, only to do nothing against him if I could when I had the chance.
It wasn’t a vote for Rubio. It was more a vote against Trump.
And I’m very pleased my state didn’t end up in the Trump category (though I’m not really doing cartwheels that Cruz won instead . . .). The experience itself was fairly different, so I thought I might as well report back on it.
First off, there were a lot of people there. A lot, especially compared to four years ago. The official numbers I read afterward was something like 15,000 people, which doesn’t seem like many, but when you see that only 5,000 or so showed up four years ago, you understand it was a significant surge.
Just eyeballing the crowd, I saw a slew of older folks, almost all of them white. There were some younger people peppered throughout, but I can’t off the top of my head remember seeing a single person of color. I wouldn’t have called the crowd “diverse” by any stretch of the word. I did hear a number of conversations in the crowd that disturbed me, with some casual racism chit chatted about like it was no big deal. (Pro tip, folks. “Muslim” isn’t synonymous for “terrorist.”)
I did not feel like I fit in very well with the crowd, although there were a number of people there whom I know and am friends with. (Important note: my acquaintances and friends are most definitely NOT the people I overheard.) I’m not meaning to say the group was a bunch of old white racists, but I also couldn’t say that it didn’t include any OWR, either. (Another note: I didn’t go to the Democratic caucus the next day, so I can’t compare how well I would have fit in there, either.)
General observation: I think these party caucuses tend to attract many of either extreme. I don’t really imagine I’d have felt right at home with the Democrats either. There are stereotypes on both sides of the aisle, and just because I saw a few representatives of the one side doesn’t mean the other side didn’t have their reps too.
The bulk of the people I saw who had stickers affixed to them somewhere were either Trump or Cruz supporters, which lines up with how the results played out.
Strangely enough, we all voted first, and then after everyone had voted (more or less), there was a chance for representatives of the campaigns to get up and make a case for their candidate. This felt pretty silly to me, and clearly I wasn’t alone: only 50 people or so stayed to listen to the speeches. I wanted the full experience, so I did too. Trump sent a 19 year old kid from New Hampshire who didn’t really say anything of substance other than “Trump might say awful things, but at least he hasn’t been bought out by anyone else,” so . . . Okay. Cruz’s guy went on and on about how awful Trump was and how great Reagan was (and then proceeded to say nothing about Cruz), and Rubio sent no one, so a random guy in the audience got up to speak about him.
Fun times, all around.
The whole process took a bit over two hours for me. Democracy in action? It left some to be desired on Saturday, I’m afraid. If I were to make a suggestion for improving the process, it would be to switch things around so that speeches happen before registration opens, or at least during registration. It makes no sense to have the pitch after you’ve already paid for the product, so to speak . . .
But remember the source: I’m thoroughly disgusted with politics in general, and so I started off the day with a chip on my shoulder. I did speak with a number of friends, and we had good conversations about politics and what can be done to help the country. It wasn’t all bad by any means, but a few bad apples is all it takes to really sour you on an experience . . .
And that’s all I have to say about that.