As you may remember, I caucused myself as a Rick Santorum delegate at the beginning of this month. Today was the second part of that process, in which myself and the 175 other 43rd Legislative District Republican delegates got together at the TOPS at Seward alternative school to choose the 14 delegates who will represent us at the county and state levels. I got there at 9 am. I left at 2 pm. It was like purgatory, only more boring.
The best moment of today's caucus happened early on, when the man in charge of the proceedings tried to fire up the young Ron Paul fans in attendance by starting a chant. He shouted "Gimme a C!" "C!" the audience happily replied. "Gimme an O!" They shouted back "O!" "Gimme an N!" "N!" "Gimme an S!" There were some nervous laughs in the audience, as everyone started wondering if they were going to have to chant all the letters in the word 'conservatism,' but they still replied "S!" "Gimme a T!" Okay, it occurred to just about everybody, the word was going to be 'Constitution,' which is way too long a word to expect an audience to shout-spell back to you, but whatever. A few people stopped responding, but others were game: "T!" "Gimme an I!" "I!" "Gimme a T!" "T!" And then he said, "Gimme an I!" The audience broke out laughing, and people shouted back to him, "U!" He realized he had misspelled the word, paused for a moment, gave up, and then shouted, "Whatever! What does that spell?" "Constitution!"
Having completely fucked up the Constitution, the Republican caucus was ready to begin. On the way in, caucusers gathered at tables marked with candidates' names, and campaign representatives gave them lists of delegates to support. As a loyal Santorum supporter, I was handed a letter informing me that "Senator Santorum directed us to coalition with the Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich delegates" so that we could "select delegates to the state convention who are not fooled by the Media's insistence that our nominee should be obvious." (The full text of this letter is after the jump.) Along with the letter, I received a list of delegates to vote for, in what the Santorum and Paul campaigns called the Open Convention Slate. The Romney voters, and a few Gingrich supporters who apparently didn't get the memo on the Paul/Santorum/Gingrich alliance, were given their own slate to vote for, which was creepily named the "Unity Slate." You'd think that with such clear lines drawn before we even walked into the room, the votes for delegates would be a simple one.
You'd be wrong. First came all the arguments over Robert's Rules of Order. Then came the people who spoke on behalf of the candidates ("Ron Paul has delivered over four thousand babies...") and the people who spoke for apparently no reason at all. And then came the real meat of the thing: A mosquito fleet of tiny, annoying, dumb speeches. There were 62 nominees for delegate positions. They each spoke for 30 seconds, in what could be the most futile use of free speech I have ever heard. Listening to one person after another try to sum up their entire political philosophy, the candidate they prefer, and why they should be selected above all the other candidates, when 97% of the room already knows exactly how they are going to vote, is a totally soul-crushing experience. Especially when people say things like this:
If Obama is re-elected, we will no longer be a Constitutional country.
"I like Ron Paul, but I'm open to anyone but Romney. Santorum is great on global warming. It is a hoax. I am a physicist." (This speaker also claimed to be a "victim of Hillarycare." I have no idea what that even means.)
The Occupy movement wants to be friends-with-benefits with America.
There was a hearty round of applause for Barry Goldwater. Sarah Palin was name-checked a frightening number of times, most often as an example of how to be proud of our country—which, by the way, Barack Obama apparently isn't. One Buddy Roemer fan threw his support behind the Open Convention Slate. And then we voted, which took about a half an hour. (Being a Santorum delegate, I decided to vote the way my candidate requested, and so I voted strictly along the Open Convention Slate lines.) The counting took a little more than a half an hour. Since 14 candidates didn't finish above 50%, we had to eliminate some of the low-scoring candidates and then vote again, which took another half an hour. The counting for the second round took even longer.
I'm pretty sure this sign had nothing to do with the Republicans, and was already hanging in the school before we got there.
Finally, it was announced: Everyone on the Open Convention Slate had won. The Santorum and Paul fans in erupted in cheers. Several Romney supporters grabbed their fur coats and stormed out of the room. And then we had to vote for alternate delegates. So many Romney supporters had given up at that point that the Open Convention Slate of alternates did even better than before. The 43rd Legislative District is going to send a very strict anti-Romney delegation of 14 to the state convention.
As I left my fellow Republicans behind to celebrate their victory over the creeping forces of Massachusetts moderation nipping at the heels of our party, I did some serious self-evaluation. It occurred to me that, even though I had signed a form just a few weeks ago saying that I considered myself to be a Republican, I didn't feel very Republican at the end of my five-hour ordeal. Those were some seriously stupid speeches I was forced to listen to. And come to think of it, nobody there seemed to be speaking for me. I mean, sure, I was a Santorum delegate like maybe a couple dozen or so other people in that room, but nobody else seemed to share my pro-choice beliefs, my socially progressive leanings, or my ability to spell the word "Constitution." Maybe I wasn't a big-government Republican after all, I thought to myself.
I may have walked into the TOPS at Seward alternative school as a committed Republican and Santorum delegate, but the minute I walked out those doors, I decided that I was a Democrat again. It felt good. As I type this, it still feels good, though I kind of miss spending every waking moment obsessing over anal sex.
(What follows is the full text of the letter I was given as a Santorum delegate.)
Dear Rick Santorum supporter:
Earlier this week, the Washington State Rick Santorum leadership had a conference call with a special guest, the Senator himself. And the Senator didn't mince words. In order for us to win the nomination in Tampa in August, we must deny Romney delegates to that convention. If Romney received 1144 delegates before the national convention, it is all over for our campaign. That is the reason why Senator Santorum directed us to coalition with the Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich delegates—- it helps us reach our goal of taking our message to the entire nation in August!
On primary day, each of us was elected by the voters to use our best judgment at our county convention. Now we have a choice. We can accept the Romney "Unity Slate" which is deliberately designed to guarantee that Mitt wins Washington State. Or we can be bold. We choose to be bold!
You shall know them by their fruits. If they are offering the same people spouting old ways of thinking, they are the Establishment. We've seen our principles watered down and ignored with them in charge before.
By combining the supporters of Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul along with the uncommitted delegates, we become the clear majority. Working together, we can select delegates to the state convention who are not fooled by the Media's insistence that our nominee should be obvious. It happened throughout Pierce County last weekend! Where supporters of an open convention voted together as a block, we were able to elect nearly half of the delegates for Santorum—and limited Romney to just three percent.
Please seek out the grassroots leaders who have stepped forward in your county. We have not given up winning this nomination in Tampa! We ask you to stand with us.
Together, we can win. Divided gives us the tepid status quo. Let's shake things up!