Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton and a $16 Moscow Mule
Actually before we get started let’s clarify a couple things: I’m less twenty-something and more decidedly twenty-four, and the Moscow Mule was $18 with tip.
It was the other week, Valentine’s Day, that I decided to reach out to the Regional Organizing Director I had worked with last summer, when I was a “Hillary for Nevada” volunteer fellow. Now, the Nevada Caucuses were about six days away, and since I’d had experience on the ground out in Clark County last June and July, I felt pretty attached to the Nevada outcome. Yes, I’d abandoned the campaign after a month, but that’s because I’m not good in 105-degree weather, not because I don’t care about Hillary. I do, very much. So much so that when my former R.O.D responded to my email by saying “yes, when can you get here” with more exclamation points and question marks than I care to disclose, I was worried. So I did what any young, liberal, temporarily unemployed woman would do: I called a friend and asked if she and her boyfriend wanted to go with me to Vegas for the weekend, and when they said no, I decided to go anyway! What resulted was a sleepless couple of days that simultaneously deepened my commitment to Hillary and confused my faith in Democracy. Ya know, an average Friday and Saturday.
As a fellow, I was stationed in Henderson, a suburb of Vegas, so it was to Henderson I returned. I drove up to the campaign’s strip-mall office around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, saw some semi-familiar faces as well as new ones, grabbed a clipboard, door-hangers, and a map, and hopped back into my car to do some door canvassing, something I’d never done before. The good news was, my BFA in Acting would come in handy in an “I’m a saleslady connecting to partner” kind of way; the bad news was door-to-door canvasing alone late on a Friday afternoon kind of sucked. I knocked on 29 doors, talked to 11 people, and still don’t know if I made any difference. When I got back to the office around 7:30, I ate a square piece of pizza and was told that I would be a precinct captain on Saturday.
If you’re unfamiliar with how the Nevada caucus works (and for your sake, I kinda hope you are), a precinct captain is someone who volunteers to help with the caucus proceedings of their precinct. I felt my face flush with anxiety because I’d never been a captain of anything in my life (except of course, my own destiny), but after a quick training and the promise of a nifty shirt and super official button, I thought “Hey, maybe it’d be cool to be a part of history-making after all.”r
So, on the morning of Feb. 20, 2016, as instructed by The Hillary For America team I was to arrive at the caucus site at 10:00 a.m. Two hours early, because the actual caucus was to begin at noon.
The caucus works like this: To participate, you can pre-register or register upon arrival. Each precinct’s caucus takes place in a room at a school, civic center, or if you’re in Vegas, a casino, where, in this case, Democratic neighbors come together and “align” with their candidate. As precinct captain, my job was to designate a Hillary area, hand out stickers, engage with and try to win over undecided voters, and double check the number-crunching of the temporary caucus chair (the person who reports the delegates). There are lots of strange little rules involved in the caucus. We couldn’t tape up signs or talk to people about our candidates in certain hallways. It’s like half democratic process, half weird voodoo ritual. There were 67 people in my precinct, and the whole time it was hilarious to me that I was one of those in charge, and that a primary election for president of the United States was being decided by hand-raising.
The Bernie Sanders precinct captain had similarly signed up just the day before to help out. He kept making digs at me about Hillary, and I kept making his side of the room laugh. Ultimately Hillary got 5 delegates and Bernie got 4 from our precinct. We, as a room, called the reporting hotline from our caucus chair’s iPhone. It all felt incredibly unsound. Like, what if we accidentally snapchatted our delegates instead of confirming them with the Nevada Democratic Party?
I soon learned that our room had been relatively smooth in it’s sailing. I was hearing horror stories about miscounts and people walking out and phone calls to caucus lawyers. I overheard a lot of hostility over discrepancies, people frustrated and truly confused about who to blame and complain to (not me, you guys!)
Despite the chaos and the bitterly disorganized system, it did truly in that moment feel like the government was in our hands. It was also cool to be a young woman repping Hill—and many Bernie people in my precinct came up to me to shake my hand, telling me things I’d said about leaders listening and evolving had resonated with them. The Bernie precinct captain even asked for my number to get drinks! (I laughed later, because, much like my candidate, I said maybe, and much like his, he didn’t follow through).
The rest of the afternoon involved attending a Hillary victory rally at Caesars Palace, running into other Los Angelenos who’d shown up in support, and watching the heads of the Nevada team weep with joy. But the day wasn’t yet done! After changing clothes in the back of my car in a hotel parking structure and talking to my mom on the phone for an hour, I went to get a drink. I found some Baby-Boomer women (a judge, a lawyer, and a reporter—I’m not kidding), wearing Hillary shirts, and we all raised a glass to our win and told the bartender he could not change CNN to “the game.” I met up with a friend I’d met over the summer for more toasting and food-truck sushi at midnight that still has not killed me. So, it was really successful all around.
I guess what I want to leave you with is this: People are participating. They are young, old, angry, and inspired. In Nevada, they are White, Black, Latino, Asian, Gay, Straight, Jewish, and Other. And for me, as a twenty-something, there was huge meaning in engaging with real people in real life, seeing the character of the country outside of the Internet, and getting great gas mileage on my drive back home.