Well, it's been an exceptional political time here in the Lone Star State and, while some of you reading from places like Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire or Florida might be used to it, we're really not here.
For about 30 years now, the nominating process has always yielded a candidate who had things locked up long before Texas held their primaries and in any national election Texas has never been in play, going solidly red.
But not this year.
In this craziest of election seasons, we Texans found ourselves suddenly "important." We actually had a big role to play in the Democratic Party's nominating process. The candidates and their surrogates came to town (I saw Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at rallies in that order last week) and the tried to get out the vote here.
And we found ourselves saying things to each other like, "Did you know there were this many Democrats in Texas?" or, "Did you know we had a dual primary system?" That was the real civics lesson we all received this go round. No one knew we had to do anything other than vote because, well, no one really cared before.
So, today I went to my polling place and voted and then waited it out in preparation for my first caucus. Despite the fact that I really didn't know what to expect, I certainly didn't expect this. Here's my caucus story.
I arrived to vote at about 5:15 this afternoon. At all of the rallies, the first thing anyone who took the stage would say was that we should get to our precinct between 6:45 and 7:00 to caucus, as the number of people allowed to caucus would be only those who arrived between 7:00 and 7:15.
Expecting a fairly long wait to vote in the primary portion of the election, I figured I'd be done voting about 6:00 and would just hang around for the caucus. It turns out that I didn't have to wait very long to vote, so I headed outside and walked up to some Obama supporters and asked if there was anything I could do. Before long I had an Obama sticker on my shirt and an Obama sign in my hands.
Over the next hour and a half or so, people came up asking questions about the caucus and we all did our best to explain it and give the best information we could. It did become fairly clear that no on REALLY knew for sure what was going on. I mean, there was a general idea, but there didn't seem to be anyone in charge.
As 6:45 approached, the number of both late voters and caucus-goers began to grow and we began to group ourselves together by precinct. I was in precinct 4637 (Represent!).
So, here's where things happen in a bit of a whirlwind (which is kind of an ironic word considering that the reality of the situation was anything but fast-moving). Someone who had seen me working earlier asked me to hold a sign with my precinct number on it up. My polling place was the same as 5 other precincts, so there was a matter of getting everyone grouped up.
Here I am in a room full of people who obviously don't know what they should be doing and they are all looking at the idiot holding the sign to give them answers. Of course, he has none.
And that's when it really sank in: A caucus is REALLY a moment where the voters organize themselves. There are no party workers or election officials. It's just a group of citizens and we're all required to organize ourselves.
Or at least, that's what happened in this relatively virgin caucus electorate. As we all stood around waiting for someone to tell us what to do, people began to get restless and I still had a sign in my hands, so they were getting restless at me. I left the room to try to find someone who looked official (a look in short supply) and tried to find some answers. Finally someone said we need to find the "packet of caucus election material."
It took some searching, but we found the packet in the hand of a voter who had just been handed it without any explanation. At that point, one man who I'd been joking around with for a while looked at me and said, "You're in charge here, bub."
And that's how I became a precinct chair for precinct 4637.
After a little bit of time reading through the packet, we elected a temporary chair (me) and a temporary secretary and slowly we got the vote underway. And I just stood there, answering questions as best I could, helping some people read the ballot sheet when they needed. I showed up to vote and somehow I'd ended up running the show.
There were 79 people in my precinct and I'm happy to say that, with one exception, everyone remained in good spirits. It was chaotic but it was interesting. And, who knows when there will be another moment like this in Texas.
I got home, told my tale to a few friends and family members and then settled in. I'd done quite a lot that evening. I'd campaigned for my candidate, I'd answered questions, I'd met some interesting people, I organized a precinct and ran a caucus. It wasn't until a few hours after I got home that I realized that, in all the chaos of the moment, I'd forgotten to do something in the caucus.
I forgot to vote.