(Jim Clark) – The nattering and complaining about the recent Nevada GOP presidential preference caucus just won’t die down. East coast newspapers, such as the Washington Times, are now comparing the Nevada caucuses to Iowa’s and the latter’s failure to accurately report a winner. Local Nevada news media are full of expressions by individuals condemning the caucus system and demanding return to a presidential primary election.
Slow down, folks. Let’s examine the facts.
Complaints center on allegations of poor turnout, confusion, a separate evening caucus in Clark County to accommodate Jews and Seventh Day Adventists whose Sabbath didn’t end until sundown the day of the caucus, and the exclusion of media reporters in scattered cases.
That’s the bad news.
But there was good news, too. Volunteers from the Washoe County GOP created a computer program that allowed Republicans to preregister for the caucus online. This program was shared with all 16 other Nevada counties.
As a result, statewide, 44,170 Republicans used the system to either preregister or to look up their caucus location and ascertain their precinct. The figure for Washoe County was 11,126. Another result of using the program in conjunction with the caucus, the Washoe GOP had 1,436 users register as volunteers for the local Republican Party.
This is the kind of grass roots work that wins elections, folks.
There was more good news. A large percentage of caucus goers volunteered to be delegates at the upcoming (March 10 at the Peppermill) Washoe County GOP convention; additionally many signed up as members of the county GOP Central Committee. Finally, caucus goers volunteered “planks,” or statements of political principle, for discussion and adoption at the convention.
Despite naysayers, the enthusiasm developed from the well-run GOP caucuses resulted in the largest crowd ever to attend the Washoe County party’s Lincoln Day Dinner last weekend in Reno where loyalists paid $85 each to hear Governor Sandoval congratulate his party on its caucus process.
Naysayers were evident in last Sunday’s Reno Gazette Journal, which devoted its Community Forum pages to the subject. Of 10 selected letters to editor, nine berated the caucus and one supported it.
Nevada conservative activist Chuck Muth has some advice for Republicans who want to revert to a presidential primary election in the future. Muth points out that the Democratic and Republican Parties are private, self-governing entities and that to default each party’s presidential selection process to the state would be particularly egregious for Republicans because we preach that nanny-state governments can’t do anything right.
And indeed, other states have dabbled into crossover primaries where any one can vote for either party’s candidates and thereby the parties surrendered control of their selection process to the state.
Muth points out that the GOP cannot revert to a presidential primary election unless both the legislature and the Nevada Democrats agree to do so, which is at best problematic. A primary instead of a caucus would mean candidates would have to spend money on mass media, which would negate the importance of dedicated, informed and involved grass-roots volunteers. The answer, Muth says, is to master the current system.
He is right about this. Both parties have four years to figure out how to allow the military and other absentees to vote, how to conduct early voting, how to accommodate those who actually show up but don’t want to get involved in electing members to the parties’ governing structures.
There is a lot of room for improvement, but look at the strides made by both parties between 2008 and 2012. We can do this, Nevada.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and a member of the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees.)