It’s time to get out your calendars and get ready to caucus. In just over three weeks, Nevadans will have the enviable opportunity to participate in narrowing the primary field for president as the third state to hold a presidential nominating event for the 2016 election, although Nevada’s Republicans have inexplicably chosen to go fifth.
Thanks to Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada moved up to third place in the national sweepstakes in 2008, resulting in a lot more attention from presidential candidates who previously ignored us. It’s not a coincidence that we have candidates in town so often these days. After mid-February, you won’t see them in Nevada again until after Labor Day, and then most likely only in Las Vegas.
The political parties have treated the caucuses differently. Democrats have utilized the competition as an organizing tool, building excitement from neighborhood precinct meetings on the same day and time to register voters and channel enthusiasm into volunteers ready to canvass, make telephone calls, and support the party’s candidates. Republicans have chosen to mostly stay home, preferring a primary to a non-binding caucus, with many members dismayed at a weak party organization that enables the libertarian wing to prevail in messy intra-party feuds.
The 2008 caucus was raucous and fun for Democrats, as venues overflowed with Obama and Clinton supporters who gave passionate speeches to win over the Edwards fans. Many neighbors met in a political atmosphere for the first time, discovering their mutual views and dreams for the country.
The excitement of the competitive 2008 contest wasn’t repeated in 2012, as Democrats were united behind President Obama and Republicans still couldn’t generate enough interest in their caucus to make it meaningful. During the 2015 legislative session, a contingent of frustrated Republican legislators submitted a bill to change to a primary, moving the existing June primary to February to protect Nevada’s status as “First in the West” to vote. The measure failed for numerous reasons, including the prospect of a nearly one-year campaign if the new primary included state and local races in order to save on election costs.
If Nevada doesn’t improve its participation in the caucus, we may forfeit our third place slot, which means we’ll go back to very few candidate visits. Coloradans are already pitching their state as the most logical to take Nevada’s place as a Western bellwether.
So, caucus, people! If you’re a Democrat, your caucus date is Saturday, Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. Republicans will caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The starting time varies by county, between 5 and 7 p.m. Exercise your right to choose among the candidates still in the race on Feb. 23. There’s likely to be more than a handful.
Both parties are holding mock caucuses or training to learn more about what to expect on caucus day. It’s really not that hard, though. Show up and you’ll be fine.
If you’re registered as a non-partisan voter or a member of a minor party, you cannot participate in the caucuses. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting out to see the candidates as they roll through the state in the next month. Take your teenagers along.
Remember that Nevada has a stellar record of picking our nation’s president, as we’ve voted for the winner of every presidential election since 1912 with the exception of 1976. This year, more than ever, there are serious choices and consequences for our country. Do your part and caucus if you can.