Flaccid caucus

It’s probably safe to say that every member of the editorial staff at the Reno News & Review should attend daily Politiholics Anonymous meetings. As much as anyone out there, we are distracted by the aggro Republican debates, the bob and weave of the smaller party pugilists, and the presidential caucuses and primaries. But we’re not distracted because we believe the battles to select delegates to the national conventions are important to our individual lives. They’re not. They’re just good theater.

We’ll do several stories about Nevada’s caucuses. But for us junkies, the whirling cogs in our political engine are endlessly fascinating. However, for the vast majority of Nevadans, they’re unimportant.

Four years ago, in Nevada’s white-hot early Democratic presidential caucuses, some 118,000 Democrats participated. (For comparison’s sake, about 9,000 participated in 2004’s not-so-early caucuses). Only 1.2 million Nevadans of all political persuasions actually voted in the 2008 general election. Let’s look at those numbers: 2.2 million people lived in the state; 627,000 Democrats actually voted in November; 118,000 Democrats caucused in that first year of Nevada’s “first in the West” status. And only 44,000 participated in the Republican caucuses that year.

That means a miniscule percentage of Nevadans—the most obsessive, partisan party animals in the state—caucused, thus choosing the proportions of Nevada’s votes for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

Those Democratic caucus numbers are not likely to be matched by Republicans this year, not because Obama is loved by Republicans any more than George W. Bush was loved by Democrats. People now just have more important things on their minds, and Capitol Hill’s apparently deliberate dysfunction has made them believe their vote is irrelevant. It’s the predictable result of four more years of each side of the aisle working to undermine the policies of the other. For the good of the country? No. In too many cases, those “representatives” work simply to create dissatisfaction among opposing-party voters in order to gain seats so they can bludgeon the other side to acquiesce to their increasingly nonrepresentative views.

And as much as some pundits like to say people should care, we don’t because we think the game is rigged.

Many of us non-partisan voters are excluded from the discussion anyway. Our opinion only counts if we change our voter registration and join the ethically bankrupt American political party system. In other words, we can have a voice in the selection of our country’s president if we play the very game that has undermined democracy and choked our elected officials’ ability to work for the good of the country. Many of us have taken a principled stand against the corruption, so we’re excluded. Makes perfect sense—why would the groups that benefit from dysfunction reform the system?

You’ll hear versions of these statements a lot in the next 10 months: Stupid people don’t vote. Uninformed people don’t vote. It’s your responsibility to vote. If you want change, you must vote. Your vote matters.

Here’s what you probably won’t hear as much: It’s wasteful to fuel a malfunctioning machine. The machine must be taken apart and bad parts replaced. And the machine can’t fix itself.

Yes, we’re junkies. We’ll vote. But that doesn’t mean we don’t understand why some people won’t.