So, as I noted, I made it to caucus today. It was…more eventful than expected. I took 2 pages of notes so I’ll try to tell you what happened to the best of my notes and memory. I shall also remind you of my biases, I went to Caucus today with 2 goals: 1) #neverTrump 2) some random platform amendments I’ll get to in a moment.
I settled into the caucus about 5-10 minutes early and took a seat behind two people engaged in quite the back and forth. One was clearly a Trump supporter. The other clearly #neverTrump but I was unclear of his opinions past that. When the #NeverTrump brought up Trump’s abuse of eminent domain (specifically decrying the use of it and TIFs to enrich developers) the Trumper…supported the use of eminent domain to eliminate “areas of people who don’t pay enough taxes” and replace them with businesses. He specifically talked about when a local town (Kirkwood, MO) annexed, and eminent domain’ed a local, primarily African American neighboring unincorporated area (known as Meacham Park) and turned it into a shopping center and how great that was. Draw you own conclusions, but Trumper’s gonna Trump. This did give me pause though, because I looked around wondering how many other Trumpers were there (we’ll get to that in a moment).
Business as Usual, For a While at Least.
They banged in the gavel, and there was some minor busywork. I estimated 30-40 people, the official count was announced at 55. Most seemed to be 50+ (trending towards 70+) I saw a few closer to my age, and 1 or 2 very young people.
It’s very clear that some of these people are familiar with the rules as well as all the trappings of decorum, making nominating mini-speeches peppered with the kind of stuff you’d here on the senate floor. (Later I would learn that the man doing that was twice an electoral college elector.) Things go very quickly on approving a permanent caucus chair, secretary and sergeant-at-arms. (The last going to a young man in his late teens early 20s because, well why not.) The approved chair has a legal background, came prepared by reading the rules, and proceeded to explain them in lay language. Over in the corner the Township Committee Woman is recording on her iPhone, presumably for the record.
Here’s where I messed up. I misestimated the number of delegates we’d get to vote on. The threshold for the consideration of slates only (i.e. no individual nominations) is 10 or more. We got 10 for congressional district 2 (my district) and 1 for congressional district 1(which cuts through a sliver of this township.) This meant 11 delegates to the state convention and 10 and 1 to each congressional convention. I also failed to understand that the state and congressional delegates could be the same people.
Upon calls for slate nominations immediately the people in the front row (who are clearly party regulars) propose “The Creve Coeur Township Unity Slate” (yes they called it that.) Made up of more party regulars supposedly representing each of the 3 remaining candidates. During nominating speeches a bit later they said that this slate had been in preparation “since there were 17 candidates.” Being #NeverTrump, I’m not happy with the way this is going and I have no plan. Enter one Donna Hearne, former member of the Reagan administration, wearing a Cruz Button.
Victory Goes to Those Who Show up and Show up Prepared
Ms. Hearne announces the nomination of the “Cruz, Anti-Trump Slate.” She’s called to read the names, some last minute adjustments are made and it is formally submitted. The Trumpers were highly unhappy. “Why does Cruz get to propose a slate? Why can’t we?” Obviously none of them had read the rules and the Trump campaign lacked both top down organization and grass roots organization to put one together. (For my part I knew slates were an option, but lacking my own infrastructure decided that if the Cruz campaign couldn’t bring one, I was SOL anyway.) Slates take 22 total people 11 delegates, 11 alternates and must be written down. They have nothing to even start with. One of them shouts “there are about 20 of us [Trumpers] here!” The chair points out that they need to have it written down. Someone else asks “well give us time.” The chair notes that in order to have time they’d need to make a motion for a recess, have it seconded and passed. (Seriously the chair was being more then generous.) Motion made, brief discussion, motion passes, not without some dissent. During the “nay” votes (show of hands) one Trumper yells “Why would you vote against a recess?!” Never mind that it’s Saturday and I’d like to get the hell out of there (I voted for a recess, but you get the idea) but why does he care. He keeps shouting about it, and I say “They have a right to vote, LET THEM.”
Recess passes. Trumpers begin frantically trying to assemble a slate with no real leader it’s going to be a long slog. I take this opportunity to go talk to Ms. Hearne, tell her I’m with this blog and ask a few questions and thank her for the Cruz slate. She graciously agrees. Her interest is education reform, and she’s co-chair? (notes unreadable) of Cruz’s education committee. But she says the campaign was not behind this slate, she did it via grass roots support. I give her this web address and step out to make a few phone calls.
The Establishment Strikes Back…sort of
I return to the last bit of wrangling. The Trump slate has failed to materialize. It seems the “Unity Slate” may have been involved in this by offering alternate spots on there slate to people in attendance. (Or maybe they didn’t have 22 people) Just one problem, the unity slate has already been accepted and certified. There was never a motion to withdraw and resubmit it. Whoops! Looks like no alternates will be changed. (To be fair, I’m not sure this was intentional, alternates are unlikely to be used and only 1 person wanted the spot anyway. Since alternates aren’t numbered the unity team could have just called her dead last if needed. I think the establishment just didn’t know their own rules!) Now why did the establishment kill the Trump Slate (if they did?) Simple, if it goes through the vote for their slate is split 2 ways. Better to hedge that there are less Cruz voters than “Not Cruz” voters.
Once again, angry Trumpers. In part angry because Ms. Hearne made a change to her slate before submitting it for certification. And they don’t understand the difference. Compounded by the fact that Ms. Hearne’s copies for the caucus were made prior to that change. Obviously only the official submission counts, but the Trumpers seemed to think every little handout made had to be accurate, not just the one submitted to the secretary. Trumpers keep referring to “making sure my vote counts” and “vigilance.” Clearly Trump’s “Big Steal” message is working with his base.
Let me make an aside here to any Trumper who wanders in. Your vote did count, by creating first round bound delegates. After that, it’s about ground game. Good for trying, but your candidate isn’t generating it.
Now back to the mess. Nominating speeches begin. The unity ticket focuses on “representing everyone.” And a “fair distribution” of delegates who are “party ground workers.” Nothing special.
Ms. Hearne gives the Cruz slate speech and did a fantastic job. She started by doing something I wouldn’t have done, and I would have been wrong. She congratulated the Trump supporters on their preferred nominee and how he’s “raised the bar on issues” and “brought new people out to participate.” Disagree though I might with this, it’s a good way to prevent alienation. She then went on to compare Cruz and Trump as both being outsiders upset with DC. Talking about how Cruz can’t be bought either, shown through Iowa. She then asked those on her slate who were present to stand, highlighting diversity in age and race.
The Moment of Truth
Voting begins. Because we voted on State convention and congressional convention delegates things got a bit confusing here. I’ll summarize briefly: The initial hand vote was too close to call leading to the classes “each to your side of the room” voting. For the state slate the Cruz slate wins 30-24. He wins the congressional district 2 slate by similar margins. Congressional district 1 only has 3 people present. Cruz slate wins 2 to 1. A total sweep for #NeverTrump people choosing our national delegates, at least here. A minor bit more bickering, but not much about it (the results are pretty clear.)
I Take the Floor
The bulk of the caucus is over, except for those who read the rules (Hi there!) we know that if you present typed, signed amendment proposals to the platform they can be voted on. I came prepared with the following amendments:
Add to the section on “Health Care Reform” the following bullet point:
“Empowering consumers and the market to control health care costs by increasing price transparency from providers.”
Add the following bullet point to the section titled “Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice:”
“Reducing local government reliance on fines and traffic tickets to end the misappropriated roll of law enforcement as a de facto revenue source, leading to antipathy between law enforcement and the community.
Place a subsection under “Freedom” entitled “Freedom of Speech.” Include in this subsection:
- The commitment of the Missouri GOP to the protection of the First Amdenment.
- Commitments to opposing so-called “lawfare” through expansion of “Anti-SLAPP” statutes and a federal Anti-SLAPP”
- Commitment to the freedom of speech for students at our state universities.
Exact language and other issues to be determined by the 2016 Missouri Republican Party Platform Committee.
I agreed to propose all these as a single slate for efficiency, giving only one 3 minute speech. There were no opposition speeches per se, so a caucus goer yielded time to me to answer some questions. Vote was taken on the group as a whole and I’m proud to say that by voice vote they passed (Sadly not unanimously, but what are you going to do.)
In the end a process that was more interesting than I expected and not without impact I suspect.