All over the State of Washington on Saturday (Feb. 20), Republicans held their equivalent of the Iowa Caucuses – but with much different results. The average attendance at one of Iowa’s 1,687 caucuses in 2016 was over a hundred people.
We have no “official” reports in Washington, but based on our initial investigation the average number of people attending a Washington State GOP caucus in 2016 may have been 1. You read that correctly. One. Perhaps less. And the reasons are clear.
- 37th LD delegate: “We had approximately 43 people  and in 2012 we had approximately 180 at the pooled precinct caucus.”
- David Nelson, 36th district treasurer, mentioned to one informant that this is the lowest turnout he’s seen in 20 years.
- Lisa Thwing, King County’s 32nd Leg. District leader, chairing a pooled caucus, said she had never seen more sparsely attended caucuses.
- Tea Party leader in the 26th LD: “I can only compare to the last one which we had 700+ at ours in the 26th. This year we had just over 200 so VERY light and some precincts had NO ONE.”
- Well-known activist: “I don’t have photos, but I can tell you that turnout at Marysville Totem Middle School [pooled] caucus was over 600 in 2012, and fewer than 40 this time.”
- experienced GOP activist: “The turnout here at Meridian High School was a fraction of 4 years ago. Our caucus, which 4 years ago had in excess of 60 people, this year had only 12.”
- Another delegate: “A very low level of enthusiasm in most precincts.”
- Yet another delegate: “Regarding delegates and alternates, our precinct elects the most delegates of any precinct — 5 delegates and 5 alternates. We barely could get 5 people to be delegates.”
“Successful Precicnt caucuses! We had thousands of successful precicnt caucuses throughout the State on February 20th – a untied Republican Party.”
~State Republican Party official site
This reporter has attended precinct caucuses every convention year since 1982 and and I have never seen lower attendance. This is in a Presidential election year, traditionally boom time. It’s also a hotly contested nomination contest, that historically fuels Party involvement. During our last convention/caucus cycle one County Party turned away thousands of caucus attendees (illegally) claiming there was “no room.” Plenty of room, now. This is nothing short of a DISASTER. This is the equivalent of an organizational audit and it demonstrates a real, critical, broad-based deterioration of the Party, its credibility, its public image and levels of support. Right now this is a dying State political party. What has happened?
There are three factors that made this outcome inevitable, even predictable.
I. Organizational Suicide
The convention process, every two years, is a crucial renewal process. It recruits and activates new members, excites the base, showcases candidates for office, engages newly current issues and re-engages the veterans. As people retire from Republican activism (which typically happens over a 2-4 year period) they must be replaced. The precinct and district caucuses, 39 County Conventions and State Convention, every two years, not only raise funds, awareness and enthusiasm, they are the heart of the Party structure.
But the elite GOP establishment of Washington State literally abolished all this for the 2014 election cycle, setting back the Party by a matter of years. Our reports from that time:
- WILBUR, SOTELO LEAD IN CANCELLING WASHINGTON STATE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION FOR 2014
- Cancelling the Grass Roots 2014: Cameras in the coffin, interviewing worms
II. Strategic Suicide
A key reason people get involved in the Republican Party is to have an impact on the electoral process. Everyone can see the importance of the Presidential nominee. When the delegates chosen through the caucus process, in turn, choose the Republican Presidential Nominee it fuels involvement by people who care about the outcome. For many decades this energized the Washington State Party just as it has done, historically, in Iowa. But on Sept. 12, 2015, in Pasco, the GOP establishment elite completely abolished all that for 2016.
It is hard to imagine greater strategic ineptitude. This was not only severely counterproductive for convention/caucus involvement (the primary won’t even occur til after the State Convention), it transparently works to the advantage of Republican opponents. With a Democratic Nominee already effectively chosen by May 24, Washington State Democrats will gleefully cross over to choose the Republican Presidential Nominee and that will be the most left-leaning Republican candidate they can find. So the decision to give non-Republicans potential control of our nominee works against us in every way possible. How could they not have known this?
III. The “NOT WELCOME” sign
For the last eight years the Washington State Republican elite establishment has fought a brutal war against its own members, all of it to secure two terrible Presidential nominees. They not only slandered, but systematically cheated elected delegates out of their earned delegate positions by ballot fraud and parliamentary cheating. Elected delegates were literally thrown into the street in King County. Whole Legislative District delegations were falsified, the valid delegates not seated at the next level. The 533 illegally elected State Convention delegates (documented, below) in 2012 were but the tip of the iceberg. Thousands more had to be cheated to eliminate the five hundred. In many cases this literally involved criminal activity.
Why would people treated like this stay active in such an organization? Why wouldn’t the 2016 elimination of their voice in the nomination tell them nothing has changed?
Grays Harbor County
Former Party Official: “As a PCO, I boycotted the caucuses, because of what the Party has done to limit the voice of the people. I have been boycotting for several months, now.”