I will never attend a caucus in Iowa again. First of all, I couldn't valet my car at the Westridge Elementary School in West Des Moines. Second, there was not a Jean Philippe Patisserie inside the school selling fresh, soft, Nutella-stuffed brioches. Third, not one of the people I met at the school was a cocktail waitress or even dressed like a cocktail waitress.
The Bellagio hotel had never hosted a caucus before, but they ran the swankest voting site ever in which tiaras were not handed out. The caucus was held in the marble-floored, crystal-wall-sconced Tower ballroom a few yards from the casino. And yet the hotel was still unsatisfied. "For us, that room has nothing in it," said Alan Feldman, Bellagio's senior vice president of public affairs. "Even the water is in pitchers. We would never do that. It would be bottles of Fiji in little cooled metal holders. Next year, we want to sit down with the party and find out how to make it better. And bigger." I so love Vegas.
This was the first time the Nevada caucuses were held early enough to matter, so the unions convinced the Democratic party to let workers vote in the hotels, since Saturday at noon is the equivalent of first thing in the morning at your office. Bellagio workers were given a box lunch with a ham and salami sandwich, a bag of Kettle Chips, potato salad and carrot cake. When I headed into the hallway, I ran into Hillary Clinton, who was staying in the hotel, and asked her if she thought this was the nicest caucus ever. She laughed a laugh that told me that she either totally agreed or had no idea how to laugh like a normal person.
Unlike in Iowa, this caucus showed a cross-section of the new America: valets, chefs, croupiers, waiters, maids all of whom made me realize how much easier it would be if every event I covered was attended only by people wearing name tags and uniforms signifying their occupations. And unlike in Iowa, these people were rowdier than kids at a pep rally before the game against their rival Texas football team. They screamed and chanted and since this is Vegas and the ballroom had a stage jumped up there to dance, chant and fake fight with each other. "This is awesome. The energy," said cocktail waitress Carey Archer, which other than John Edwards supporters was the most underrepresented group in the room. "There's only four cocktail waitresses here from the Belalgio and there are 250 of us. It's kind of sad," she said. Lesson: Don't talk about politics when trying to pick up a cocktail waitress.
When Hillary Clinton won with the unanimous support of the cocktail waitress lobby her supporters went insane. They immediately turned and faced the Obama supporters on the other side of the room, un-Iowanly pushing their signs at their sad faces and taunting them with chants as they stormed out of the room while the woman conducting the caucus was still talking on the stage. Although I did not see anyone pour champagne on anyone else, I have trouble believing it did not happen.
Perhaps its unrealistic for all 50 states to hold their party elections by caucusing at Las Vegas hotels, but it should be deeply considered. Everything was so well run, that it clocked in at under an hour. The media was penned in a roped off area; in Iowa, where I could walk around to anywhere in the room, I'm concerned I may have been counted in the first round as a Chris Dodd voter.
The reason the Vegas hotel caucus was so great is because the most American city delivered the most American form of democracy the fun of entertainment fused with the efficiency of capitalism. In the room next door to the caucus, Genlab was holding a conference. Last weekend, the Consumer Electronics Show and the Adult Video News Convention were in town. And with some more practice Vegas caucuses will only get more fun and more efficient. When I'm back in 2012, I'm assuming Nevada will have caucus sites at strip clubs.