Yes, the prospect of shenanigans perpetrated by the Clintonistas to muscle or connive their way to additional Nevada delegates seemed at least fifty-fifty, and that might be worth watching. At the same time, so what? Barring lightening bolts from the sky, Barack Obama is going to be the nominee, no matter how Nevada's delegates go.
But then there was another point to consider, one made in a Miniglean on Valentine's Day eve, namely, that the convention would be "a full-on clusterfuck. Guaranteed." Assuming the convention would not be merely confusing, but an all-out fiasco that people would be talking about for years to come, we figured we'd better go be a part of it so that we would have our own vignettes to share in those future conversations.
It turned out that the Clark County Democratic Party under the illustrious leadership of chairman John Hunt (pictured, above, thinking of doing something poorly) exceeded even our wildest expectations when the county convention, after several miserable hours of confusion, frustration, anger and perverse hilarity simply collapsed under its own weight without selecting a single delegate to the state convention.
Instead, the county party will try again another day.
The convention of course was doomed to fail even before it started, when the party booked a 5,000 capacity room to hold more than 7,000 delegates — and that's not counting the alternates and observers who also showed up at Bally's Saturday. By most estimates, attendance totaled at least 10,000. The fire marshals were not amused.
The inappropriate venue and the attendant disenfranchisement (people couldn't participate if they couldn't get in), confusion over delegate registration, an untrustworthy and backward balloting system (seriously, roaming cardboard boxes?), day-long piss-poor communications — the sordid list of things that went wrong and that could have and should have been done differently is far too long to inventory in a blog post.
That Hunt should resign immediately as county party chairman goes without saying. All we would add is that a restraining order should also be issued to keep him from coming within 500 yards of any decision that might have an impact on the county or state Democratic Party for as long as there are people who call themselves Democrats and a state called Nevada.
When it became obvious that Saturday's convention was too poorly organized and was in fact such a colossal fiasco that any delegates selected would be vulnerable to challenge at the state convention, and that the credentials of Nevada's delegation at the national convention might even be jeopardized, leaders for both the Clinton and Obama campaigns supported the motion to call it a day and try again some other time.
That motion failed the first time, not surprisingly, as delegates on both sides were immediately suspicious of the other side's potential skulduggery. (That distrust was fostered in no small part, by the way, by Hunt's asinine decision to leap to the vigorous defense of the patently political suit to disenfranchise the at-large caucus sites in the days leading up to Nevada's Jan. 15 caucus.)
The campaigns and county party leaders huddled again while Al Franken and Harry Reid gave speeches that the Gleaner didn't pay any attention to, and then emerged from their smoke-filled room with a new motion: Clinton and Obama supporters would be split up so that their respective champions could convince supporters to back the plan to kill Saturday's convention. The voice vote on the motion to split was declared to pass, although easily as many people shouted "no" as "aye." So that was shameful and embarrassing.
Finally, after the votes were whipped, the motion to give up and try to have a convention again at some indeterminate point in the future passed on a legitimate voice vote.
Throughout the day, speaker after speaker told the crowd what a wonderful problem the Democrats had — that were too many Democrats. And that of course is absolutely true.
But the party's humiliating fiasco of a convention is also the price the party has to pay for falling prey to a common Las Vegas malady wherein the city outgrows one of its institutions, and matters calling for some measure of sophistication and competence are still being addressed by people who were better suited to handling such affairs in simpler times (the premier example of the city outgrowing an institution is the anachronistic management at the Las Vegas Review-Journal).
In the case of the Clark County Democratic Party — which of course is the backbone of the state Democratic Party — the symptoms manifested themselves in the selection of a blazingly incompetent party hack like Hunt as party chair, and the selection of a county party executive director, Peggy Maze Johnson, who is magnificently well-meaning but whose primary achievement in Nevada has been to preside over the demise of Citizen Alert, a once-relevant environmental organization, as a going concern.
Surely, there must be some professionals somewhere who know how to do these things, no?
It is fantastic that so very many people are so enthusiastic about engaging the political system this year on the Democratic side. They deserve much better than the farce they were forced to withstand Saturday.