Out of the Blue: Confessions of an invisible Tahoe Democrat (opinion) | SierraSun.com

Out of the Blue: Confessions of an invisible Tahoe Democrat (opinion)

Mike Restaino
Out of the Blue

I thought I was the only Democrat in North Tahoe.

After graduating from UC Berkeley and living in cities like San Francisco and Seattle, I must say that I took for granted how, in those places, things lean pretty blue.

But once I fell in love with Incline Village and moved here full time a few years back, I have to say that my proud Democratic status was not exactly the first thing I wanted my new neighbors to discover about me. For a while, my liberal leanings were a quiet secret kept between me and the registrar of voters.

Don't get me wrong — I love rowdy political discourse. A bartender friend of mine in town and I loved to spar about guns and Supreme Court decisions, about particular idiots in Washington she'd love to invite to any of her frequent hunting trips just to show them what Nevada really looked like.

Alas, the farthest left I got her to venture was her use of that vague quote about how if you're not liberal when you're young, you don't have a heart, and if you're not conservative when you're older, you don't have a brain.

Let's just say our happy disagreements live on!

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In any case, during caucus season this year, I felt compelled to get out for the party, to polish my rusty Democratic credentials and drum up some votes. There was a stark volatility within the political dynamic in early 2016, and I was so affected by it that I decided to be proactive, to carry through on a candidate I found inspiring.

And on that first chilly February morning on the campaign, I felt intimidated. The main task for most volunteers was to take packets of address printouts, knock on folks' doors to see whether they were caucusing and, if so, who they'd be caucusing for.

These weren't randomly-chosen residents, thankfully — the last thing Incline needs is an army of roving Democrats tap-tapping on Republican doors — yet while I never encountered anyone outwardly hostile to our door-to-door appearances, there was a reticence in some of these voters, as if something unsavory would befall them if their neighbors saw them interacting with those perky, outspoken people with the big blue signs.

Then came the caucuses themselves. Nothing outrageous took place in my precinct's allotted classroom at Incline High, and even if some choice words were thrown around, it was thrilling to participate in a contest where passions ran so high. I even got picked as a delegate to the Nevada State Democratic Convention, which is a story in itself.

After resting for a weekend after this blustery caucus, our real work began. It all started as a simple idea to set up a local Democratic club, a casual forum to keep energized North Tahoe voters engaged and involved through the national election and beyond.

At our events throughout February, we set out a sign-up sheet and got such an enthusiastic response that a sub-group of us began meeting a few times a week to discuss what this organization would look like, and before we knew it, we started picking up speed.

A website went up. We staged a membership drive. We were issued an official charter from the Washoe County Democrats. We sent out newsletters alerting members of upcoming candidate fundraisers.

We designed a logo and printed a big banner. We set up booths at summertime events in the area and got dozens of new sign-ups. And we're still spreading like wildfire.

Every time we get together and see some fresh faces, there are always one or two newcomers who feel the way I did when I first got to town. The latest estimates suggest 30% of Incliners are registered Democrat, but those numbers might be changing.

So whether you're California Dreaming or have Nevadittude, if there's a candidate or a cause that has you itching to stand out a little more prominently from the deep red majority, know this:

You're not the only Democrat in North Tahoe.

Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a Vice Chair of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at info@northtahoedems.org.