I got to the Democrat caucus in LeClaire at 6:15 and the place was packed—SRO in the Bridgeview Elementary school cafeteria and no place to park on premises.
The line was out the doors to enter. The caucus was to begin at 6:30, but with so many people waiting to get in, it was announced that anyone in the door by 7:00 would be able to caucus. About 7:30 the show began.
The first thing on the agenda was a head count to make sure the number of people matched the number of those registered. That checked out OK—the number was 279.
After some announcements (which I couldn’t hear, but figured they didn’t have anything to do with me anyway) the really interesting part began. Caucusers (?) stood up and gave speeches about why they supported candidate X, and why the others should too. Naturally, there were some campaign operatives and Democrat party apparatchiks who gave speeches, but the most effective (IMO) were those given by “normal” people—they were honest, sincere, heart-felt and moving. In fact they resembled the “witnessing” and “testifying” that you see in some Christian churches.
Except for one Edwards supporter (who took a veiled swipe at Hillary), all the speeches were postive, with a minimum of Bush/GOP bashing—-the tone overall was very postive. This was my favorite part of the whole process.
After the speeches, caucusers congregated in corners and areas designed for each of the candidates. Right away I could see Obama would win, just by the number of people congregated in the Obama corner.
It was announced that the number of caucusers needed to determine a “viable” candidate was 42. Here’s how the first round went:
Edwards – 66
Obama – 103
Hillary – 82
Biden – 17
Richardson – 7
Uncommitted – 3
None for Kucinich or Dodd.
Richardson and Biden were declared “not viable” and after the realignment, the final tally was:
Edwards – 75 – 2 delegates
Obama – 119 – 3 delegates
Clinton – 85 – 2 delegates.
As you can see, Hillary only picked up 3 of the 24 “unviables”.
There were two other “observers” near me. One was a man who was originally from LeClaire, but who is now living in Florida and registered to vote there. I asked him who he was supporting and he said Clinton. When I asked why, he said his wife had convinced him that it was a time for a woman president. I told him that wasn’t enough for me. With that, he moved to another part of the room! The other was a young (college age, probably) woman who was with the Obama campaign and was tasked with calling in the results to headquarters. I was lucky to be seated next to her because she knew her caucus stuff down cold and was a valuable resouce to me—and not just me either; the Edwards people were asking her questions, too.
It was a very friendly gathering, with lots of talking, laughing and cheering, and I was approached by several Iowegians asking me about my thoughts on the caucus, where I was from, etc.
Pundits and some political types denigrate the caucuses as “undemocratic”, but now that I have actually been to one, I don’t believe that. If anything, it is a grassroots type of politics that seems like a throwback to Jacksonian democracy. All that was missing was the barrels of whiskey!
From all the negative press I’d read about the caucuses, I figured it would be an incredibly hokey and antiquated event.
It just isn’t so. The Obama campaign worker I sat next to, who was also from Illinois, lamented the fact that Illinois didn’t have a caucus system, since, as she said “every vote counts” in a caucus.
The caucus I attended was messy, chaotic and a hoot!
It shows that politics can be fun, and as a history buff, this was a reminder of what real, true frontier democracy was like in the 19th century.
It was an experience I’ll never forget.