My Evening With The Iowegians

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.

UPDATE 01/06/08: The local press copies off me here, here and here.

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Author: qcexaminer

None of your damned business.

9 thoughts on “My Evening With The Iowegians”

  1. QCE, awesome piece! Great job. Must have been fun. Wish all the primaries (including House & Senate) had that grassroots flavor. How’d they determine that 42 was the magic number?

  2. Thanks Huck, the caucus was a blast!

    While the Iowa GOP has a winner-take-all rule for their caucuses, the Dems have the 15% viability thing.

    In the case of the Dem LeClaire caucus, the formula was 279 caucusers X 15% = 41.85 (rounded up to 42).

  3. I am not sure how I feel about the 15% thing… I think it makes it hard for 2nd tier candidates to survive. Look at someone like Richardson… (and let me say I don’t think he’s going to win by any means) From what I remember seeing he has consistently polled in the 8-10-12 percent range. While nothing to write home about, certainly a respectable number. Yet his tally last night was only 2%. I am assuming thats because in most places he didn’t meet the 15% threshold and lost those supporters.

    Meanwhile on the Republican side with the straight vote tallies, guys like Ron Paul and Rudy Guliani were able to get much more accurate assessments of where their campaigns stood.

    While I realize that the Iowa caucus is by no means definitive, I think that on the democratic side it is not near as representative as it could be. But since everyone seems to love the persuasion part, I doubt it changes.

    It reminds me of hockey. Everyone associated with the game (players, coaches, etc…) hate doing shootouts to decide the winner of games. But fans LOVE shootouts for the excitement, so thats now how they finish games instead of having ties. Doing whats popular over doing whats best. Its the American political way!

  4. Thanks Barrett.

    The reason I chose the Dem caucus is not because I’m “warming up to us Democrats”, but because the Dem caucus was the one closest to where I live.

    Also the “viability” thing intrigued me and I thought that would make the Dem caucus more interesting than the winner-take-all GOP caucus with the secret ballots.

    But still, I have to say you are beyond clueless. As I have mentioned numerous times, I backed Howard Dean in ’04 (but not Kerry) and McCain in ’00 (but not Bush). I voted for Obama in both the primary and general elections. I don’t hate Democrats, I mostly hate the RICO Politburo and extremism on either side.

    Also, I am happily married to a Democrat, and he and I have been “warming up” for more than 25 years. 😉

    Please update your stereotyped view of me.

  5. I dunno Robbie, you might be right about the 15% thing—I haven’t really thought about it since it doesn’t affect me personally. I’m pretty sure the Dems put that in place in an effort to be MORE inclusive, but you know how most good intentions get caught in the unintended consequences trap.

    For me, the most exciting part was the “persuasion” after the initial vote. The observers were told to sit against the wall near the Edwards corner. After the first vote, a very inebriated Edwards backer mistook me for a fellow Edwards partisan and grabbed me by the arm and tried to drag me over to the Richardson group in order to help him persuade some of them to join the Edwards group. I had a heckuva time convincing him I was only an observer and not allowed to convince anyone of anything. After he wandered off, another Edwards partisan helpfully said to me: “I think he’s drunk”. Such a hoot!

    But still, I have to say “amen, brother” to your observation that “doing what’s popular over doing what’s best. It’s the American political way!”

    So true.

  6. If the drunk was one of my relatives I refuse to recognize his heritage. Though if it was one of my relatives they would probably have been drinking the family recipe from a mason jar.

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