Re: [SACC-L] The Iowa Caucuses
Although I have heard all the views on the caucuses, including from most
of the people who attended your's, this is by far the most informative
of the process. Thanks.
Thomas B. Stevenson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Anthropology
Ohio University, Zanesville Campus
1425 Newark Road
Zanesville, OH 43701
Lloyd Miller wrote:
> Again, for those of you non-Iowans who might be interested:
> The Iowa Democratic Caucus: a personal view
> The Democratic caucuses began officially at 6:30 pm. We knew that
> though our precinct (70) was assigned the gymnasium of a middle
> school in the neighborhood, crowds would be larger than in previous
> years and parking would be a problem. In good weather we'd walk the
> eight blocks, but temperatures were in the 30s so we parked on a side
> street several blocks from the school and arrived at six. We had
> beaten the crowds and were able to register without delay.
> Caucus attendees must be registered voters and sign in as they would
> if they were going to vote. Others must register to vote there in
> order to be admitted. Anyone may attend as a non-participating
> observer. Observers receive special identity tags, and once the
> caucus officially begins, must remain in a designated place and not
> mix with the participants.
> My wife Bev and I had chosen to caucus with the Governor Richardson
> supporters in hopes of providing him a delegate to the county
> convention. One man was sitting in a bleacher section holding a
> Richardson for President sign so we sat with him. It turned out he
> was Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security for New Mexico, said
> that he had worked for the Governor six years, and that some 450
> state employees took vacation time to campaign in Iowa.
> Another observer who had arrived early and came over to chat with us
> was Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, recently interviewed on
> both PBS and NPR about his new book, Homo Politicus: the Strange and
> Scary Tribes that Run our Government. The book is billed as "a
> humorous 'anthropological' study of the people and rules that govern
> Washington" (I can't wait to get my copy). I asked him how sales
> were going and he said that it's too early to tell but to please buy
> several copies! Other notable people at our precinct were our
> current District Congressman, Leonard Boswell and former Lt. Governor
> Sally Peterson, both active caucus participants. During the general
> business session between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, each was invited to the
> microphone to say a few words, and the temporary caucus chair and
> secretary solicited nominations for the positions of permanent chair
> and secretary. Not surprisingly, both were unanimously elected.
> At 7:00 pm we were informed that registration lines reached to the
> building entrance and beyond. Rules permitted that those in line at
> that time would be permitted to register and participate, so we
> didn't get started for another half-hour or so. By the time we did,
> the gym was full: all folding chairs on the floor and nearly all
> bleacher seats were occupied. Observers, including video operators,
> photographers and local and national reporters from all three
> networks plus CNN, were relegated to a corner along the wall and
> either stood or sat on the floor. We counted off, a process that
> took about 15 minutes, and our official tally was 554, nearly twice
> that of 2004. We were not the largest precinct; one I think had over
> 800 attendees.
> The next step was to group ourselves together according to the
> candidates we supported. The so-called "first tier"—Clinton, Edwards
> and Obama—took up the bleachers and the "second tier"—Biden, Dodd,
> Gravel, Kucinich, Richardson and the uncommitted—occupied the main
> floor. As we mingled with our Richardson allies and began to
> "bond" (you feel somewhat drawn to do this because you're finally
> part of a group that has made the same commitment—you're all in this
> together), we looked around at the other groups, occasionally
> recognizing someone we knew or had seen around. The effect is
> opposite that of filing a secret ballot. Suddenly, everyone's vote
> is made public!
> The candidate groups now had to count off in order to see which ones
> were viable. Our precinct would send nine delegates to the county
> convention, and through a complicated formula that I couldn't explain
> each delegate required a minimum of 83 votes. The chair asked that
> the second-tier groups count off first. Results: Biden-46,
> Richardson-38, Dodd-24 (?), Kucinich-1, Gravel-0, uncommitted-12
> (?). Before we did any realigning, we asked that the first-tier
> groups be counted as well: Clinton and Edwards -tied at 103 each;
> Obama a whopping 227.
> So now what? Richardson and Biden supporters could combine and give
> Biden a delegate. Members of both groups could drift off and join
> one of the viable candidates or the uncommitted, or they could simply
> leave. Captains of the Biden and Richardson groups conferred and
> presented the first alternative to us. They even got commitments
> from some Obama supporters to join us for the count. Bev and I both
> had strong emotional second choices, so she went with Clinton and I
> went with Obama. As I walked through the Edwards and Clinton groups
> and arrived at Obama's supporters, I felt the average age drop by
> twenty years (picture your first-year students, just out of high
> I sat alone among them, reluctantly removing my Richardson sticker.
> They were an excited bunch, sensing their victory and reveling in the
> comaraderie they had developed with each other earlier and of which I
> was not a part. As I saw my Richardson "comrades" dispersed
> throughout the gym and reflected on the Governor and my months of
> support for him, I felt a bit sad, as when a friend moves away. Yet
> I was already becoming caught up in the Obama frenzy and it felt good
> for once to be with someone who, at least for the moment, looked like
> he could win.
> The caucus chair allowed one representative for each of the three
> viable candidates and Biden a sixty-second stump speech. The Biden
> supporters ran several counts and on impulse I jumped up to be
> counted with them on their final attempt, however they didn't get
> more than 60 plus. Our final precinct numbers were Edwards-131,
> Clinton-120 and Obama-289. Obama got five delegates and Clinton and
> Edwards got two each. It seems that proportionately our precinct
> numbers were pretty typical of the state generally.
> Next on the agenda is usually the reading or offering of resolutions
> that will ultimately comprise the party's platform. They may have
> done that but Bev and I didn't stick around for it. We were anxious
> to get home and watch it all unfold on TV.
> The following day was blissfully quiet; no phone calls or knocks at
> the door from canvassers. It's a relief but it was worth going
> through. The many months of the campaign in Iowa have been both
> exhilarating and educational. We have had unique opportunities to
> see and hear the candidates numerous times and in close quarters.
> While only a small percentage of Iowans take advantage of these
> opportunities, those who do become as familiar with the candidates as
> possible. The caucus process also provides an open door for those
> who wish to become involved in politics.
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> Find out more at our web page :http://webs.anokaramsey.edu/sacc/
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- Hi Lloyd,
Thanks for the great description of your personal view and
involvement in the Iowa Caucuses. I really enjoyed reading it.