The crazy that is Iowa caucuses is now even crazier

In Iowa, you’re primary votes are cast with your feet. Seriously.

You walk into a precinct and walk over to where the group that favors your Democratic presidential candidate is sitting, and you sit there.

You used to be able to be coerced out of your group, typically by someone of influence and power. But new rules this year say if your candidate has a viable number of supporters you can’t leave your initial group.

If the candidate of your choice isn’t viable, which means they have to have a certain percentage of the caucus goers in that group, then you can move, or be “moved” to join a different group. In precincts that elect one delegate there is no viability threshold. Caucuses that elect two delegates must meet a 25% threshold, three delegates requires at 16.7% threshold and four or more delegates requires a 15% threshold.

If you’re in viable group, according to Iowa Democratic Party caucus rules, this year you’ll sign a commitment form, called a “First Expression of Preference”, and you can literally leave at that point and your vote still counts.

I think that would be interesting when you’re courting your spouse. Go over and sit beside them and hand them a card with their name on it and write “First Expression of Preference”. Then get up and leave.

Another new rule is that those initial counts will be revealed at the end of the night along with delegate results, so the nation can see who won by total count and who won by delegates. That was a twist added for this year, when in 2016 Bernie Sanders asked for those numbers and the IDP couldn’t come up with ’em.

A third twist is what is called a “satellite caucus” which takes place in Lee County at the LULAC Club and at the Keokuk Labor Temple at 1 p.m. for those that can’t make the 7 p.m. events.

Oh, and get there by 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., because entry is denied if you are late according to the precinct captains.

But caucusing is a goofy thing. I believe that more people are comfortable just casting a ballot in private. I remember sitting in a non-viable John Edwards group in 2008 and Fort Madison attorney-turned District Judge John Wright, who was also an Edwards supporter, went to work in the room.

We were viable after one lady who didn’t sit with any group came to our side. She was courted over by several people, not me. I found the whole thing somewhat intrusive and time consuming. If my candidate isn’t viable, I join someone else’s or my vote doesn’t count? Well, it actually counted because a tally’s taken at the end, but no delegates are assigned to that candidate from your precinct.

But it kind of flies in the face of one person = one vote, just in my opinion. Sure, it’s something everyone should take part in and if you’re a Democrat and are committed to politics, candidates, and the process, it can even be fun.

But with the IDP changing the rules, it may be time to think about going to a primary election. Some other types of things go on during caucuses in some cases such as speeches or platform discussions, but for the most part its trying to convince someone unsure of who they support, to come over to your side.

I’ve been a registered Democrat most of my life. The older I get the more centrist I become.

I can’t say I’m anti Donald J. Trump because only the future will tell what his impact will have been. But his tactics are deplorable. The weird thing, in real simple speak, is that most Trump supporters would agree with that statement, they’re just willing to set it aside.

So be it. Is China moving because the President has thrown down a line? Probably, but are farms going to hell if he loses the Oval Office? I think the federal government wrote some pretty big checks this year to make sure they didn’t go to hell while he was president.

But I’m interested to see what his impact on our country economically and politically will be. If nothing else, as I tell my family of heavy Democrats, it’s our system. If he pillaged it to win, that’s on us. If foreign intervention influenced the 2016 outcome, it’s still on us. Who ‘wronged ya’, Trump or the system?

Whether history is to show that Trump did great things or horrible things, no can argue this wasn’t a wakeup call for America. It is… and was… and could be again.

Pen City Current will stay up and report on the local and state results as soon as they become available, which could be late into the evening Monday.

As an aside, I want to personally thank all of you and continue to ask for your patience as we work with doctors to get our daughter back to health. She’s dealing with a very painful condition and has a chronic heart issue that is scary for her and her parents.

We’ve been intermittent lately when she needs us more. But know we are always thinking of our readers and partners, and work feverishly to get caught up when we can steal an hour or so here and there. And that ain’t so much Beside The Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor/co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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