Yes, as Fort Madison’s Joe Little reminded me Monday night, caucuses were born of the Roman Empire and are to be held up as a bastion of democracy in a Republic… a moment in time where you stand with your neighbors and declare your support for the leader of your choice.
It’s patriotic. It’s transparent. It can be fun. Heck, it’s even romantic if you think about things that way.
But has its time passed? Not because it isn’t an effective and unique way of determining state delegates to the national convention, but because we have this thing of social incompetence that’s prevalent today.
A caucus may not be the most reliable way to make sure those votes and delegates are applied correctly.
Nationally, people are turning their backs with a dismissing wave of the hand, and Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price is standing right there with palms up taking all the criticism. He should. But wait for all the news to come out on this app thing.
Rebecca Bowker, Fort Madison City Councilwoman and 1st Precinct Caucus chair, said the app worked like a champ for her, but agreed that there were some technical hurdles that some probably weren’t accustomed to. Also the back-end data collection seems to have been corrupted to a degree.
News reports now allege the Democratic National Committee forced the use of the app on the IDP. That’s alleged, not found in fact. Yet. You can rest assured that state and national media will be digging into that.
The campaigns have hustled to New Hampshire with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both claiming victory. What’s weird is that in the end, they both could be right. And, as the wise owl from the Tootsie Pop commercial of old would say in his investigation into how many licks it took to get to the ‘Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsie Pop’ – “The world may never know”.
But let’s look locally and start with the satellite caucuses. IDP rules say that all caucuses are open and observable by the public. You have to be in line by the time the caucus starts to participate, but the public is free to observe the event and latecomers can observe, but not engage.
The satellite caucus at the LULAC in Fort Madison was locked up by State Rep. Jeff Kurtz 5 minutes after it began. The doors were actually locked. Nowhere in instructions we could find on the IDP website did it allow for satellite caucuses to be locked unless it was held at someone’s residence or a place of work. The LULAC club, we would argue, doesn’t apply.
I got there at 1:07 p.m to cover this first-ever satellite caucus. I timed it that way to skip the initial statements and platforms but wanted to observe the preference cards and alignments. I was told Saturday by Lee County Democrat Chair Mary Jo Reisberg that doors wouldn’t be locked.
I checked all doors and knocked on two of them. They heard me. It was reported in a local paper that someone knocked on the door, but Kurtz wouldn’t open the door.
Then Monday night at Lincoln Elementary, 2nd Precinct Chair Bob Morawitz had to gavel the meeting to order with a big plastic bowling pin because no one could hear him in the gym full of about 95 people. It was actually funny, if not a bit charming, to see this lifelong Democrat flailing wildly on a podium with a two-foot-long plastic white bowling pin, complete with the red trim.
“Please tell me you got that picture,’ said caucuser and Fort Madison attorney Mio Santiago.
A microphone and amplifier were brought in, but the acoustics were so bad no one could hear anyway. Then one campaign captain, inadvertently, picked up a preference card from a caucuser in another group and that had to be sorted out.
After the whole ordeal, Morawitz was then on hold on the phone for almost two hours trying to report numbers to the state. Reisberg was on hold for not quite as long in Keokuk, but well over an hour.
One girl left FM 2 due to a family emergency before the first preference tally was taken, but left her card on the table… so she wasn’t technically there at the time, but she had her vote counted… who knows, does it count, does it not count?
Results from Fort Madison’s 3rd precinct weren’t posted until 85% of the state had reported.
Anyone following this incredible story on state and national news could see that most precinct chairs were older people who don’t use apps regularly. Bowker said Tuesday the app is getting a “bad rap”. Several chairs on national news reports said they weren’t inclined to use the app. And it was also reported that several precinct chairs – just went home.
You can say, well it was the first time and we have to work the bugs out. That’s a lot of bugs.
Some are pushing to have Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status pulled because of the storm, but conservative talk show pundits say President Donald Trump has committed to keeping Iowa first. No one would think that’s a move to shore up the Hawkeye state in November though. After all, this guy never backtracks.
But maybe having Nikki Sugars and the staff roll in the voting machines would be easier and take the brain drain out of the caucus. Stay tuned…and watch this story unfold. It’s historic.
By the way, I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately in mixed precipitation. My question is this… is it just me or is the driver’s side windshield wiper supposed to suck. I think it’s conspiratorial in nature and a ploy to sell more wipers.
But that’s Beside the Point.