My button on caucus night.
Are the Iowa Caucuses dead? Their obituary has been written by many media pundits, and maybe they’re right. I’m skeptical—it took way too long to release results, and here, more than 24 hours later, results are still incomplete. But a caucus is not a primary election.
Pete Buttigieg got a boost from Iowa, Joe Biden got a brush-back pitch. Amy Klobuchar is still alive but on the endangered candidate list. Bernie Sanders will claim victory, but is less popular this year than in his last election.
And the disaster that was the Iowa Caucus was an odd surprise after my caucus experience. I checked in at Harding Middle School. The room was not as full as I expected, but several hundred Democrats crowded into what seemed to an arch-shaped cafeteria.
The mood was way more collegial than I had experienced. In 2016, we were packed together like sardines in Peace Church, and the mood was rather acrimonious between Bernie and Hillary—the caucus took hours, the count kept having to be redone, we were exhausted by the end.
In 2008, the energy of Barack Obama infused the event. We trudged across the snow of Noelridge Park to Harding Middle School. The crowd was large and the energy transformative as the majority of us were there for the new rising political star from Illinois. But despite that positive energy in 2008, there was conflict and chaos, too. Clinton did not go quietly into the night.
In 2020, things were different. For one thing, everybody quickly moved into their candidate corners as soon as they came in. There was not really any area at all of uncommitted or undecided voters—people came already knowing who they backed. The old people seemed to cluster in Joe Biden’s corner, a mix of middle aged and younger old people joined with us in Amy Klobuchar’s tables. Our daughter was over with a mix of young and old, overwhelmingly female from what I could see, in the Elizabeth Warren area.
Caucus crowd at Harding Middle School. Joe Biden was not viable, and many of his supporters joined those of us for Amy Klobuchar.
Between our daughter and us, acting as the great wall of people that our 4-year-old grandson was constantly circumventing on his trips between mom and his grandparents, was the mixed, but mostly young, Bernie crowd.
Pete Buttigieg’s crowd was a good size, but was blocked from my view, so I’m not sure what kind of person showed up for Pete in my area. Other than they were the only group to chant now and then, which was mildly irritating, to be honest.
We waited, we chatted. My wife and I were on the edge of the Amy Klobuchar group, partly because our grandson kept coming and going. We were right next to the Biden Senior Center and adjacent to the Bernie Sanders Day Care. I chatted for a while with a gang of 80-year-old ladies who were clustered around a tall, thin retired Coe College librarian. I lent him a pen, which turned out to be a mistake since it came from my daughter’s bag and was one her favorites and disappeared into the night like Tulsi Gabbard.
A 10-month old baby was standing up in in his buggy just across the border in Sandersland. He looked at me. I grinned at him. He smiled and squealed and I chatted amiably with his parents. The retired librarian shot the breeze with me too, as did his geriatric girl squad.
The spirit was collegial. We supported different candidates, but felt united in a cause. I think for most of us in the room, we know who we wanted, but even more strongly, we known who we didn’t want.
Heck, even if the Democrats went ape crazy and for some mad reason nominated Tulsi Gabbard, I would vote for her. Bernie Sanders has had a recent heart attack and is a socialist—which I am not—but I would vote for Bernie. Joe Biden is a decent man who is way too connected to old, corrupt politics and whose best days were years ago—he’s not the kind of person who would make a great president, in my opinion. I’d vote for him, too.
Some of these people I would vote for with more reluctance. Others I would have more enthusiasm for. But none would have to work hard to earn my vote.
Because the alternative is four more y ears of Donald Trump, worst president in American history.
Anyway, the caucus meeting, compared to ones I’d experienced in previous presidential cycles, went smoothly. We got numbered cards to write our preferences on, which created a paper record and eliminated much of the counting chaos of past caucuses.
Our precinct chair was surprised at how Iowa Nice everyone was. “Nobody has yelled at me tonight,” he marveled at one point.
That was Monday evening. Later, the phone app failed, the call-in line was understaffed and the state party melted like a Russian nuclear reactor. Perhaps it is the death of the Iowa Caucuses, but it’s good that my final one, should that happen, was the most pleasant.
Then came Tuesday. I was a good boy, I was, I watched the weird, dystopian proto-fascist game show staged by our President, who is due to be acquitted by the spineless Senate tomorrow. On the eve of being crowned King Trump, I think the president gave a speech that was long, fairly effective politically, and downright scary.
Immigrants are criminals. Here is a man whose brother was shot. Build the wall! Economic numbers that didn’t add up—but the economy is good, just not good in the way that lying Don described it.
A Presidential Medal of Freedom was given. To Rush Limbaugh. Bah, humbug. You don’t give such a medal during this speech, the President gives it in an official White House ceremony, it’s not meant to be a heart-tugging moment in a Trump TV show.
But it was. The Trump wave was launched. The Democratic Party, in Iowa at least, is in shambles.
It would easy to be depressed. But I recall that baby in the Bernie crowd and his friendly parents. I think of my 4-year-old grandson moving from Amyland, through Bidenville, past Sanders Village into the Warren Terrace, wearing his “nevertheless she persisted shirt,” along with both Warren and Klobuchar campaign buttons. Everyone smiled. Everyone was polite. Everyone was doing it for his future.
Because we all agree.
It’s time for Trump to be retired to Mar-A-Lago. Effective game show or not, it’s time for the Trump TV program to be permanently cancelled. We need a president who is a president, not a schlocky TV host.