Iowa Democrats stack deck against uncommitted caucus-goers (updated)

In a few hours, I’ll go to my Democratic precinct caucus. I’ll bring party platform resolutions to submit, but my main goal for the evening will be to secure an uncommitted delegate to the county convention.

I want to send the message that President Barack Obama hasn’t stood up for core principles of the Democratic Party. He has repeatedly expressed his confidence in Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who never should have been appointed and has mismanaged funds that were supposed to help keep Americans in their homes. He shafted middle-class federal employees in order to craft an image as a deficit hawk, yet he proposed increases in the defense budget and allowed the Bush tax cuts to be extended at all income levels. He signed into law indefinite military detention authority that goes against our basic constitutional principles. He agreed to allow more offshore oil drilling without securing any GOP concessions on energy policy. He validated bogus conservative talking points about “job-killing” regulations by postponing EPA smog rules. Last summer, he treated Americans to the surreal picture of a Democratic president urging the Republican speaker of the House to join him in cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Democrats like me face long odds tonight, especially in Iowa’s most populous counties, Polk and Linn. Iowa Democratic Party caucus rules and the decisions of some county Democratic committees will make it extremely difficult for uncommitted caucus-goers to clear the viability threshold for electing delegates.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s caucus rules and procedures put many obstacles before Democrats who aren’t satisfied with the president’s performance. The lack of a secret ballot creates peer pressure. When I mentioned my goal to one acquaintance who plans to attend our precinct caucus tonight, the response was, “Good for you! He needs to hear that message.” But no, this person won’t stand with me in the uncommitted corner.

Second, the viability threshold means you can’t elect a county convention delegate unless at least 15 percent of the people in the room (and sometimes more, as I explain below) agree with you.

Bleeding Heartland has argued against the viability threshold before. It seems undemocratic to say your views count for nothing unless a certain number of your neighbors agree with you. Iowa Republican caucus-goers won’t have this problem: they know that their vote will be reported for the presidential candidate they name on their paper ballot, no matter how few people in their precincts agree with them. Even “uncommitted” votes will be counted at GOP precinct caucuses.

The Obama re-election campaign has invested heavily in turning out supporters tonight. Along with multiple e-mail blasts and robocalls, the campaign has had hundreds of volunteers making “commit to caucus” phone calls to Democrats who have caucused before. (Campaign officials claim staff and volunteers have called 350,000 Iowa voters during 2011.) The more hard-core Obama supporters show up at precinct caucuses, the more difficult it will be for people like me to form a viable preference group for “uncommitted.”

Soon after the caucuses are called to order, the president will address the gatherings via live video feed. When some Democratic activists for “uncommitted” raised concerns about the Obama video address turning caucus meetings into a campaign rally, IDP Communications Director Sam Roecker promised that there would be “an opportunity for everyone’s voice to be heard” at the caucuses.

I don’t see anything on the schedule that directs precinct chairs to invite attendees to express other viewpoints. On the contrary, a December 31 memo from the Iowa Democratic Party presents the following agenda for January 3:

6:30 PM:          Registration Opens

7:00 PM:          Caucus Called to Order

                       Location manager reads agenda for the evening

                       2012 Campaign Presentation

–       Local surrogate discusses the importance of getting involved and electing Democrats

–       President Obama will be calling and live streaming via webcast into sites across the state

7:30 PM*:         Presentation by the Iowa Democratic Party

Letters from elected officials may be read aloud, any officials present may address the caucus

7:45 PM*:         Group splits into individual precincts

                       Election of Permanent Precinct Chair and Precinct Secretary

                       Election of Delegates and Alternates

                       Election of Platform & Committee on Committees Members

                       Election of Precinct Committee Persons

                       Resolution Discussion and Adoption

8:30 PM*:         Caucus Adjourns

*Times may vary depending upon caucus location

[…]

Preference Groups

Democrats will only form preference groups if at least 15 percent of the attendees wish to do so. If the caucus agrees to form preference groups, delegates are proportionally awarded to any group that meets the viability threshold (15 percent in most precincts).

If a group is not viable when preference groups are initially formed, those individuals may realign and support a viable candidate. Delegates are then assigned.

Here’s how I expect that to play out in the majority of caucus locations. Obama’s speech will end with applause and cheers from “fired up and ready to go” activists. A Democratic Party representative will then speak. After caucus-goers head to their own precinct meeting room, the person elected precinct chair will move directly to delegate selection, without offering anyone the chance to speak on behalf of uncommitted or some other presidential preference.

When I sought comment from the IDP on why no time has been built into the agenda for division into preference groups, Roecker responded, “Uncommitted or other preference groups will have an opportunity to address the caucus when they break into their precincts.”

I would feel more respected, empowered, and included if the Iowa Democratic Party’s memo listed preference groups as an expected part of tonight’s business. I infer that Democrats like me will have to ask for a formal division, which will happen only if at least 15 percent of caucus attendees agree to add that to the agenda. It’s potentially embarrassing to have a room full of people reject your request. Plus, who wants to seem like a pain in the neck trying to keep neighbors out longer on a cold winter evening?

Even in caucuses where attendees formally divide into preference groups, it will be a challenge to gather enough uncommitted Democrats to be viable.

Two weeks ago, Bleeding Heartland user albert pointed out that the Iowa Democratic Party had not published any information about how many county convention delegates or state delegate equivalents would be elected in the 1,774 precincts across Iowa. Nor were county Democratic committees posting delegate allocations by precinct on their own websites. I agree with albert’s assessment:

The precinct-level apportionment was released months in advance in 2008. Where is it now? Why is it so difficult to find?

I have to assume it’s a lack of transparency to make it difficult for preference groups not named Obama to assess precincts where conditions may be favorable to electing their slate.

When I asked for the precinct-level apportionment, the Iowa Democratic Party provided a 41-page pdf file. I can’t think of a good reason why that document hasn’t been linked on the IDP or county Democrat websites. A total of 8,207 county convention delegates will be elected across the state. Later, the 99 county conventions will elect delegates to four Congressional district conventions. The district convention delegates will elect 1,200 delegates to the state convention this summer.

State convention delegates are allocated to each county based on a formula using the number of votes cast in that county for Barack Obama in November 2008 and Governor Chet Culver in November 2010. The larger-population counties generally are assigned more state convention delegates than smaller counties, but the key metric is how many Democratic votes came from each county. So, even though Dubuque and Pottawattamie Counties have almost the same total populations, Dubuque will elect 42 delegates to the Democratic state convention, while Pottawattamie will elect only 28 because it produced fewer votes for the top of the Democratic ticket in 2008 and 2010.

Similarly, Story County was assigned 39 Democratic state convention delegates, more than the 31 state convention delegates assigned for Woodbury County. That’s because even though Woodbury has a larger total population, the Ames area produced more votes for Obama and Culver than the Sioux City area did.

The number of county convention delegates elected has no such relationship to population or Democratic vote performance. County Democratic committees have complete discretion over the size of their county conventions.

I’ve enclosed the number of county convention and state convention delegates for each county toward the end of this post. You’ll see tremendous variation in the number of county convention delegates. For example, 16 of Iowa’s 99 counties have been allocated three Democratic state convention delegates apiece. Democratic committees in those counties have agreed on the following totals for county convention delegates:

25 (Fremont County)

30 (Pocahontas, Keokuk and Humboldt Counties)

35 (Adair County)

45 (Audubon and Lucas Counties)

50 (Montgomery, Louisa, Clarke and Davis Counties)

60 (Sac County)

65 (Monroe County)

70 (Decatur County)

80 (Monona County)

85 (Calhoun County)

There is no ideal size for a county convention, so my point is not to criticize any of the above choices. My point is that county Democrats have broad discretion in this area.

Some county committees like a big crowd for their conventions. Precincts across Webster County (including the Fort Dodge area) will elect 240 delegates to the Democratic county convention, even though Webster was allocated only 14 state convention delegates. Lots of counties with larger populations will elect fewer county convention delegates tonight.

Most Democratic county committees have assigned four or more delegates to the majority of precincts, especially in the county’s largest cities or towns. In some counties, every Democratic precinct caucus will elect four or more county convention delegates. That’s important because Iowa Democratic Party rules set a 15 percent viability threshold for all precincts electing at least four delegates.

The viability threshold moves up for precincts electing fewer county convention delegates. In precincts electing three county delegates, a preference group needs one-sixth of caucus attendees in order to be viable. In precincts electing two county delegates, a preference group needs 25 percent of caucus attendees in order to be viable. Precincts electing only one county delegate choose that delegate by majority vote.

In some counties, notably Polk (Des Moines area), Linn (Cedar Rapids area), Benton, Jasper, Keokuk, Marion, and Warren, Democratic committees have assigned three or fewer delegates to the majority of precincts. That will raise the bar for caucus-goers seeking to gain a delegate for “uncommitted.” For example, my Polk County precinct would normally elect six county convention delegates in a presidential year, but we will elect only three this year, meaning we won’t be viable unless one-sixth of attendees go uncommitted. The precinct next door, which would normally elect five or six county delegates at a presidential-year caucus, will elect only two delegates this year, meaning uncommitted needs 25 percent to be viable. At the end of this post, I’ve listed the county delegate numbers for Linn and Polk precincts.

These county Democratic committees could have increased the size of the county convention in order to assign more delegates to various precincts. I sought comment on the unusually low county delegate numbers in my area. Polk County Democrats Executive Director Tamyra Harrison told me they opted for a smaller county convention, as normally done in non-presidential election years, because there’s no competition for the presidential nomination this year.

Under these conditions, I will be impressed with any Iowa Democrats who manage to elect an uncommitted delegate to their county convention. I wish the Democrats planning to vote for Ron Paul at their GOP caucuses were standing for “uncommitted” instead. Paul is against just about all the health, labor, environment, safety and civil rights protections the U.S. has ever adopted.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: Our precinct chair did try to move directly to delegate selection and didn’t seem pleased when I requested the opportunity to speak on behalf of uncommitted. However, I am surprised and happy to report that my precinct did elect an uncommitted delegate. We only needed six of the 33 attendees to reach the viability threshold.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party posted delegate numbers here. With 93 percent of Democratic precincts reporting, Obama had 7,666 county delegates, while 81 county delegates were for “other.” In terms of state delegate equivalents, Obama had just under 1,095 and “other” had 17. The second Congressional district produced the largest number of delegates for “other,” mostly because of Johnson County (Iowa City) and Jefferson County (Fairfield). Uncommitted appears not to have been viable in any precincts in quite a few major counties: Linn (Cedar Rapids), Pottawattamie (Council Bluffs), Scott (Quad Cities), Woodbury (Sioux City), and Dubuque. I will post a more comprehensive report on the uncommitted results once the IDP chart reflects 100 percent of the precincts statewide.

For some reason, Polk, Jefferson and Johnson counties still have lots of unreported precincts. I am seeking comment from the IDP about when full results will be in.

At least one uncommitted county convention delegate was elected in the following 17 counties:

Adair (3 out of 35)

Black Hawk (10 out of 300, not all precincts in yet)

Cedar (1 out of 40, not all precincts in yet)

Dallas (2 out of 100)

Des Moines (1 out of 75)

Floyd (1 out of 90)

Jackson (2 out of 50)

Jefferson (9 out of 60, not all precincts in yet)

Johnson (19 out of 225, not all precincts in yet)

Lee (2 out of 150)

Louisa (2 out of 50)

Muscatine (5 out of 80)

Pocahontas (1 out of 30)

Polk (11 out of 600, not all precincts in yet; I have heard directly from people in precincts where a total of 8 uncommitted delegates were elected)

Story (4 out of 200)

Wayne (2 out of 40)

Winneshiek (6 out of 100)

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Talked to a friend who caucused in a different Polk County precinct. Her experience was exactly what I worried about as soon as I saw the agenda. She showed up with her husband and son, intending to caucus uncommitted. They didn’t understand the process, so didn’t speak up when the precinct chair moved directly to election of county convention delegates and other business. Then, the precinct chair asked if the caucus would ratify what they’d done by acclamation, since “we’re all going to vote for Obama.” Cheers and claps around the room. At that point my friend felt inhibited, like she would be a jerk for objecting to the motion. Now, there’s no guarantee she could have secured a delegate for uncommitted even if she’d been able to speak; she would have needed two or three more people to join her family. But the precinct chair made sure no one had the opportunity to try.

Name of county, number of Democratic county convention delegates, number of Democratic state convention delegates

Adair               35   3

Adams              40   2

Allamakee        42   6

Appanoose      75   4

Audubon          45   3

Benton             30   10

Black Hawk      300   57

Boone           140   11

Bremer           50   10

Buchanan         60   9

Buena Vista      75   5

Butler           60   5

Calhoun          85   3

Carroll          50   8

Cass             50   4

Cedar            40   7

Cerro Gordo     200   21

Cherokee         35   4

Chickasaw        60   6

Clarke           50   3

Clay             50   5

Clayton          75   8

Clinton         150   21

Crawford         70   5

Dallas          100   22

Davis            50   3

Decatur          70   3

Delaware         60   7

Des Moines       75   18

Dickinson        55   6

Dubuque         200   42

Emmet            50   4

Fayette          60   9

Floyd            90   7

Franklin         75   4

Fremont          25   3

Greene           60   4

Grundy           60   4

Guthrie          40   4

Hamilton         45   6

Hancock          60   4

Hardin          100   6

Harrison         35   5

Henry           100   6

Howard           55   4

Humboldt         30   3

Ida              25   2

Iowa             50   6

Jackson          50   9

Jasper           50   15

Jefferson        60   8

Johnson         225   76

Jones            75   8

Keokuk           30   3

Kossuth          75   6

Lee             150   14

Linn            200   99

Louisa           50   3

Lucas            45   3

Lyon             30   2

Madison          60   6

Mahaska          50   6

Marion           55   11

Marshall        125   15

Mills            40   4

Mitchell         40   5

Monona           80   3

Monroe           65   3

Montgomery       50   3

Muscatine       150   15

O’Brien          55   3

Osceola          50   1

Page             40   4

Palo Alto        60   4

Plymouth         35   6

Pocahontas       30   3

Polk            600  180

Pottawattamie   200   28

Poweshiek       100   8

Ringgold         25   2

Sac              60   3

Scott           350   68

Shelby           50   4

Sioux            75   4

Story           200   39

Tama             60   7

Taylor           20   2

Union            40   4

Van Buren        30   2

Wapello         125   13

Warren           45   19

Washington       50   8

Wayne            40   2

Webster         240   14

Winnebago        40   4

Winneshiek      100   10

Woodbury        200   31

Worth            50   4

Wright           50   4

Linn County precinct delegate allocations

The following 18 precincts will elect only one county convention delegate: Cedar Rapids 5, Cedar Rapids 6, Cedar Rapids 19, Cedar Rapids 36, Cedar Rapids 47, Boulder, Buffalo Camp, Central City, Clinton, College, Fayette, Grant, Jackson, Linn Community, Maine, Squaw Creek, Otter Creek, Spring Grove

The following 29 precincts will elect two county convention delegates: Cedar Rapids 1, Cedar Rapids 4, Cedar Rapids 7, Cedar Rapids 20, Cedar Rapids 22, Cedar Rapids 28, Cedar Rapids 30, Cedar Rapids 32, Cedar Rapids 33, Cedar Rapids 34, Cedar Rapids 35, Cedar Rapids 37, Cedar Rapids 38, Cedar Rapids 40, Cedar Rapids 46, Marion 1-1, Marion 1-2, Marion 1-3, Marion 2-1, Marion 3-1, Marion 3-3, Bertram, Brown, Monroe 1, Monroe 2, Robins, Linn-Mar, Mount Vernon, Putnam

The following 32 precincts will elect three county convention delegates: Cedar Rapids 3, Cedar Rapids 8, Cedar Rapids 11, Cedar Rapids 13, Cedar Rapids 14, Cedar Rapids 15, Cedar Rapids 16, Cedar Rapids 17, Cedar Rapids 18, Cedar Rapids 21, Cedar Rapids 24, Cedar Rapids 25, Cedar Rapids 26, Cedar Rapids 27, Cedar Rapids 29, Cedar Rapids 31, Cedar Rapids 39, Cedar Rapids 41, Cedar Rapids 42, Cedar Rapids 43, Cedar Rapids 44, Cedar Rapids 45, Marion 2-2, Marion 3-2, Marion 4-1, Marion 4-2, Marion 4-3, Fairfax, Lisbon, Hiawatha 1, Mount Vernon 2, Washington

The following seven precincts will elect four or more county convention delegates: Cedar Rapids 2, Cedar Rapids 9, Cedar Rapids 10, Cedar Rapids 12, Cedar Rapids 23, Hiawatha 2, Marion 2-3

Polk County precinct delegate allocations

The following nine precincts will elect only one county convention delegate: Des Moines 34, Des Moines 38, Des Moines 62, Des Moines 72, Alleman 1, Allen 1, Sheldahl-Union 1, Washington 1, Webster 1

The following 47 precincts will elect two county convention delegates: Des Moines 4, Des Moines 7, Des Moines 9, Des Moines 10, Des Moines 21, Des Moines 22, Des Moines 23, Des Moines 25, Des Moines 27, Des Moines 32, Des Moines 33, Des Moines 35, Des Moines 37, Des Moines 39, Des Moines 40, Des Moines 41, Des Moines 42, Des Moines 43, Des Moines 44, Des Moines 52, Des Moines 56, Des Moines 58, Des Moines 60, Des Moines 61, Des Moines 65, Des Moines 66, Des Moines 77, Des Moines 78, Des Moines 81, Des Moines 82, Des Moines 83, Des Moines 85, Des Moines 88, Des Moines 95, Des Moines 98, Des Moines 101, Clay 1, Delaware 1, Delaware 2, Delaware 3, Douglas 1, Elkhart 1, Franklin 1, Saylor 1, West Des Moines 213, West Des Moines 214, Windsor Heights 1

The following 53 precincts will elect three county convention delegates: Des Moines 2, Des Moines 3, Des Moines 5, Des Moines 6, Des Moines 8, Des Moines 11, Des Moines 13, Des Moines 14, Des Moines 15, Des Moines 16, Des Moines 18, Des Moines 20, Des Moines 24, Des Moines 26, Des Moines 28, Des Moines 30, Des Moines 31, Des Moines 36, Des Moines 45, Des Moines 50, Des Moines 51, Des Moines 53, Des Moines 55, Des Moines 57, Des Moines 59, Des Moines 63, Des Moines 73, Des Moines 79, Des Moines 80, Des Moines 84, Des Moines 86, Des Moines 92, Des Moines 93, Des Moines 94, Des Moines 96, Des Moines 99, Altoona 1, Ankeny 2, Ankeny 10, Ankeny 6, Ankeny 7, Clive 1, Saylor 2, Saylor 3, Runnells 1, Mitchellville 1, Jefferson 1, Grimes 1, Four Mile 1, West Des Moines 112, West Des Moines 215, West Des Moines 315, Windsor Heights 2

The following 74 precincts will elect four or more county convention delegates: Des Moines 1, Des Moines 12, Des Moines 17, Des Moines 19, Des Moines 29, Des Moines 46, Des Moines 47, Des Moines 48, Des Moines 49, Des Moines 54, Des Moines 64, Des Moines 67, Des Moines 68, Des Moines 69, Des Moines 70, Des Moines 71, Des Moines 74, Des Moines 75, Des Moines 76, Des Moines 87, Des Moines 89, Des Moines 90, Des Moines 91, Des Moines 97, Des Moines 100, Des Moines 102, Altoona 2, Altoona 3, Altoona 4, Ankeny 1, Ankeny 3, Ankeny 4, Ankeny 5, Ankeny 8, Ankeny 9, Ankeny 11, Ankeny 12, Bondurant 1, Clive 2, Clive 3, Clive 4, Crocker 1, Grimes 2, Johnston 1, Johnston 2, Johnston 3, Pleasant Hill 1, Pleasant Hill 2, Pleasant Hill 3, Polk City 1, Urbandale 1, Urbandale 2, Urbandale 3, Urbandale 4, Urbandale 5, Urbandale 6, Urbandale 7, Urbandale 8, Urbandale 9, Urbandale 10, Urbandale 11, West Des Moines 111, West Des Moines 113, West Des Moines 114, West Des Moines 115, West Des Moines 116, West Des Moines 211, West Des Moines 212, West Des Moines 311, West Des Moines 312, West Des Moines 313, West Des Moines 314, West Des Moines 316, Windsor Heights 3

  • I haven't read through the detail here,

    but I was expecting something like this, particularly the delegate compression.

    The counties are free to set the sizes of their conventions because delegate totals are just weighted to be in proportion w/ their assigned delegate strength at the state convention (set by the election results cited). So in ’08, Adair, I think had precincts with huge nrs of delegates, ranging from 9-27 or some such — they just weren’t worth bupkis in the grand scheme of things.

    But there is publicity value to announcing that a delegate was actually won, which is made easier when electoral representation starts approaching “one man, one vote.”

    They weren’t going to make it easy. Why should they? The paranoia at the Marion Dem site made that clear. You are participating in a farce.

    OTOH, if for all this trouble, the Dems post crappy turnout numbers, then they are in bigger trouble than I have thought. It’s something of a bunker mentality to expend so much energy to quash mild dissent while not being able to roll out a show of strength. Clinton didn’t compete here in ’92 and had no Iowa ties — as pointed out often during Caucus ’08. If he managed 50K in ’96, then “hallowed ground” Obama should be able to double that easily instead of spending all this time worrying about letting an uncommitted delegate from Podunk through.

  • Seems like your beef should be

    with the longstanding rules of the Iowa Democratic caucuses. I’m no caucus historian, but the 15% viability threshold (which appears to be your main issue beef) has been there for a long time. Four years ago we debated excitedly how the viability issue would affect the outcome. And yes, it obviously skews the results a certain way (just ask Joe Biden). But I’m a bit perplexed as to why the IDP should change its rules to accommodate those unsatisfied with the president. If you are embarrassed about challenging the Obama folks and/or unable to garner 15% support for your cause, is it the IDP’s problem? And why on earth would the party include preference groups on the agenda when you have an incumbent with no primary challenger? The party bending the rules and setting the agenda with the specific goal of trying to embarrass the sitting president of your own party? Now that would be odd.  

    • I do agree with RF

      that OccupyCaucus (or whatever they’re called) needed to do their homework and come up with tactics to counter perceived obstacles. That’s what Obama did in ’08, why are they exempt?

      The 15% threshold applies to district-level viability as well. I recall that Hillary Clinton was just barely viable in MD-04, for example. I am no historian on this issue either, but I think this is a Dem thing, not an IDP thing.

      I don’t agree w/ RF’s description of “specific goal of trying to embarrass the sitting president.” Rubbish. What are we, his subjects? Uncommitted represents extremely mild dissent, and a caucus is the ideal place to express it.

      The bunker mentality on display speaks volumes. I already raised an eyebrow when Steve Israel told Christie Vilsack to go sit in a corner on IA-02. Here you have someone that’s raised tons of funds for candidates in and outside of Iowa, up and down the ticket. The Democrats are really getting too high-handed for me. They would generate a lot of goodwill within the party, meaning more work done on their behalf later, if they actually used to process to engage instead of this top-down nonsense that’s turning everybody off.

      And why on earth would the party include preference groups on the agenda when you have an incumbent with no primary challenger?

      Trying to have your cake and eat it to. Don’t primary Obama! No need for civil war — we can discuss, except that no, we can’t. “Uncommitted” is such a mild rebuke that it’s hard to take all of these admonitions seriously! Why participate in a farce?  

      • To clarify

        I have nothing against allowing people to caucus uncommitted and debate/bitch/moan/whatever about the president. But to expect the party itself to bend its rules to further encourage this is absurd. That’s just not how our parties work, for better or for worse.

        • I guess

          I see it as a leadership issue and less a personal beef w/ the president. And leadership issues fall right under party business. I don’t see it as absurd, and where’s the rule-bending? An uncommitted preference group is basically saying: make the sale. There are productive tactics for breaking up an uncommitted preference group — it’s called listening. It’s not like desmoinesdem is throwing a shoe at Obama.

        • not bending rules

          division into preference groups is an expected part of the Iowa Democratic Party caucus process during a presidential election year. If uncommitted falls below 15 percent, declare that Obama won all the delegates and move on to delegate selection. But don’t just skip over that part of the deal.

          • Surely it is an expected part

            if you have competing candidates. Did a person named “Uncommitted” file for candidacy?

      • there is some 15 percent rule

        relating to the DNC, I think–no candidate can get any delegates from a state without getting at least 15 percent support in that state, or something like that. Not an expert on those rules.

    • I have been criticizing

      the longstanding rules of the Iowa Democratic caucuses at this blog since 2007. I don’t like the viability threshold for many reasons, including the gamesmanship it encourages when many candidates are in the mix. But fundamentally I don’t like the idea that my vote only counts if I’ve in line with my neighbors. About 20 percent of the 293 caucus-goers in my precinct in 2008 showed up to caucus for Biden, Richardson or Dodd. Their preferences were in effect erased. But if they had lived in the precinct next door, they could have been part of a viable Richardson group.

      If the IDP wants to claim that people advocating for “uncommitted” will be given the opportunity to speak to their precinct caucus attendees, then put that on the agenda. If no one in a particular precinct wishes to speak, then the precinct chair can move on to delegate selection and the rest.

      Caucusing uncommitted is not some newfangled idea. My mother considered caucusing uncommitted in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was the incumbent and Ted Kennedy and Jerry Brown were campaigning against him. There were also Iowa Democrats who caucused uncommitted in 1996, but I don’t know how many.

    • 15 percent

      is a national-level thing and used to be higher – 20 or 25 – until re-reforms, or was it re-re-reforms? – after the first Jesse Jackson campaign.

      But the REAL reason we don’t report actual body counts is because the New Hampshire Secretary of State says that makes it an election. (Republicans get away with it because the “vote” is nonbinding on delegates). The national press LOVES NH and HATES Iowa and would side with the one that’s a commuter flight from DC and NY.

      So. We can have vote counts,m or we can be first. We can have absentee ballots, or we can be first.

  • there you have it

    When I mentioned my goal to one acquaintance who plans to attend our precinct caucus tonight, the response was, “Good for you! He needs to hear that message.” But no, this person won’t stand with me in the uncommitted corner.

    It’s the putting creature comforts at risk “problem.” It could be as severe as getting a dirty look!

    Much easier to slither to a Republican caucus, register as an Evil Rethuglican (for a day! just for a day!) and vote for Ron Paul to “send a message.” It’s called cowardice.

    You should chain yourself to the door and not let anyone leave until you get a delegate. Once phone batteries start dying and stomachs start grumbling, you’ll win. If people give you a hard time, just say things like “I’ve got nothing but time” to demoralize them.

    • Didn't work out at my precinct...

      Had two “uncommitted” beyond 15 % threshold but the party operatives in the room (trying to find their addresses, not even sure they live in my precinct to be honest), rained so much shame that people walked out and told us our time was up and we weren’t viable, and ended discussion without a motion to that end.

      Tired of this.  Occupy Caucus has been the same. Disagree with anything and the so-called “leadership” ignores or slanders you.  In fact, one woman that expressed disagreement with an aspect of Occupy the Caucus was accused of “stealing thousands of dollars” from a charity.  Falsely, I confirmed with first hand sources. Anything to marginalize dissent.  Just like the Repugs and Dems.

      Meanwhile, the Occupy “leadership” can risk arrest with marijuana in their pocket and the “no drugs” rule at Occupy Des Moines is amended to excuse ridiculously reckless behavior.  

      • are you serious?

        They were viable, but the precinct chair tried to shame people into leaving and then called time? That is outrageous.

        I’ve heard a handful of reports from people in Iowa City, Des Moines, Grimes and West Des Moines about “uncommitted” getting one or two delegates in their precincts.  

  • I'm with you.

    I am caucusing uncommitted.  I do not expect to have company.  

    The president takes his base completely for granted.  (Who are we going to vote for?  Michelle Bachmann?)  His efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare will make the two parties look like Wall Street and Wall Street Lite to voters.  He is harming the Democratic brand and we may not get that back.  

    All the austerity he keeps pushing in his “big deals” is not going to help us out of recession, and he is not even using tools that he has.  He has available appropriated funds for HAMP that he has not begun to spend to help homeowners, while Eric Holder and Tom Miller are working to let banks off the hook for their criminal fraudulent actions with some pocket change and a promise not to be naughty, again.  

    I have been shocked that a former constitutional law professor could treat the Constitution with such apparent disregard, by signing the NDAA into law. He has kept all of the Bush overreaching on executive power and expanded it.

    There is hardly a Democratic constituency that he has not tried to alienate, with the possible exception of the repeal of DADT.  Hispanics are unhappy over aggressive and record deportations and inaction on immigration reform.  Unions didn’t notice him putting on his comfortable shoes and walking with them in Wisconsin and elsewhere, as he once promised to do.  He has set back reproductive freedom with his Stupak executive order on insurance coverage for abortion, and the unprecedented overruling of the FDA on the morning after pill.  Environmentalists have the millions of gallons of Corexit, the continuation of deep water leasing, inaction on climate change, and the likely approval of the tar sands pipeline to thank him for.  African Americans were among the hardest hit by the appalling activities of the banks, as they were more likely to be steered into risky loans.  Seniors get to enjoy delayed retirement and reduced cost of living adjustments if he gets his way on deficit reduction.  Middle class Americans of all stripes have had very little help come their way, while losing their retirement, their jobs and their homes.  Even his signature initiative, the health care bill, was crafted to appeal to big corporate interests at the expense of making health care affordable and accessible.  Health care costs are continuing to rise faster than inflation and the Washington solution is to cut benefits to save money.  Meanwhile, not one senior executive of an investment bank has done the perp walk.  

    This is not the record of a Democrat.  Barack Obama is what used to be called a moderate Republican.  I intend to vote for him in November, as the alternatives are not worth contemplating.  But I will not do what I did in 2008, which was enthusiastically support him with money and volunteer time.  I am saving that for the state senate race, where it might have an actual positive effect.

    • good for you (n/t)

    • in my speech to my precinct caucus

      (assuming I am allowed to speak), I plan to concentrate on things Obama has done that can’t be pinned on the Republican Congress. For instance, he signed the NDAA when he knows better and could have vetoed it. He didn’t just appoint the wrong Treasury secretary, he has repeatedly expressed his confidence in that member of his cabinet, despite endless failures on HAMP and everything else.  

      In conversations with Obama loyalists I have found that it’s pointless to bring up capitulations like lowballing the stimulus, signing the Bush tax cuts extension, breaking various campaign promises about what would be in health care reform, offering to cut Social Security during the debt ceiling debate, etc. They believe that whatever deal Obama gets is the best possible deal, and that Republicans trying to make him fail are to blame.

  • Johnson County

    let uncommitted speak to the large group.

    • Not sure

      if they took advantage of that at all eight of our sites or not. At my site there were seven total speakers, counting the president. We had split it three and three, and after the uncommitted speeches an Obama person asked for a “rebuttal.” There was an actual voice vote (!) on which I may have been the only no because having hammered out the agreement I wanted to stick with it. Uncommitted didn’t ask for a rebuttal to the rebuttal.

  • My precinct results are as follows: 6 for Obama, 1 for Uncommitted.

    Had I not been there, the 15% threshold would not have been met, and it would have been 7 to 0.

  • update

    I am now an uncommitted delegate.

  • 98.6 Obama

    http://iowademocrats.org/caucu…

    So I win the Uncommitted estimate. Which doesn’t make up for me screwing my GOP estimates.

    See, this is what I didn’t like about the bogus attendamce “result.” Why not just put the real number out there? Uncommitted sure made more than 1.54 of the noise, so the result, no matter what the delegate math, is an embarrassment. (Wonder how it woulda gone if folks hadn’t given Ron Paul a chance to win?)

    • no, you don't

      So I win the Uncommitted estimate.

      I went with 1%. Maybe someone is at 2%. Didn’t think this would go anywhere. Apparently, most of the uncommitted delegates are Bleeding Heartland users.

      • Sigh

        but I screwed the GOP picks so bad that I have no shot at a win. Wasn’t I seeing guesses in the 20s and 30s?  

  • We are the 98 percent

    Sorry. Had to.

    • seems strange

      that three of the counties still not fully reporting as of 10 am Wednesday are Polk, Johnson, and Jefferson, which had the strongest showing for “uncommitted.” Haven’t heard back from the IDP about when this page will reflect 100 percent of precincts.

  • Update

    I am an uncommitted delegate to the county convention.  Hardly anyone showed up from our rural precinct, so anyone who wanted to be a delegate could be.

    I also brought resolutions, which passed, and asked to be on the platform committee.  

    • excellent

      The platform committee should be interesting. Don’t know about the specific batch of resolutions you’ll be considering, but I have heard that environmental resolutions have a hard time making it through at the county level.

  • No stacked deck in my precinct

    in Marion County because when I checked with the IDP on how to handle a preference group of uncommitteds, I was directed to ask, “Are we all here to caucus as a whole for the President, or is it anyone’s desire to break off into another group?” One group had the .15 to separate but decided to remain with Obama caucusers. I like transparency.

    • good for you

      because my friend in one of the Polk County precincts got railroaded as she sat politely, waiting for the opportunity to speak and caucus on behalf of uncommitted. I am kicking myself for not calling her after I saw the agenda.

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