Iowa City is a liberal town, but I think it gained a few Republicans tonight, just because their caucus line was so much shorter. The Democrats stretched down the hall, back again, and out the door, and that was early – we showed up shortly after 6. While in line, we were entertained by a little light campaigning, and occasional calls for Republicans and people in the precinct next door to get the hell out of our line. By the 7:00 cutoff, there was hardly room to turn around.
After making it through the line, I spent the first part of the evening hanging out with the loser groups, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (Bill Richardson was also a loser group in our precinct, but his crowd was over on the other side of the gym). It was hard to find – while most campaigns had decorated their corner of the gym with festive signage, the Kucinich section was marked by a single sign, hand-written in permanent marker on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of plain white paper. I think it was actually on the back of one of Bill Richardson’s flyers. It was soon joined by a similarly improvised sign for Mike Gravel.
The crowd quickly became restive. By the time things were actually ready to start, we’d been in a hot, overstuffed elementary school gymnasium for 45 minutes, and we’d finished most of the chit-chat with our neighbors. The county supervisor got booed when he went on for too long about his upcoming campaign, and then someone moved that we skip the speeches for each candidate. That motion was quickly seconded and passed. I was bummed, but the Kucinich supporters looked relieved – they’d all been playing “not it”. So then they started playing “not it” about who would have to count, as each candidate’s group is responsible for counting themselves.
And then we counted. Everyone clapped when the sole Gravel supporter raised his hand. Kucinich wound up with 11; with 621 people, we needed 92 to be considered viable. We were immediately approached by a couple of people from the Richardson group, who were only ~15 people short, and didn’t we want to stick it to The Man by supporting a “minor” candidate? No. The Kucinich folks split off to the Obama and Edwards camps.
I feel like I should make some sweeping statement about whether or not the caucuses should continue. They felt, on the one hand, like the ultimate democratic institution – I mean, you actually end up talking to your neighbors, which is very wholesome and grassroots. But of course, caucusing takes up a whole evening, thus preventing whole swaths of population from participating, and the turnout is rapidly outgrowing the space available.
I don’t know. I feel okay that Obama won tonight, and kind of paranoid about Huckabee, and mostly tired. I’m going to bed.