How the Iowa Dems swept the board by stacking the deck against "Uncommitted" caucusgoers from Occupy
By manipulating the party machinery, of course. Just as in 2008, of course, except that this time they have a lot more money and power. Can't blame them for that, of course, it's what they do. Bleeding Heartland has a terrific report from the ground. The context is immediately before the caucus began:
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. ...
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? ...
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.
I'm sure there are a lot of lessons to be learned here.... But I'm not close enough to the process to know what they are. Readers?
And the update is interesting, because CCN reported 100% Obama delegates. WTF? [UDPATE Seems there's a distinction between state delegates and national delegates. America's First Black Fascist President got 100% of the national delegates.]
UPDATE This comment is interesting:
I do agree with RF (0.00 / 0) 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?
Again, lessons learned. Readers?
UPDATE From a second post by Des Moines Dem, turnout, at 25,000, was low:
Democratic turnout statewide appears to have been only around 10 percent of the 2008 turnout. ... [R]oughly 50,000 Iowa Democrats showed up to caucus in 1996, when President Bill Clinton was unopposed for the nomination.
I don't know what was the bigger problem [for whom*]: lack of enthusiasm for President Obama or the Iowa Democratic Party's decision to consolidate so many precinct caucuses in central locations. Many counties had just one caucus site for the whole county.
Missed opportunity? Sounds like the Iowa Ds took their space (via the consolidation) and held it.
UPDATE Here's AP's wrap-up. They assume Occupy's goal was to "disrupt" (it isn't and wasn't) and type "no preference" where they should have typed "uncommitted."
UPDATE Salon's round-up.
NOTE * I'd say the narrative needed to be what it has become: 100% delegates for Obama. If there had been even one national "Uncommitted" delegate, they would have become a media focus. So the bunker mentality really was necessary.