January 19, 2004

Raucous Caucus: Liveish Coverage. I've been watching CSpan2 for the last hour, and this Iowa caucus might be the most messed-up thing I've ever seen. You've got dozens of white people crammed into somebody's house, not a single one of them under 60, it looks like bridge night at my grandmother's development's clubhouse. You've got people out on the porch, in the kitchen, up on the roof, they go around asking who's for Dean, for Edwards, for everybody else (not a whole lot of Sharpton or Lieberman supporters in that crowd), some guy raised his hand for Gephardt and then his wife shot him a look and then he quickly took it down. If their guy doesn't have enough support they run across the room to hang out with the more popular kids, and on it continues until the music stops.

For one month or so every four years these folks are the most important people in America, and they're all looking into the camera like they know it. Seriously, any night this month, any person in that state can get any of the candidates on the phone in five minutes. "Hey, Lieberman, I've got six people in my apartment and we were all wondering about the prospects for single-payer health care reform. Oh, and we're kinda hungry." Ten minutes later Joe's at the door with a stack of pamphlets and a bag of Chinese food, looking for babies to kiss. Me, I'm heating up yet another can of soup. It's just not fair.

Okay, I just switched over to coverage of the larger Dubuque caucus (well, one of the Dubuque districts), where they're focusing on the supporters of the non-viable candidates running around trying to get the other supporters of the different NVC's to join them for a while. I was really enjoying watching some old coot reminisce about selling sweetcorn as a boy, until I realized that he had about 1000 times more say in the democratic process than me. Then there's this one young woman with a Gephardt shirt though apparently no knowledge of the man or his policies who is desperately cajoling folks with no interest whatsoever in joining her. She's all like "No, you come over here so Gephardt will be viable" and they're all like "well...no...maybe you should come over here instead." Really, the question "Why should I support Gephardt?" shouldn't flummox her like it appears to be doing.

It doesn't seem to be occurring to the Gephardt Gal that if these people wanted to make Gephardt a viable candidate they would have maybe gone over there in the first place. (My favorite is the one lonely Lieberman supporter who told her "Um...I think I'll just stand here by myself instead.") And, of course, there's the age-old political debate: could I pretend to be a Kucinich supporter for one night in order to stand next to that really adorable woman holding his sign? Not to mention whether the intense-looking guy in the Edwards shirt can really be counted on to do an unbiased headcount of the Edwards supporters. At one point I think I saw him counting chairs and a coatrack.

I'm just guessing that the caucus chairman shouldn't necessarily be announcing over the airwaves the 800-number used for calling in the results. In case you were curious, the recording asks you to enter your access code (which the chairman also announced, but I figured we were heading into voter fraud felony territory). Anyway, Dubuque District 20 went six delegates for Kerry, three for Edwards, and two for Dean; none of the other candidates were viable. That appears to be how the evening is going, with Edwards running closely behind Kerry, Dean pretty far behind (though that might be because apparently less than 1% of Iowans are under 50 years old; seriously, it's like that Soviet town they used to show in the yogurt commercials), and Gephardt in his hotel room crafting his withdrawal speech. From this point on, you should probably check in with more respected news organizations.
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