This was my first opportunity to participate in the Iowa caucuses, since I moved to Iowa after the 2016 caucuses. My precinct in Cedar Rapids had a historic feel, appropriate for what was a historic event in my life.
After much deliberation, I decided to support Amy Klobuchar in the Iowa caucuses. I was worried she might not meet the threshold for viability and had backup choices in mind. Indeed it turned out she was eight people short viability after the first count. Joe Biden’s people were right next to us. I could tell they had even fewer people than we did.
As soon as they announced the viability numbers, a bunch of Andrew Yang’s supporters came over to say they were supporting Amy. After a while we also picked up enough Biden supporters to push Amy over the line. We also picked up a few initially uncommitted people who apparently were at first thinking of joining Bernie Sanders’ group, which had over twice as many people as they needed to begin with.
I came away with kind of a warm feeling because I saw people working together to reach a common objective, something that is rare in American politics today.
An interesting side note: The only media presence I saw was a TV crew from Australia. Their photographer was following the Yang supporters as they joined Amy’s group. I’m an old TV guy and that definitely qualifies as a “money shot.” I later learned that Australia uses ranked choice voting so it probably seems familiar to them.
Because of the problems with counting and reporting the results I fear my first Iowa caucus may also be my last. That may be for the better. We count on county and state to run elections. They do it year in and year out. Picking a presidential nominee may be too critical a task to leave in the hands of the parties.
And I saw the discriminatory factor of caucuses first hand. One Klobuchar supporter who was there from the beginning had to leave before the second tabulation because the multiple recounts took so long. He said he had 2-year-old twins at home that needed to go to bed. I don’t know if his vote was counted or not.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
I realize holding a special primary would cost taxpayers a lot of money. And if it came after New Hampshire (which it would have to, to keep the Granite State happy) it wouldn’t produce the economic benefits of the caucuses.
I offer an alternative: Organize a “Heartland primary” the Tuesday after New Hampshire. It could include Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. It would increase diversity, retain an agricultural focus, yet include people other than corn and soybean farmers.
A lot of Iowa’s media markets overlap several states so it would be cost efficient for the campaigns. And involving so many more voters would make it worth the candidates’ while to spend significant time in Iowa and the rest of the group in the months leading up to the actual election.
Art Hackett lives in Cedar Rapids.