In the month leading up to the Iowa caucuses, I made four trips to Iowa and knocked on over 900 doors for Elizabeth Warren. Since the caucuses themselves were such a massive train wreck, it’s hard to write about the experience at all without sounding horribly negative, but the reality is much of it was wonderfully fun. I love talking to voters and in the evenings I got to hang out with Warren supporting friends from across Illinois – always a joy.
Clearly some Iowa Democrats adore being the center of attention every four or so years, but this year it was clear to me that many did not feel up to the task of having such a disproportionate impact on choosing who we will nominate to stop Trump. Many folks were terrified of making the wrong choice, others seemed unwilling to make such a grave decision in front of their neighbors – these folks chose not to caucus. And, of course, there are so many people who can’t attend due to work or other responsibilities. Folks with disabilities frequently find it almost impossible to participate. I talked to two folks with felony records who were barred from participating. The entire caucus process is disenfranchising so very many.
Despite all that I did spend countless enjoyable hours in people’s living rooms and kitchens, sharing my passionate belief in Elizabeth Warren. I had the opportunity to tell them so many things about her that they did not know and why those things matter so much to me. I also heard every horrible, disrespectful, untrue thing about her that people say – and I smiled through it all!
I canvassed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Dubuque, and East Des Moines. The caucus we attended was at Valley High School in East Des Moines. That experience wasn’t new to me. I helped a Bernie Precinct Captain at a caucus in Clinton county in 2016. Early last year I saw her at a Davenport Warren town hall. She was volunteering for Warren this time.
This precinct had 330 caucus-goers. Much of it was fun. Some teenage observers from Ohio and I led Team Warren in what ended up being a mini chant competition (filmed for all the world to see on C-SPAN). That we won handily. If only winning the caucus could be that easy!
The results in my precinct were 3 State Delegate Equivalents for each of Sanders, Buttigeig, and Warren. One SDE for Klobuchar. Biden, Yang, and Steyer were non-viable. The Biden precinct captain was shocked and devastated. I felt horrible for her. She ended up leaving. Klobuchar was initially non-viable, but the Caucus Captain allowed a couple of Biden folks to go to her. Later I found out this was a violation of the rules. Oh well. Warren got some of the Biden folks. Pete got others. Bernie got the one Steyer woman and some Yang gang. The rest of the Biden and Yang people left.
Afterwards we went to Warren HQ and waited and waited and waited. We knew we didn’t do well, but wanted to get some resolution about just how bad we did. Finally, Warren came on stage and gave a speech that reminded me why every minute was worth it.
The next morning as we crossed Mississippi and said good riddance to Iowa, all I could think is that I do not want to ever attend an Iowa caucus again. Back in 2016 I remember thinking how insane it is that choosing the leader of the free world is so disproportionately dependent on this chaotic process. I was hoping my experience then was uncommon. I now know that it was all too common. Democrats should demand an end to caucuses, and while we’re at it, Gov. Pritzker is right, Illinois would make an ideal early primary state. Anyhow, onward to the other 55 states and territories.