Any Iowa Democratic caucus voters here? How can you stand it?

I’ve always had only a fuzzy idea in my head of how the Iowa caucuses work so I used the internet and read this article:

caucus explaining from CNN

eww, you go in a room and hang out with a bunch of people and publicly let them know who you’re voting for and argue about it? Ugh, it sounds so awful I now know that I can never change states without researching how they do primaries.

I have always prided myself on being a primary voter, but I do not know if I could face that. All I have to do is go to an empty polling place at 7am, wait for the poll worker to take forever to find my name in the computer because of the goddamn apostrophe in my name, fill in a circle with a pen and LEAVE.

I almost always disagree with Republicans but their caucuses sound more straightforward and bearable. Why should only extroverts get to choose Democratic nominees?

Well, only certain kinds of extroverts get to be political candidates and make their cases to the electorate. This is that, writ smaller. Kind of.

I am not an extrovert at all, but I participated in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses when I was a college student there. It was really fun!

After giving it some thought, here’s why the caucuses were actually fun, even for someone as shy as me:

I don’t recall any arguing or debating going on. Some people chatted quietly about the candidates, but no one was expected to speak if they didn’t want to. I never said a word. I just went in there, found my herd, and stood with them.

Even after the first head count, when the groups that didn’t make the cut were dissolved, there was no intense politicking for their members. Instead, the larger groups just waved and cheered a little, inviting people to come join them.

The whole atmosphere was friendly and casual. People didn’t act as if there was anything huge at stake. Remember, the results of the local precinct caucuses only serve to allocate delegates to the next level of caucuses. I think there are at least two more levels before you get to the national party convention. So nothing is being directly decided at the precinct level.

Nobody forces you to argue or even to discuss your reasons. I’ve been to a few Democratic caucuses here and usually just a few people get up to speak. Then they ask you to go sit in the area designated for the candidate you want to support, and they count heads. It’s a bit tedious but a good opportunity to socialize with neighbors. I’m going tomorrow.

The part that’s miserable comes before the caucus. I survive it by having a phone number with an area code from another state, by not answering the doorbell, and by DVRing everything so I can avoid the political ads.

I am quite introverted, and I don’t think it’s a big deal.

Well, I’m from Minnesota, right next door, and our caucuses use much the same system.

I can’t really understand why Carlotta finds it so hard to sit with your neighbors and try to persuade them to support your favorite candidate. And you don’t have to speak out – most attendees don’t – but everybody votes by secret ballot for their preferred candidate.

At the last contested one (2008, Hillary vs. Barack) we agreed on 3 speakers for each, 1 minute each. And we only had 2 calm speakers; then people said we’ve all already decided who we’re supporting, so we just passed out the ballots. (Then we went on to discuss neighborhood issues, like changes in how the storm drains connect to the creek & lake, and possible changes in school starting time – now those were much more contentious issues!)

But much of the time was spent talking with neighbors about things like house remodeling (and city permits/inspections), police/EMT response time, potholes, etc. Other official business, like electing Delegates (actually “who wants to be a Delegate to the City Convention?”) was mostly just an interruption to that. It was the part where people proposed Resolutions on issues that got the most excited discussions.

Also, here the caucuses for both Republicans and Democrats (DFLers) are run in pretty much the same way – is that different in Iowa?

Yes. In Iowa the Democrats don’t use a secret ballot; in fact they don’t use a ballot at all. People stand or sit in groups according to their preferred candidate, and a head count is taken.

With this cycle they are fundamentally different processes.

For Republicans bound delegates to the national convention are really being selected tomorrow. It’s not just a step in the precinct - county - district -state caucus schedule that eventually selects delegates at the end of primary season.

I thought this would be about the time it takes. Next Tuesday I’ll leave my house to vote at 6 and odds are over 95% that I’ll be home before 6:45; I’ll probably be home by 6:30. I can’t imagine spending hours of a weeknight on a vote when I know there are other ways to do it.