Anyone Been To A Caucus?

Has anyone been to any of the caucuses for selecting delegates in a presidential election and if so what was it like?

Good question, and if I might add-Do you think that you were effective in what you personally were attempting to accomplish there?

And what do you think you’re accomplishing in this process both personally and as an electoral body–particularly one which receives such an inordinate amount of attention for being such a small proportion of the final count?

I was a precinct captain in Linn County, Iowa. Not sure if I know where this was going, but, it was an experience that helped solidify me as a…well, someone who will always be voting. Also, being from Iowa, I know that my one little vote really does make a difference. The Dems run theirs a little differently than the Repubs, but the basics are the same.

It’s personal and kind of fun. I mean, we holler and yell and try to con the newbies out of votes and then eat pie. It is the Iowa way. :slight_smile:

If I move back to Iowa, it’s going to be the first thing I look forward to doing again.

(I assume you meant Iowa and not Colorado or another state.)

<shrug> We’re not easily bought with TV ads and fancy cars. :smiley:

But, really, if you look at the overall politics of Iowa (a state that voted Dem 5 out of the last 6 general elections…), it’s not that far off from the rest of the country. It is a place where everyone gets a free and great education and same sex couples can get married. That’s far more than I can say for my current state.

Speaking of caucuses, in the 04 one, I helped propel a same-sex marriage and universal health care platform. So yes, I felt like I made a difference. I went to the off-year caucus, too, but then I moved to CO where we do it a little bit differently. Things are not as local in Denver politics. There’s no pie. :frowning:

People are always bitching about how we let ‘dumb’ people vote. Well, if you want to vote, go and do it. People who caucus really care. Sounds weird, but I trust my fellow Dems who are really active to do the right thing in the party. And if they don’t, hell, it’s not like you didn’t have an opportunity.

Has there EVER been a candidate who did well in Iowa that was hated elsewhere? Seems like the system works regardless. I do appreciate the Iowa vetting process, though. If it weren’t for Iowa (and to some extent, NH), there’d be no Howard Dean as we know him. That I can assure you.

As far as the Republicans go… Republicans will do what they do no matter which state is out voting first.

Okay–but I have to wonder: Would Iowans take the caucuses so seriously if they occurred on “super Tuesday”?

I went to one in Colorado for the 2008 Democratic nomination. It was civil but contentious between the Obama and Clinton supporters. I knew tons of people on both sides personally, so it was a little awkward. There were a couple of union-loving postal workers who really, really wanted Dennis Kucinich who frankly were a little scary.

Basically, you get up (if you want to) and make your pitch for your candidate, and when everyone is done you take it to a vote. Ours was a secret vote, but I understand that some are a voice vote.

People did bring in a lot of potluck style food, but I don’t remember if there was any pie.

I don’t know. We (er, now they) vote often at higher rates than most states. More than California. :slight_smile:

Well, that wasn’t the point. Uh–let me put it more bluntly: We’re talking about a nomination process, not an election. Surely, they’re well aware that if they did it later in the year, they wouldn’t have all this candidate and media attention. I find it hard not to view the Iowa caucuses–and the way they schedule them–as prima donna behavior.

Iowa’s always been a political place. Would people vote as much if it weren’t for the attention? Well, if it weren’t for the attention, then candidates wouldn’t be coming around.

But if Iowa just had a regular primary, it’s quite likely that the voter turnout would increase.

I attended in 2004 and 2008. I was excited about John Edwards in 2004 and Obama in 2008, and figured this’d be one time when my vote might make a difference. I didn’t have to worry – seems like I was in the majority, for once.

In 2008 I was surprised that Hillary’s people didn’t know the rules. Her campaign people arranged for a local deli to deliver food and drink – very much against the rules. What’s worse, they didn’t get enough for everyone. :wink:

I went to the Nevada Democratic Caucuses in 2004 and 2008.
The 2004 was held at a high school auditorium, but so many people showed up (to get rid of Bush), that they had to move it outside to the football stadium. We were like huge numbers of cattle - people pretty much shuffled off to various sections of the football field and up into the stands and it was quite the clusterfuck. To be fair, the numbers had swelled dramatically from the 2000 caucus, and I believe that (2004) was the first year in a long time that Clark County (greater Las Vegas Metropolitan Area) voted Democratic in the General Election. Dubya did a fine job of getting Democrats off their asses and out to vote and he barely won Nevada that year. 2008 Nevada went with Obama.

For the Obama/Clinton/Edwards caucus in 2008, they got smarter and more organized and had multiple locations throughout the county. I went to a local school with a huge turn out, but still able fit in their gymnasium. Yes, there were a few minutes where a couple of people made their case for each candidate, but I didn’t see much movement in the groups - the Obama people (me included) stayed put, the Clinton people stayed put and so did all of the others. There might have been maybe 1-2% who wandered from group to group before deciding - and I remember thinking “You are still undecided, today?!”

The caucus was fun once, but I think it is kind of lame and stupid now. Nothing really gets accomplished, few change their minds, a few got tired of waiting around and left early and it is mostly hurry-up-and-wait, hurry-up-and-wait. Took a long time to finally have your vote counted.

I would far prefer a simple ballot and just vote already. The concept of people in happy little groups, discussing politics and world events over coffee and Krispy Kremes, sounds nice in theory - but think about all the Dopers in the Pit sitting in one room and trying to agree on anything. That is a caucus. Not pretty.

I caucused for Obama in Iowa. I mostly just remember that it was a huge crowd – so big that, even with everyone standing shoulder to shoulder, there was not enough room for us to fit (we were in a school music classroom). There were several other caucuses in nearby classrooms, too. I’m in a suburb of Des Moines so our precincts aren’t low population.

It’s a nice idea but really nobody changes their mind and the precincts are too large to make having a discussion viable, at least in non-rural areas. With the wealth of information available at your fingertips, I don’t think getting together to talk about it is really needed.

I’ve actually been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2000. I was pledged to Al Gore and liked it that way. But I didn’t actually attend the caucus, somebody else nominated my while I was out of state on beezineess and also gave my speech.

California is a primary state. Here’s how I remember it. Each candidate in each Congressional district puts forth a slate of delegates big enough to cover a full win. I believe it was 5 candidates in my district. Prior to the primary, there is a caucus (not like Iowa’s at all) at a separate location for each candidate and speeches are made for the candidates for delegate. Gore has his in one location and his supporters vote on the delegates at that location. Also alternates are selected. At the same time Bradley has his caucus at a different location and the same thing happens there. Each candidate has a bunch of hopeful delegates in waiting. After the primary, each candidate gets a awarded the closest proportion of delegates compared to the actual vote. (I don’t remember if it is by Congressional district or statewide.)

In our case, Gore got 3 and Bradley 2 (IIRC) delegates. So the 3 top vote getters for Gore (I was top vote getter due to less people hating me, my hatchet people were more hated and got less votes, even though they were the heavy lifters in organizing work, and it wasn’t like I was fooling anyone) were named delegates. The two top Bradley people were also delegates. Keep in mind that all 5 local delegates knew each other and generally worked together for years on other matters. This is something like a Cal/Stanford rivalry: civilized but completely incomprehensible and nuts.

Then you travel to the national convention. Which in our case was in Los Angeles, about 400 miles from home. State conventions are held yearly at different locations in the state and state central committee members are required to attend. More on that in another thread if anyone isn’t bored stiff by this response.

The convention in 2000 was already decided with respect to the candidates and not a brokered convention. Therefore the event was a party, pretty speeches and lots of boring waiting for better speeches. There was going to be a Cong. Loretta Sanchez party at the Playboy Mansion, which I never would have gone to except that I have a crush on Sanchez who gave me a kiss on the cheek once, and I’m nutty. Anyway, she didn’t get the approval from high on up, and when they got wind of it they convinced her that it was a really bad idea. Which it was. Democrats don’t want to openly cavort with pornographers, as it makes the pols look bad by comparison.

The business of the convention is to adopt the platform, approve the agenda and then do a three day commercial for the party. There was gavel to gavel coverage. It was impossible to get around. Being California was the host state, our delegation was right in front of the podium. I got good seats about 4 or 5 rows back.

Lots of celebrities. Larry King took time out to shake zillions of hands while interviewing. Warren Beatty and Annette Benning came to visit the floor delegates, but I never got near them. I got to shake hands with Howard Metzenbaum, a retired liberal giant from Ohio. I also got to do my John McGlaughlin impression “Wrongo! Morton Kondrake!” for Morton Kondrake, and he laughed convincingly.

Various receptions and parties, including one that opened Universal City for all the delegates. I think that was Gray Davis’ sponsored, back when we all were not yet furious with him.

Jesse Jackson gave a great speech, as did Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Lieberman was pretty good, but I did not like him or trust him even then.

The roll call vote was exciting. Gov. Davis was head of our delegation and announced California’s vote.

The LA Times had a picture on its front page of the sitting President, Bill Clinton addressing the audience, showing most of the audience (slightly behind and to his left) that included me as a pixel or two.

A fun time. But let’s be clear. I was one of thousands of extras and would not have been missed. I’m happy I did it but wouldn’t do it again. Even if it was “brokered”, which would make it worse in its own way, even though it would have mattered to be a delegate.

My state caucuses, so yes, I’ve been.

Interest has been steadily growing for the past 3 presidential elections. And each time there have been significantly more people in attendance. I expect that it will be down this year, but I could be wrong.

According to the rules here, each precinct gets a certain number of delegates and they’re to be divided proportionally - so you talk with your neighbors about the candidates you like and the issues you care about, then you divide the votes amongst the candidates, then you choose delegates appropriately. If there’s time (and there was not in 2008, given the numbers of people at the caucus because of Clinton v. Obama and the general excitement about the caucus), you make suggestions for the party platforms. The delegates then go and do the same thing at the next level(s) of caucuses. I’ve seen people change their mind. I’ve seen people be willing to change their vote, so that the region in question would be more accurately represented.

After the first level of caucuses, you do get to meet the party faithful and the party fringe and have some interesting and bizarre discussions about policy. It’s an interesting way to spend a weekend or three.

I’m busy organizing stuff for the 27 of them held in my district about a month from now. Spent time today revising the guidebook for Caucus Conveners.

I’ve been to my local caucus every time since 1980. And been elected a Delegate to the next higher Convention every time, too.

They are pretty much like any serious gathering of people in general: chaotic, boring, exasperating & exhilarating in turns. Interesting to see how many different things people can be passionately concerned about, how global issues can be brought home to our local area (like a speech about global warming comes down to voting about what should be planted in our local park), and, sometimes, how many really dumb ideas can be suggested to solve problems.

It’s also a chance to see local residents again (many of the same people come year after year), to hear them talk about issues (we’ve said that listening at these caucuses is an early-warning system for our elected officials), to eat some good food, and enjoy fun things like giving a standing ovation to one of our delegates for winning a Noble Prize (and then asking him to explain his life’s’ work – while staying within our 2-minute time limit for speeches, of course), or asking someone else to tell about him & his wife dining with President Obama.

It really is democracy in action, at the most basic level. Some of the details can be a bit disgusting, but ultimately rather inspiring.