ANKENY, Iowa, 1:45 p.m. – Last night, I saw of the most bizarre proceedings I’ve ever been witness to, from within the Ankeny United Methodist Church in Iowa. There my companions and I observed the Ankeny Precinct 3 Democratic caucus.
When we first arrived, it seemed at first like any ordinary town hall style meeting. The hall was packed and many people, including us, had to stand around the periphery of the room. There some confusion concerning the agenda and the protocol. Many people, quite a few of which were attending their first caucus, seemed confused by the chair’s announcement. Eventually, order resumed and the caucus began.
After a preliminary count of the size of the “preference groups,” i.e. the groups of supporters for the candidates, the caucusing began. The preference groups were each given a part of the room in which to congregate – amidst laughter, the Clinton supporters were sent to the nearby kitchen. After the groups were separated, they were given a chance to persuade others to their side. People would branch out from their groups to others to try to persuade undecideds to join their contingent. Each preference group had to accumulate 49 of the 326 electors in order to have their candidate marked as “viable.”
One of the greatest victories of the night occurred when the Bill Richardson group, which had struggled with just over 40 electors, finally convinced the 49th person to join their side. There was much cheering as the last supporter jumped into the group.
Overall, the atmosphere was wild. At times, it seemed like the preference groups were mobs. It was as though we were at a sporting event; the Obama crowd, clearly the largest in the room, began to cheer: “I yell O, you yell Bama. . . . O . . . BAMA. . . O. . . BAMA!” The Edwards crowd replied with some cheering of their own. It was difficult to hear over the din of the different supporters.
After the groups were given enough time to pitch for more supporters, a final tally was counted and the delegates were assigned. The precinct was allowed to nominate ten delegates, and the size of the preference groups determined how many delegates they got. With about 29% of the electors, Edwards earned three delegates. Richardson and Clinton got two delegates each, and their percentages were rounded up. The Obama group was gypped; although they had 39% of the electors, they got only three delegates.
It was quite an experience. I noticed quite a few young voters, particularly in the Obama crowd. Brendan Fitzpatrick ’10, along with a few of his friends, went out and tried to throw pitches to get others to come to their side. On trying to convince others, Brendan says: “It gave me an opportunity to get involved at the grassroots level.”