Living in Society

WYSIWYG — Iowa Caucus


When it comes to the Iowa caucus, there’s little use pondering what might have been.

Despite a winter storm that brought roughly six inches of snowfall, attendance at our precinct caucus was stronger than in previous years when the weather was perfect. In 2014 four of us attended the Big Grove precinct caucus. This year there were eight, including the precinct captains for the 2008 campaigns of Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. What was different about this off-year caucus is people I had not seen much in public showed up and hung around talking long after the caucus adjourned, mostly because “we have to do something in November.” We shared a sense that we are stronger together.

WYSIWYG. The caucuses are an interface with the electorate as it is being created, long before most voters engage in primary or general election campaigns. What you see is what you get.

Five rural precinct caucuses convened together at 7 p.m. at the new middle school. We heard from surrogates for a few statewide and local candidates and collected money for the state and county party. We broke into precincts to elect delegates and alternate delegates to the county convention, solicit volunteers for the platform committee and committee on committees, and elect two members of the party central committee. We did all that, ratified our slate, and adjourned by 7:30 p.m. While my car warmed up in the parking lot I keyed in our results with my mobile device on an Iowa Democratic Party web site.

When I arrived home, Jacque remarked, “you’re home early.”

“I was in charge,” I replied.

The morning after I hope we can get past zero sum gain politics where when someone wins, someone loses. The conversation our caucus had after adjourning centered on health care and the treatment delivery system — a complex problem, a wicked problem.

Wicked problems are not engineering problems, they can’t be solved. What we can do is work together to find common ground and solutions that work.

I hesitate to assign deep meaning to what happened last night. It was a glimpse at what the future will be, still a rough draft, with much uncertainty. The story of this electorate is being written in real time. It will be written by us all.