Living in Society

One Year from Presidential Delegate Selection

Iowa Caucus Goer

One of the first things we did after moving to Lake County, Indiana was register to vote. Being a Democrat, I voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988, which was our first general election as Indiana residents.

I remember complaining about Iowa and the other early states for giving us Dukakis, whose nomination ultimately gave us George H.W. Bush. Indiana is one of the last states to vote in the presidential primary system so we had little say in the matter.

Dukakis placed third in the Feb. 8, 1988 Iowa caucuses with 22 percent of delegates. Dick Gephardt won the most with 31 percent and Paul Simon was second with 27 percent. As the contest illustrates, Iowa isn’t the decider here. We couldn’t even winnow the field of Dukakis.

We are one year away from the 2020 Iowa precinct caucuses and a lot of Democrats are running for president, the winner being determined by number of delegates, not votes. County Supervisor Rod Sullivan posted his top 25 candidates and that’s not even everyone. I don’t intend to spend much energy learning about them this early, mostly because I will vote for the Democratic nominee whoever it is.

I’m low on the strategy totem pole to have much to say about big picture Democratic politics anyway. My role as a member of the county central committee will be to help run our precinct caucus. Increasingly that means making sure the event is accessible, efficient and fair. It’s not about party building because after delegate selection, people want to get the heck out of there. Whoever manages it must create a welcoming environment where people are treated with respect. We had new attendees and a good discussion in 2018. I kept the contact information for everyone who showed up in case we need volunteers in 2020.

I have opinions about presidential candidates and here are a few of them.

We don’t need or want a septuagenarian billionaire. That’s what Republicans are expected to run and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg at the top of the Democratic ticket could be disastrous.

Being a current U.S. Senator is not a positive resume point. The biggest challenge Democrats face in 2020 will be regaining a majority in the Senate. We need as many experienced hands there as we can get. The last election in which we won a Senate majority was 2008 and even then, every legislative initiative Democrats pursued was challenging. There are good people among the senators running or considering a run. The only one I have ruled out is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who lost the primary in 2016 and is not a registered Democrat. The one I like the most is Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar who has not thrown her hat into the ring.

The only potential candidates I met besides some of the U.S. Senators are Joe Biden, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard and Julián Castro. Of these I like Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, for president. He sat with us in a darkened room during a power outage to talk policy a couple of days before his formal announcement. The rest of them are okay. Biden seems unlikely to announce a third campaign for president, Delaney has been campaigning in Iowa for a year and has not gained traction, and Gabbard is having problems during her campaign launch.

I don’t know much about the rest of them yet a couple are interesting.

I spent a lot of time in South Bend, Indiana where Pete Buttigieg is now mayor. The city was decimated after Studebaker closed its plant in 1963. There continues to be cultural detritus from that event. I spent time at the former Studebaker proving grounds during my transportation career and recruited truck drivers in the city. I’d like to learn what Buttigieg did to create a more positive cultural and economic environment in South Bend. My interest in economic and cultural change in the rust belt is probably not a reason to support him for president.

The other candidate I find interesting is Marianne Williamson. She talks and acts nothing like a politician. Williamson has her own following after being a New York Times best selling author. In her announcement speech Williamson mentioned proximity to Alan Watts and Ram Dass which places her in an era I thought was long gone. About 70 people attended her Iowa kickoff event in Des Moines last night, which wasn’t covered by our local newspapers. “People sang along with the final song of the opening band and introduced themselves to the people sitting around them.” wrote Des Moines Register reporter Robin Opsahl. I don’t know if caucus-goers will have the patience for the many discussions Williamson proposes we have. She’s likely right we need to have them, but that’s no reason to support her for president.

There is no question the presidential primary season is upon us. The field will hopefully shake out by the end of summer so there will be less homework to do. The fact I’m engaged at all a year out is about living in Iowa again.