Living in Society

Winter Has Arrived

Winter 2020

It was one degree below zero when I woke at 4:30 a.m.

It has now been 24 hours of freezing temperatures and perhaps the beginning of an extended streak. If this pans out I can prune fruit trees assured of their dormancy.

That’s what winter is about here in Big Grove Township.

The Iowa precinct caucuses are coming up on Feb. 3. I’m not ready to chair my precinct yet but will be in the coming two weeks. It’s surprising how much my view of the caucuses has changed since I became politically active again.

Our family walked into the 2004 caucuses together but weren’t sure John Kerry was the right choice. Our daughter brought along a copy of the local newspaper with a candidate comparison in it. In the end we all stood in Kerry’s corner.

After Kerry lost the general election I decided to do my part to regain the presidency for Democrats in the 2008 general election. I met Barack Obama in the rope line at the 2006 Harkin Steak Fry and wasn’t impressed. I ended up devoting many hours to supporting John Edwards, beginning with an October 2006 event at the public library. On caucus night Obama had the most people in the room. Hillary Clinton and Edwards had the same number so the caucus chair flipped a coin to determine who would get another delegate. Team Hillary won the game of chance.

Edwards placed second in the statewide delegate count and his staff dispersed to three other early states: New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Edwards ended up with one elected delegate when the decision reached the second district convention. It was clear then he would not win the nomination. When Obama formally won the nomination at the Democratic National Convention I supported him.

In 2012 Obama was the presumed nominee and I ended up leading the caucus for two precincts in nearby Graham and Cedar townships instead of my own. I remember we watched a closed circuit television address from the president. There was dissent in supporting Obama but in the long run nothing came of it.

In 2016 I again worked hard, this time for Hillary Clinton. She easily won our precinct caucus with enough people in our group to send 14 of them to make Martin O’Malley viable and deprive Bernie Sanders of a second delegate to the county convention. It was a close race and Hillary prevailed in Iowa just barely getting more than 50 percent of the delegates at the state convention.

This year is different with a slate of many great candidates. I support Elizabeth Warren for president but haven’t been campaigning for her like I did for my candidates in 2008 and 2016. It’s not that I don’t care because I do. It’s that whoever wins Iowa, the nomination will be decided in other states, maybe as soon as March 3 Super Tuesday.

Whoever is the nominee, Democrats will mostly be united to defeat the expected Republican candidate. The trouble is Democrats (or Republicans for that matter) aren’t the deciders. In Iowa, Democrats make up 30 percent of the electorate according to January 2020 numbers from the Secretary of State. Republicans comprise 32 percent. It’s been clear all along that factors besides political party affiliation will decide the outcome of the 2020 general election.

For now, the Iowa caucuses are first in the nation. I’ll note that Vermont and Minnesota have already started early voting so it’s not a clean first. We still have a lot of media attention, and people are deciding for whom they will caucus. My hope is someone else will step up to the Democratic central committee to fill the two slots at caucus so I don’t have to. My political work this year will begin in earnest once we have a nominee this summer.

In the meanwhile, I have a garden to attend as soon as spring arrives. There are also fruit trees that need pruning.