Wednesday, January 4, 2012

...a caucus we will go...

A view from the top!

  The last week of the Iowa Caucuses saw a flurry of TV commercials, phone calls, and town hall meetings as the candidates tried desperately to get the final few votes to keep their campaigns alive. Whenever I got an automated call asking me who my first choice was, I pressed a random number and when asked who my second choice was I pressed another random number. Like the guy on the Allstate commercial that causes all the accidents is called Mayhem, I started calling myself ‘Margin of Error’. I did get to talk to a live person from the Obama campaign and when I told the lady that I was voting for Ron Paul because of a chess-playing buddy, she quickly assured me that President Obama was very much in favor of chess. When a Rick Perry person called, I told them about how my neighbors had started a half-eaten lime collection in their front yard and was assured that Governor Perry hated yard waste and would issue an executive order banning it as soon as he put Congress on part-time pay and made English the official language of the US.

  I had pledged my support for Ron Paul to my friend Lee Gordon Seebach after meeting Lee at Paul’s town hall meeting in Marshalltown last month. I like Michelle Bachmann also and was very impressed with Rick Santorum after listening to him on the Travis Justice/Tim Miller sports talk radio program 3 times in the past 2 weeks. Santorum seemed personable with a sense of good humor as one would expect a Pittsburgh Pirate fan to need with their 20 straight losing seasons. All 3 are worthy candidates and seem real to me. About all I can ask of anyone is to be who you say you are and it’s no different for politicians.

  I didn’t care for the other Republican candidates. Rick Perry looks like he just says whatever he thinks will get him votes (Witness his sudden epiphany last week causing him to be against abortions in the case of rape or incest). Mitt Romney seems OK, but he also changes his positions to suit his audience. And after 2 thirds of a lifetime in New Jersey, I’m not voting for anybody named Newt (Sorry to all my readers named Newt or have relatives named Newt). Maybe if he was called ‘Snake Gingrich’, I’d consider it. I don’t know anything about Huntsman, but if his name was Newt Huntsman, he’d be tops with the Southern gun lobby and have more name recognition.

The Marshalltown High School Roundhouse (Gym), home of the 2012 Republican caucus.
The parking lot was full and I parked 2 blocks away.

  Paul seems to have locked up the Republican chess player vote with myself, Lee, and multiple time Iowa Girls champion Bethany Carson in his corner (I’m far less hardcore than Lee and Bethany). I think there are more Democrat chess players in Iowa than Republican chess players but I’ve only met a few players who let politics get in the way of our love of chess by way of trying taunt players of the opposing parties after an election. Maybe since as chess players we need to be able to look a position from the White and Black point of view this carries over to being able to accept other people’s viewpoints even if we don’t agree with them.

  I went to the caucus last night after coming home from work, walking Daisy and Baxter, and eating dinner. I made sure I was wearing my Ron Paul button and also had my ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ button. Since I started wearing the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ button on my coat the hunters in the day-glo orange hats say 'Hi' to me when I see them at the convenience store. Maybe someday I’ll be invited to a militia meeting. The caucuses were held in the High School gym. I figured there would be a crowd, but as it turns out there was no room in any of the parking lots and I had to park 2 blocks away. I walked in and was greeted by 3 kids giving out literature for Paul, Perry, and Gingrich. I got in and sat way up high so I could get some good pictures.

Panning the crowd during fund-raising and hearing about the summer 'Pork-on-a-stick' fundraiser.

  The caucus was run by the Marshall County Republicans who also used the occasion as a fundraiser and a promotion for their republican ‘Pork-on-a-Stick’ dinner in June. After the prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem, there were speeches by local party officials and people running for local offices while envelopes were passed around for $10 donations (You needed to give your name if you donated more than $10). I took some time out to scan the crowd. I saw a number of people I used to work with at Fischer, some people from the St. Mary Stewardship Committee I was on for a number of years, and a couple of working class people I knew. The crowd could be accurately described as 99% rich, old, and white.

La. Governor Bobby Jindal
  After all the local pols got done with their speeches, each candidate had a speech given in their behalf by a surrogate. Romney and Paul had their speeches given by Marshalltown residents which showed a common touch, (surprising for rich man Romney). Santorum’s speech was given by local politico Jane Jech, Gingrich’s by a Texas congressman, Bachmann’s by a Chicago businessman, and Rick Perry’s was given by the Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. That is a lot of pull by Perry and Gingrich, but pulling the star power out doesn’t seem to work in a state like Iowa. I’m wondering who showed up to talk for Perry in bigger towns like Cedar Rapids and Des Moines if the governor of Louisiana showed up in Marshalltown, Iowa? President Bush? President George W Bush? Both Bushes? Ronald Reagan’s ghost??

Jessie the Ron Paul operative from Orlando, dispenses valuable caucus advice.

  We voted and when I was leaving, the young Ron Paul operative who gave me my literature earlier saw my Ron Paul button and asked me to stick around to help elect a Ron Paul delegate for my precinct. The operative’s name was Jessie and he had driven up to the caucuses from Orlando using his own money to help out. Almost everyone had gone, but I went back over to where my precinct was. There were 12 people there. 11 of the people were Marshalltown Republican lifers and 1 was me, a first-timer and more of a voyeur at that. We talked a few minutes and then elected the 3 delegates and an alternate to the county meeting in March. 4 people volunteered to go. I asked them who they were supporting. 2 were for Santorum, 1 for Paul and the alternate said he would vote for whoever won the precinct(Ron Paul easily carried our precint, although Santorum won the caucus). This was good enough for me since with all my work and chess stuff sometimes I feel guilty if I take time to breathe and just don’t have the time for too much political stuff. Besides, if the lifers didn’t get to go to the county meeting as delegates, they wouldn’t volunteer to run these things and then we’d all be out of luck, so I said my goodbyes and left.

Marshall County Republican lifers.

  I work next to the Iowa Convention Center and the streets this week were lined with TV trucks from all over the US. They’re all gone today, but I can see why Iowa fights so hard to have the first caucuses in the country. All the attention brings in a fortune in advertising and publicity to the state as the politicians arrive here a year ahead of time to attempt to build organizations and collect the grass root supporters that every candidate needs. I don’t have an opinion as to whether it is good for the country to have Iowa be the first in the nation to make a presidential choice. After living here 17 years, I’d say that people in Iowa smile more than people in New Jersey, there are a few more nice people in Iowa, and if you buy a new car in either state you best watch your wallet. Since I’m living here now, I have to say the first in the nation caucuses are great for Iowa and great for the people in Iowa, including me. Because of them, I got to meet up with an old friend like Lee (who will get my vote for President if Ron Paul isn’t on the ballot and keep my streak alive of never voting for a major party political candidate), see Ron Paul at a town hall meeting, and hear Rick Santorum on the local radio station talking about hockey and baseball. Between that and the money it brings into the state, it’s no wonder all the other states try to jump ahead of Iowa to be first.