Caucus .. what the F’aucus this?

“Caucus”: A meeting at which local members of a political party register their preference among candidates running for office or select delegates to attend a convention.

NBC news writers Carrie Dann and Mark Murray posted the following wonderful online article yesterday … to add clarity to the above definition I found on Google. I’ll see you on the other side – thirteen paragraphs, two aspirin, and one hand to the forehead down from here.

There are a total of 1,679 precincts that will meet to caucus. The Democratic Party in Iowa will also hold a number of “satellite” caucuses (60 in state, 24 out of state and three international — in Tbilisi, Georgia; Glasgow, Scotland; and Paris, France) for those who are unable to travel to a caucus location.

There are 41 pledged delegates up for grabs in the Democratic race, plus an additional eight unpledged (superdelegates) from Iowa. (Whenever we refer to delegates for the Feb. 3 precinct caucuses, we actually mean precinct delegates to county caucuses. After county conventions are congressional district and state conventions, at which the real national convention delegates are selected

Democrats and Republicans hold their caucuses differently.

Democrats move around the caucus site — for example, supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden will gather in one corner and backers of Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts others. At most Democratic caucus locations, a candidate must get support from at least 15 percent of attendees to achieve viability. If that threshold isn’t met, a candidate’s supporters must realign to a different viable candidate or join with other nonviable groups to form a viable preference group. (One of those preference groups could be “uncommitted.”) And the number of delegates awarded at each caucus site is determined by a mathematical formula. So get out your calculators!

In a change from past Democratic caucuses, the party will release three sets of results: “the first expression of preference” before the realignment, the “final expression of preference” after realignment and state delegate equivalents (the number used to determine the “winner” in past results). The final expression number — rather than the first expression — is used to determine who gets delegates and who doesn’t.

All of the numbers will be released at the same time.

Another change: Only members of nonviable groups will be allowed to realign. In the past, candidates who had initially hit 15 percent could lose supporters in the realignment. But for this cycle, the initial 15 percent support gets locked in.

Unlike the Democrats, Republicans select their candidate via a simple secret ballot. There is no shuffling from one corner of the caucus site to the other. There is no 15 percent viability or realignment. And there’s no mathematical formula to determine delegates awarded at each caucus site.

With President Donald Trump receiving nominal GOP opposition, however, the Republican process in Iowa isn’t as important to follow this presidential cycle.

(This had been controversial in the past, right?) Yes. The last two election cycles in Iowa have resulted in controversy on caucus night. On the Republican side in 2012, Mitt Romney was named the early winner, but a closer — and later — examination revealed that Rick Santorum had won by a mere 34 votes.

And on the Democratic side in 2016, Hillary Clinton edged Sanders by just 0.3 percentage points, with Sanders supporters citing counting and reporting irregularities.

The activity on caucus night is electing delegates in each of Iowa’s 1,679 precincts to the county convention. But the Democratic “winner” is the candidate who accrues the most state delegate equivalents after the realignment process.

The Iowa Democratic Party says there will be more than 2,000 delegates to the district and state convention. So if you see that Joe Biden gets 35 percent on caucus night, that means he won 35 percent of these state delegate equivalents.

I want to meet Carrie and Mark. I really, really do. Buy them a beer, soda, or whatever would calm their nerves a bit after attempting to explain the baffling beyond repair universe that is the Iowa Caucus. In thirteen paragraphs they tried, admirably, to teach me – a college educated, unapologetic, apolitical, motivated writer – the process by which 1,679 precincts delicately, and quite deliberately, decide delegates. Delicious, isn’t it?

Their article is well written and precise. No complaints from me at all. None. I’m not writing this blog from Tbilisi, Glasgow, or Paris so absolutely no complaints at all! Let’s look at what we’ve got here …

According to the article, “Democrats and Republicans hold their caucuses differently.” … Why is this important enough to mention, separately, in a stand alone sentence?. Hmm. First, I don’t have a clear definition of what a caucus actually is. The word sounds way too familiar to me, … a once – and possibly still – immature dude. Second, for what reason are they holding it? Third, do they know each are holding their own cauci differently? And last, what purpose does said cauci have when they’re done with it?

Moving on. We have the words, “viable” and “uncommitted” in the same paragraph. Two words one always likes to hear figuratively attached at the hip – explicitly when two people are attached at the hip. “Honey, my love, I’m so viable right now, but I’m uncommitted”. This duality of certain provocation might work well in politics; The certainty of one’s cauci is in doubt, however, seconds after stupidly saying that phrase in the throws of a Barry White moment.

Back to it. We then have three sets of results, or “expressions”. Well, we don’t. Iowans do, I guess. The final expression number, rather than the first expression, is used to determine who gets the delegates. Oh, yeah, the delegates. Delegates have expressions. At first read, I figured some guy wearing a seed-corn cap stood up and said, “I want this dude for President!” while others clapped in agreement. Nope. There are numbers involved. Numbers are expressions in Iowa. Not just any expressions. FINAL expressions. Kinda like, “I DID IT!”, but with numbers.

Reading on, Simple, secretive ballot on the right. Yeah. Ok. Secret. Got it. Republicans don’t do any of this math shit, apparently. One of two ways here. Either they’re too, er, crackbrained to puzzle out the figures involved, or too intelligent to unravel the nuances of the system. I don’t know. Don’t reckon I’ll ever care too much. There’s no opposition to the apparent GOP ticket holder, anyway.

The second to last paragraph is one of those I had to read, re-read, and … then … read again. I’m rethinking a lot of things in my life right now. Am I actually a guy? Did I just blow my nose and wash my hands before typing in this sentence? Why does my Wendy’s hamburger always slide out the backside of the bun after the second, not first, bite? What is the true singular spelling of caucus? Why is Schitt’s Creek so damn funny? on and on… This paragraph prompts my inner questioning. A winner wins, but possibly loses? I could be broken-brained. Very possible. My good friends, the “state delegate equivalents after the realignment process“, are most likely so much better equipped to be who they are without my understanding. My chakras align with political realities in other ways, I guess.

I’ll never run for political office or live in Iowa. Ever. On the extreme outside chance “ever” changes and I do, please – dear friend, please – remind me of my complete lack of understanding in this matter. I do understand simplicity in all its weird forms. Complexity, even when simplified down into an article well-written, can be an enigma to me.

Life stands on my pedestal of limited information. I’m fifty-ish years experienced in being wonderfully 10% immature and 90% happy I’m not holding my cauci differently, All of this adds up, even in Iowan weird math, to a great life.

As with anything in life, look at it. Study it. Say, “What the f*ck is this?” Try to get hold of it. If it makes no sense to you, move on … The math gets too complicated and you may just find you’re holding your cauci wrong, anyway.

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