Watchdog Blog

Herb Strentz: It’s Iowa Caucus Time, Where is Everybody?

Posted at 8:44 pm, January 7th, 2010
Herb Strentz Mug

Hey! Where is everyone?

The Iowa caucuses are only a few weeks away — Jan. 23.

Remember the 2008 caucuses when U.S. Sen. Barrack Obama (D-Ill) began his road to the White House?

So where are all the pollsters, network TV news types and print pundits this time around?

Doesn’t anyone care who gets elected to Iowa Democratic and GOP Central Committees?

Doesn’t anyone care about delegates to the March county conventions?

And, what about all the controversy in having the caucuses on a Saturday for a change — likely to increase attendance by everyone except some of the Jewish faithful?

Where is everyone?

Grassroots democracy this time around is likely to be as “viable” as a Biden or Dodd candidacy was in 2008. (“Viable,” as caucus watchers know, is the criterion for deciding if a candidate gets any votes at all at the precinct level.)

Grassroots democracy on Jan. 23 is likely to be as viable as it was in 2006, another non-presidential year.

That year, about a dozen people attended my precinct caucus, half of whom were Urbandale High School seniors who may have been more interested in getting points for their civics class than in shaping a party platform or being a delegate — although one of them was dragooned into being a delegate.

Contrast that handful with the 374 counted at the same precinct caucus in 2008.

Turnout on Jan. 23 may exceed the 2006 nadir, but not by much. Even though both parties have agendas that feature (a) election of two members to the state central committee, (b) election of delegates to the county convention and (c) submission of ideas for the party platforms.

It’s grassroots democracy that for the most part is taken seriously only in presidential election years.

Neither party will offer a sampling or test of presidential wannabes.

The sparse attendance at off-year caucuses helps the militant shape party platforms as the Christian right has particularly done in Iowa. The news media in Iowa pretty much ignore party platforms and then wonder why moderate party members are in short supply.

Oh well! See you in 2012, and likely the year before then because — have you heard? — the Iowa presidential caucuses will be a bellwether. For 2010, however, precinct attendance across the state will be like the temperature, often in the single digits.

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