January 19th, 2004


Smells like DEAN Spirit

8:00 Arrive. Event purported to start at 8:30. No seats left in the few bleachers set up. Spot Cory from Record Collector, Kirk (the owner of same), talk to them. Kir had just seen Edwards in Cedar Rapids. He was very impressed with Edwards.

8:45 Jill & James K show up. Jill lived with us for a year about 6 years ago to finish high school. James was my son Sean's best friend in Kindergarten. We talk a bit.

9:00 Things sorta start. Joan Jett plays some songs with a guy she introduces as having been in Tommy James and the Shondells. She sounds OK, but apparently they never worked out actual duo arrangements for full band song, so there are stretches where they just bang on bar chords, and you're supposed to imagine a guitar solo or something. Oh, and she gives a pretty diffuse endorsement of Dean that has something to do with her playing USO tours in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

9:30 Spittle flinging Union guy from SEIU gives a speech. Say 'only one prescription will fix X: a doctor in the White House' where X is some problem. I resist the tempation to yell "MORE COWBELL!"

9:45 Janeane Garafalo comes out, and does a completely random, barely coherent standup for a few minutes. Given that she only has to do 10 minutes, and that she's had to do it 4 or 5 times in the last couple of days, I wonder why. Didn't she start out making a living with standup? She's proud to support Dean, not clear why.

10:00 Joan Jett again. Apparently Dean and Harkin are not in the building yet. She plays "I Love Rock & Roll" -- well enough. Nice crowd accompaniment. I realize that the song owes it's staying power to the fact that people really do love rock and roll, but not when it's too loud and scary.

10:00 Some other guy comes out and thanks a bunch of people for something or other.
Blabs on and on. Finally says "are we ready?"

10:10 Dick Myers (Dean's Iowa campaign chair) comes out and whips up crowd. Introduces Harkin.

10:30 Harkin comes out. Congratulates capacity crowd for being so capacity-y. Says he endorses Dean because America Needs Change. No real explanation as to why Dean over, e.g. Al Sharpton, but he had crowd at first awkward roundhouse punch. Makes weird Rosa Parks reference, quotes her as saying "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." and tells crowd that on caucus night that their feets will be tired but their soul will be at rest.*

10:45 Dean comes out. Very hoarse, but obviously pumped up; there's a thousand people in the room which is a big crowd. Says it's the biggest crowd he's seen. Crowd roars. Gives speech that alternates Bush bashing, and exhorting people that at the caucus they will be "taking back America." I've noticed before that he really likes to rhetorically turn the tables on an audience and try and make the speech about them; I think an essential part of his appeal and momentum and organization has been this "IT'S ABOUT YOU" thing -- it makes people who work for him feel important, like they're the real story, and he's just this guy that acts as their focus. I'm not sold; his whole plan is to try and scale up what he did in Vermont to the whole US. One thing you learn in Engineering is that techniques that work in a small system often don't scale up very well. I think he'd be a decent president -- his hearts in the right place, and he's pretty smart, and flexible enough ideologically to make the comprimises government demands. I'm not so sure that if he wins the caucus, that his campaign will scale up nationally eiter.

11:05 After standing up for 3 hours I walk back to the car. I pass up the chance to buy a 'Deany Baby.'

John Edwards

My friend Kirk was telling me last night how impressed he was of Edwards as a speaker, so today at 12:30, I looked on Edwards' website, and saw he was speaking an hour away in Davenport. So I hopped in the car and went there.

Edwards showed up -- only about 10 minutes after his scheduled time! He only spoke for about 10 minutes. He spoke mostly about Martin Luther King, Racial Equality, and Economic Justice, and that that was what he was running to change. And he spoke very well. He has more political charisma in person than anyone I've seen since Bill Clinton, and he seemed to be speaking from the heart.

Two very interesting things about this appearance: one, this was a very white crowd, not one, presumably, for whom equality and economic justice were primary concern, except in the abstract. But he had the room with him; in a way his appeal was to people's better nature, not their direct political concerns.

It's possible to get a little blase' about meeting candidates during Caucus season. Another day, another guy who wants to be president. But Edwards, is exactly the sort of guy I think Democrats are yearning for; someone who inspires confidence and admiration, someone with obvious intelligence and some compassion. Think Bobby Kennedy in '68 and you'd be close.

And don't underestimate the appeal of a guy who shows up on time and says his piece with out any embarassing opening acts.

Iowa Caucus

Well it's all over except for the punditry -- I'm pleased that Edwards pulled a strong second. Surprised that Kerry won so decisively. I think it's clear that as anti-war as the Democratic party is, here in Iowa they were hesitant to support an openly anti-war candidate. I am surprised Kucinich came in at 1 percent; I think he was the big loser with respect to the caucus rules; I bet there were many precincts that his supporters were just below 15%.

The Shimek Precinct Caucus was off the hizzy. There were more people in that Gym than I've ever seen -- 424, with about 160 of those being people registering to vote at the Caucus. The Edwards group's first canvas was below the 64 needed to be 'viable', but after some wandering around talking to the undecided and Clark people, we got up to 71, giving us one of the 9 delegates from our precinct.

So there was a lot of running around and horse trading between camps. The non-viable Gephardt contingent went en-masse for Kerry. When it was all over, Kerry & Dean ended up with 3 delegates each, Kucinich with 2, and Edwards with one. This means that the solid anti-war vote in our precinct came out on top of the more centrist candidates. But I live in what is probably one of the top ten liberal precincts in the whole country, so don't mind us.

People were generally quite nice, and things never got cut-throat or divisive; I heard over and over people saying that the important thing was beating Bush, and that all the candidates were pretty darn good. I really believe that as a life-long Democrat that every one of these guys is perfectly deserving of respect and support. Consider that every one of the top 4 candidates has served in government longer than the current president, and none of them has been touched by a hint of scandal.

Those of you who get your news from the right wing fantasy press probably don't agree, but whatever. At some point maybe the scales will fall from your eyes and you'll see how you've been led astray.