The mock caucus at the Royale in St. Louis Thursday night was, in a way, a mocking of the Iowa caucuses: it was much wilder and woolier. That may have been because the Iowa caucuses don’t allow booze.
Still the results mirrored what happened one state north of here. Out of 135 votes, Obama got 58, Edwards got 44 and Clinton got 33. Someone who’s math literate can turn that into percentages. (It’s been ten years since I had to figure percentages as an English teacher, and that section of my brain has atrophied.)
Well before the caucus started, the place was wall to wall bodies with people screaming to be heard above the back beat of the music and the general mayhem. The music disappeared and the crowd quieted when the owner of the Royale, Steve Smith called for attention. But the proceedings could have used a mike.
Those who gave nominating speeches for Dodd, Gravel and Biden admitted good humoredly that they’d be standing off in a corner by themselves longing fruitlessly for co-supporters. The speaker for Kucinich spoke passionately about his virtues, and there were ten or so supporters there for him–though that wasn’t enough to make him viable. Then Bob Holden nominated Hillary Clinton. He didn’t so much extol her virtues as urge the crowd repeatedly, no matter who got the eventual nomination, to support that person wholeheartedly.
About that time, the TV hanging in the corner showed that Obama had won in Iowa and all his supporters began chanting “O-Ba-Ma. O-Ba-Ma. O-Ba-Ma.” It made the perfect prelude to Lacy Clay’s nominating speech for the senator from Illinois.
Finally, Steve Gregali, a St. Louis alderman, nominated John Edwards. Edwards supporters had lots of signs, including one five foot long white banner, and they made plenty of noise. A gentleman from Kirkwood made an impassioned seconding speech, and it was time for a preliminary count. Supporters of each candidate grouped themselves in one area of the room or another; everyone but Obama, Edwards, and Clinton was declared not viable; and the process of trying to persuade supporters of the non-viable candidates to join one of the three major groups began. By this time, people in the wooden booths were mostly standing on the benches for a better view of the chaos.
The blogsite Watching Those We Chose had someone liveblogging from an Iowa caucus, and he described what happened at that juncture in the staid setting he attended:
The chair announced that the Richardson, Biden, and Undecided groups were not viable. It sounded kind of mean. She told us that each group could send one member to the nonviable groups to try to convince them to join.
I went over to the Biden people. I asked what it was about Biden that they liked. The young CEO of the hospital said, “Because he is the best one to be president!” I told him that I had seen Biden speak. I said a couple of nice things about Biden; but when I began to talk about Obama, the guy explained that if we gave him three people, we wouldn’t lose any delegates. Yikes! He was the precinct captain for Biden.
Comical as that was, it was at least a semi-rational discussion–compared to what ensued at the mock caucus. There, the most passionate partisans for each candidate yelled slogans at other groups, with the Kirkwood Edwards supporter screaming “health care” at a Kucinich supporter. I forget what she kept yelling back at him, but lucid argumentation was absent on both sides.
Apparently, lucid argumentation is overrated. The crowd sorted itself into three groups, the count took place, and the results were more or less the same as what occurred in Iowa.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that our primary results will turn out the same way. The folks attending the mock caucus have all been paying close attention to the national political scene. Primary voters may be somewhat less knowledgeable. And besides, the primary vote is still a month away. A lot can happen in a month. It’ll be interesting to see how the vote on Feb. 5 compares to our mock caucus.