Special To The Daily Green by Karol DeWulf Nickell
We in Iowa take our "first in the nation" position very seriously and two nights ago, we proved it with our raucous caucus.Truly, it was electrifying to enter a loud, packed room of citizens who, just like us, have spent the last year or more getting know these candidates better than some of our own neighbors. My husband and college-age daughter and I slowly made it through the crowd, asking people where registration was, and when we got to the mobbed tables, the noise drowned out the instructions being given by the gray-haired lady. After jostling with many others to sign in, my daughter and I moved slowly through the Biden camp toward the Obama side of the room and my husband shuffled toward where the Edwards people supposedly were. (We had spotted Barack's camp on the way in and the large number of people donning new HOPE stickers underscored my own late decision to support him versus Clinton.) Once we made it roughly to the outskirts of our group (there were no distinct boundaries), I spied a neighbor, then two, then three also in this part of the crowd. We couldn't make our way toward them, so waves and thumbs up had to do.
Finally, there was a large "whoop" and we were hushed to hear the precinct chair. Nobody my height or less could see him (where's the old soap box when you need one?), but his voice carried just fine, announcing that "our precinct had 140 attendees in 2004 and tonight we have 345!" The crowd roared its approval.
We did three counts of supporters before the end of the night. Raised hands and a man or woman standing on a folding chair counting them out loud was the "procedure." After Dodd, Biden, and Richardson were determined to be non-viable, we were encouraged to convince their supporters to come over to our candidate. I snagged one previous Dodd supporter for the Obama camp I'm proud to say. There were many friendly jabs fired back and forth; one neighbor in the Edwards camp made her way over to me and tried to convince me to side with my "better-informed" husband.
As if that was going to work.
When the final count was called, everyone quieted down and raised their hands high. The whole Obama camp seemed to strain a bit towards our organizer, intent on making sure our hands were counted. My view included ladies' hands with red pedicures and diamond rings, the youthful hand of my daughter still soft and unencumbered by jewelry or other finery, the hand of a black man, the hand of a white man, and the hand of the grandmother I had just met. As each hand was counted and lowered, heads would turn to those yet to be counted. There were soft rumblings about how many people had joined the Edwards group. The word passed quickly that it was going to be close. Our organizer called out the last few, "132, 133, 134...oh, and me...135 for Obama." Our first count of the evening had been 111. Was 135 enough to top Edwards?
Another pause with suspense, then that odd, screaming "whoop" that would precede the final announcement: Clinton 80; Edwards 130; Obama 135.
Our conservative, middle-class, suburban, predominantly white precinct had put Obama first. Amazing!
We came home elated (my daughter and I a bit more than my husband) and couldn't wait to turn on the TV to watch the returns. A fitting closure to this unusual offspring of grass-roots politics came when each of the candidate gave their exit speeches.
All were good, but Obama's was truly great.
I think we have now seen the future and that the seer Mr. King is dancing in heaven...
Karol DeWulf Nickell is a life-long resident of the Hawkeye State and is the former Editor-in-Chief of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. She is currently finishing her Masters in Business Administration at Iowa State University.
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