President Obama faces no serious challenge from an individual on the left in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
But that does not mean that Obama will get all the votes cast by Democrats on January 3.
Peace and economic justice activists, some of them associated with a newly launched “Occupy Iowa Caucus” campaign, are arguing that caucus goers should reject the president and instead vote for “uncommitted” slates.
“Uncommitted” slates have won Iowa caucuses before. In 1972 and 1976, more Democratic caucus votes were cast for the “uncommitted” option than for any of the announced candidates. As recently as 1992, “uncommitted” beat Bill Clinton.
Now, a newly developed “Occupy Iowa Caucus” initiative is urging voters to attend caucuses and back “uncommitted” slates. For Republicans, that would mean rejecting the current crowd of GOP contenders and beginning a process that could lead to sending unaffiliated delegates to the party convention next summer. For Democrats, that would mean rejecting a compromise-prone president and backing a slate that is committed to pressing for more progressive policies than those adopted by Obama and his administration.
There’s a lot of “Occupy” activism on the ground in Iowa, and not all of it is oriented toward organizing “uncommitted” slates. Some activists are urging voters to attend Republican caucuses and back Ron Paul, whose anti-war, pro–civil liberties position has appeal. Others are organizing a “People’s Caucus” for December 27; the energetic Occupy Des Moines crew is behind this one, and they are dubbing their event the “Occupy Iowa Caucus.” “People are tired of being ignored by the political establishment in both parties, tired of having the common good placed last when it comes to government’s priorities,” says Ed Fallon, a former state legislator and one of the organizers of the December 27 event. “Holding the Peoples Caucus before the January 3rd precinct caucuses tells America’s corporate and political elite that we demand that our voices be heard, that the public interest must come first.”
There’s also a project to occupy Democratic and Republican campaigfn headquarters in Des Moines, in order to raise concerns of the 99 percent.
With so much going on, it is easy to get confused. But that’s the nature of Iowa as the caucus season enters its final stages.
Amidst the confusion, unexpected developments can and do take place.
And one of those developments could be the appearance at Democratic caucuses—especially in liberal Iowa City—of actvists who seek to send Obama a message by voting for the “uncommitted” slate.
A message to potential caucus goers that appears on the new “Occupy Iowa Caucus” website—www.occupyiacaucus.org—argues that voting “uncommitted” will send a powerful signal regarding the extent to which voters are discontented with politics as usual.