Friday, September 06, 2019

No One Wants An Absentee Caucus

Virtual Caucus is dead.

That became official today when a Democratic National Committee rules and bylaws meeting confirmed what was loudly leaked last week: that the phone-in "Virtual Caucus" plan that the Iowa Democratic Party developed, with nods of approval from DNC every step of the way, was unacceptable because of security concerns.

The most likely outcome, hinted at already last week, was that DNC would be willing to grant a waiver to Iowa and fellow early caucus state Nevada from the new requirement that caucus states be required to provide an absentee voting process.

The uncomfortable truth is: No one really wants the Iowa Democratic caucuses to have an absentee process.

Iowa Democratic leadership - both in the official Iowa Democratic Party structure sense and in the elected official-donor-activist base sense -doesn't want it because they're scared about risking First.

The bully of Concord, inscrutable New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, doesn't want Iowa to have absentees either, because he thinks that's an election and HE insists on the first election.

The DNC doesn't really want Iowa absentees, despite lip service to the new absentee requirement, because they are really more concerned about the much older standing fight about preserving the early state calendar.

The DNC found out the hard way in 2007, when Florida and Michigan broke the rules and went too early, that a broken calendar is unenforceable against states that are unwilling to cooperate. In part that's because election law is mostly state law, and in part that's because the only possible penalties are so nuclear that they won't be used. There was no way the DNC was ever going to refuse to seat the delegations from two huge swing states at the 2008 national convention, and everyone knew it. It ends up making the party look weak and they want to avoid having to referee between Iowa and New Hampshire.

Iowa haters and caucus haters don't want the caucus to have absentees because they think this may finally be the way to kill us. (And they have cynically recruited the tech security community as allies.)

The presidential candidates, despite rhetoric from one or two campaigns, don't really want the Iowa caucus to have absentees. They have already made battle plans that actively discouraged Virtual Caucus because "it counts less."

The Des Moines Register in particular, and the rest of the Iowa media in general, are against absentees at the caucuses because they believe it risks First - and thus risks their polls, editorial boards, national TV appearances, and bottom line.

Iowa Republicans don't want Iowa Democrats to have an absentee process because they are worried about First and about double voting - people voting for the Democrats early and then attending the Republican event on caucus night (because they want to vote against Trump twice?). That's technically illegal - but can only be discovered after the fact and only with an unusual level of bipartisan cooperation.

Rural Iowa Democratic county activists who like to brag about how badly their county swung from Obama to Trump don't want absentees because they worry that without forced attendance in order to vote, no one will show up and they will not be able to organize their county committees.

No, no one really wants the Iowa Democratic caucuses to have an absentee process...
...except for two small groups. And no one seems to much care what we think.
The first is made up of actual normal Iowans who don't want to or can't spend three hours on a Monday night just to vote, and who care more about that than about the benefits (?) of First. These are not the people asking questions or getting selfies or even going to candidate events. They don't care how many candidates are at your county party event or how the platform is worded or who is on the county central committee. They just want to VOTE.

These are also the people who work second shift or get mandatory OT or are traveling or who have small children or can't drive at night or who have problems standing or who (like me) can't handle the stress of large and sometimes hostile crowds.

The other group that wants absentees is also like me - actually, I'm pretty sure I'm the loudest: Urban county Iowa Democratic activists who are concerned about literally not being able to fit into the biggest room that exists in the precinct. No one at IDP has ever given us any constructive suggestions as to what we should do about it. Even honest acknowledgement is rare. We just get the occasional "it won't be so bad" pep talk.

You cannot "organize" and "party build" when precinct attendance is approaching quadruple digits. You can't fix The Biggest Room Is Too Small with "better planning." You CAN fix it, you can ONLY fix it, with absentee ballots.

If you're with me in those last two groups, we have two weeks to convince Iowa Democratic leadership that we NEED an absentee process and that the apparent direction from both Iowa and DNC - a waiver from the absentee requirement - is the wrong way to go.

In today's conference call, DNC Rules and Bylaws chair James Roosevelt (yes, grandson of FDR and Eleanor) said:

If Nevada can have in person early voting for caucuses, Iowa can and must do the same.

It is time to stop caring about New Hampshire thinks. It is time to stand up to Big Bully Bill Gardner.

DNC approved a calendar with Iowa first and New Hampshire second. They also approved rules that said caucus states need absentees, and we should not let New Hampshire break the rules just because we are following the rules.
If New Hampshire moves in front of Iowa, let them - and then throw their delegation out of the national convention, the way Florida and Michigan should have been thrown out in 2008.

We also have one last chance to convince Iowa Democratic leadership that the 10% delegate cap, no matter what the attendance, on an absentee process is unfair. Absentees should be reported back to the individual precincts and counted equally, and should also be actively encouraged in order to address overcrowding.

We need real early ballots and we should not settle for anything less.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Why Taylor Swift Matters

One of the great rituals of my youth was the release of a major album by a major artist. Some of my fondest memories are the treks to the actual physical vinyl record store on release day to buy Synchronicity or Born In the USA or Purple Rain or, later, the midnight trip to the CD store for Use Your Illusion.

Such moments are rare in our fragmented era of infinite selection and the death of the monoculture. An Avengers movie opening was as close as we got, and before that a new Harry Potter book.

But yesterday something important happened. A major musician, probably the most important of our time, released an album.

Popular music is supposed to be, well, popular. Even Joe Strummer knew that. The ideology that commercial success was UnCool literally killed Kurt Cobain. But as Cobain re-proved but never understood, popularity does not preclude great art. The most popular rock group of all time is also universally acknowledged as the creatively greatest of all time.

Which brings us to the most popular artist of our time.

Taylor Swift transcended the narrow niche of the country market segment as long ago as 2012, with her brilliant singer-songwriter album Red and her first pop number one hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." She was bigger by that point than country music itself.

Some. me among them, would argue that she outgrew niche popularity as long ago as her breakthrough 2008 album Fearless - still very country in sound but with the massive crossover success of "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me."

Which sets up part of the problem. Swift was introduced to us as a VERY young artist, with her first record at 16. She wrote of that stage of life in a style that was at once eloquent, realistic, and, well, girly. The imagery of that era, lyrically and in videos, was literally set in high school, cheerleaders and band uniforms and prom dresses and crying with your best friend over her first broken heart. "When you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you're gonna believe them," she wrote as a wise old woman of (checks notes) eighteen.

And it connected. Deeply. Which is what art is supposed to do. The emotions were universal, but they connected most deeply with Swift's peers, young women.

From there her popularity exploded into tabloid celebrity, with more attention to the identity of the inspirations of her songs than to the excellence of the work itself. "If I could talk to my 19-year-old self I'd just say, 'Hey, you're going to date just like a normal twenty-something should be allowed to, but you're going to be a national lightning rod for slut-shaming,'" she said in 2016, as people forgot that Swift was first and foremost a musician - and first and foremost within that a songwriter.

I’m so sick of running as fast as I can
Wondering if I'd get there quicker if I was a man

And I'm so sick of them coming at me again
'Cause if I was a man, then I'd be The Man
Taylor Swift, 2019

Genres and works of art made and enjoyed largely by female audiences and young audiences get taken less seriously. Double that if the artist is female. Square that if the artist is a young woman. Cube that if the artist in question is working in a field other than acting or modeling, and is tall, slim and blonde. And add yet another dimension if the artist comes from a background of family wealth and privilege that unlike, say, diplomat's son Joe Strummer, Swift readily acknowledges - because we ALL know that Real Art comes from the streets, right?

Taylor Swift is not a mere pop star. She is a serious artist using pop music as a medium. That's how I have approached her work since Red and that's how Lover should be evaluated.

Bigger that a genre? Taylor Swift now is phrases-entering-the-language big, bigger than the music industry itself - able to get Apple Music to back down and offer artists more money with little more than an Instagram post, and probably able to blow up a $300 million industry deal by simply talking about re-recording her old music (which I do NOT actually expect to happen - it's a negotiating tactic). And able to get bodies into stores to buy physical copies of music which is unheard of in 2019.

So it's impossible to listen to Lover the album without taking into account Taylor Swift The Persona. You can't pretend it's some indie record that's MUCH cooler than mine. (You also can't appreciate how smart and hilarious "Blank Space" is without knowing that persona.)

But set aside the notion that art made with mass popularity in mind is a least common denominator. Taylor Swift is an important artist, my children's generation's equivalent of the great singer-songwriters of my generation and the 60s generation.

I fell in love with Swift's music because it reminds me of being young. So I revived the old ritual for a release day trip to a store.

Just 36 hours and four or so listens in, I am still getting to know Lover the album. I know I prefer it to 2017's Reputation, and I see it rivaling 1989 and my personal favorite Red in quality. The title song, issued a week ahead, is one of the greatest odes to stable and serious love I have heard in a very, very long time. And near album's end, she offers continuity between her past tales of broken hearts and her current state of mind:

So along with enjoying the art, I feel personal happiness for an artist closer to my children's age than my own who has given so much of herself to her fans -  not just the music, but a personal touch that goes far above and beyond the call of duty. So far this cycle she has invited fans into her homes for private listening sessions, paid a fan's college tuition, sent her dad with dozens of pizzas to fans waiting in line, and showed up at a Target to greet fans checking out with CDs. That's just THIS MONTH.

And she's making six figure donations to gay and pro-choice groups.

While this summer's ubiquitous "You Need To Calm Down" was sometimes mocked for placing the straight cisgender Swift at the center of a pride narrative, it's inherently powerful for someone with such massive popularity to send a positive message. Far from a least common denominator, mainstreaming pride still matters in vast purple and red swaths of America. . So does the unspoken touch of casting a black man as a love interest in a video, and so do Swift's emerging political thoughts. An ally with more than 80 million followers is a good friend to have, and I hope and expect that Swift will use this powerful voice between now and next November.

Unity is rare in both our culture and our politics. So as Lover takes over the world, in this moment now, capture it, remember it. There are few moments like this anymore and this moment matters.

But I will forever believe that spelling is fun.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Biden's Brilliant (?) Bumble

Well, Joe Biden is in trouble for something he said again (evergreen tweet), this time for discussing his long-ago personal friendships with long-dead segregationist senators James Eastland and John Stennis.

Obviously this is a mistake - but maybe not quite in the way you think.

Biden has premised his candidacy and his prospective presidency on the idea that Trump is an anomaly and that with The Donald out of the way, the collegial folkways of the past can return to government.

Now, political Twitter knows that those days are gone forever, and have probably been gone since Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill shared their last Irish whiskey some 30 years ago.

But, hear me out, what if Biden knows that too?

What if Biden is not simply nostalgic for the past, in a sign of his age, but instead is positioning himself in a popular niche? The salient political question is not "can we bring the bourbon and branchwater era back." The important question is: How many rank and file primary voters either think or wish that era could come back?

Over and over we see polls and hear voters saying they want politicians to "cooperate" and "get along." Biden knows this too. Is he deluding himself thinking this era can come back - or, I think more likely,  is he just playing to that sentiment in a segment of the electorate?

Personally, I think it's a myth that there's all that much real support for Getting Along and The Sensible Center - because people are taught by the Objective Journalism paradigm that we are supposed to Vote The Person Not The Party, and because if you scratch the surface "compromise" usually means "compromise by YOU changing to MY position."

But at least it's an argument one could reasonably make with some data to point to, and I think it's a more plausible explanation for Biden's approach than "he's old and dumb."

If that's what he's doing, then his mistake was not arguing that personal friendships across the aisle can fix things. His error was in naming the wrong friends, men who while they may have been genial in person were committed to the wrong side of history and justice. Had Biden named colleagues like, say, Bob Dole or even Barry Goldwater, very conservative men yet men who were not primarily (despite Goldwater's vote against the Civil Rights Act) identified as segregationists, he would have made his point more effectively.

Joe Biden is a lot of things, and in many ways he is the last son of a bygone era. He may be far enough behind the times that he won't win the nomination. But Joe Biden is absolutely not dumb, and I think his longing for the past is more strategic than nostalgic.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Random Thoughts On A Random Order Day

It used to be a presidential election had an "Invisible Primary" stage before the early states. Candidates tested the waters with low profile visits and events in the midterm cycle, gathered their families and core people, and made a decision. Many opted out, and only a few opted in.

It's not unusual for two dozen people to think about running for president and look into it.

But what is unusual, or perhaps is the unfortunate new reality, is that ALL of those people are opting in. In 2016 on the Republican side, and this cycle on the Democratic side, the Invisible Primary phase of the campaign seems to have vanished, and this backstage first phase of narrowing the field is playing out in public with declared candidates.

So today we had the spectacle of  NINETEEN candidates giving speeches at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids.

The mindset seems to be: Err on the side of inclusion. But it's just so much. Not sure how someone could decide or even narrow from this - or from two nights of 10-candidate debates - unless you start from the self-fulfilling prophecy of polls and limit yourself to candidates that are registering at least a smidgen of support. We got a handy checklist last night:

The problem is, by including EVERYone, you have less time to focus on the serious players. I would have liked half as many speeches but twice as long.

The beret has been semi-retired for a while, but I figured this show was too big to pass up. So I dutifully drove north for what I expected would be a brutally long day and night.

I arrived to witness, as expected, Sign War.

I do not love Sign War. Staffers and volunteers love Sign War. We had two solid blocks of Sign War. But with pretty good collegiality between most campaigns (except the one that does its own thing), it wasn't much of a "war." At one point the Klobuchar, Harris and Gillibrand campaigns were all chanting "we need a woman in the White House" together. (Warren was based a block away and Gabbard's contingent was about six people.)

So Gabbard was the clear sign war loser; the whole experience was too overwhelming to name a winner.

Chris Dodd had a blimp, too.

Sanders only dabbled in the main drag of sign war; his alternative was a Fight For $15 pre-rally at a nearby McDonalds. On message, and a good cause - but also on brand for Bernie being the one who does His Own Separate Thing. Their march over from Mickey D's almost collided with Corey Booker's arrival. Buttigeig also did a pre-rally rather than Sign War.

As for Team Biden, they clearly decided that with no candidate, they were just going to bypass the event entirely and not even attempt visibility. Not a bad decision, because with no candidate you have no draw and any effort looks weak. All in or all out.

The speeches began, 14 minutes late. I had turned down dinner tickets from Teams Beto and Booker since I had gotten a press pass, but I thought I might regret that decision by suppertime.

Most candidates stuck close to the podium and the teleprompter, trying to stick to their tightly scripted five minutes that needed to compress the Greatest Hits into one five minute medley, touch as many issue bullet points as possible while at the same time hitting the Overall Campaign Theme and some biography. Each speech flashed by about as fast as a total eclipse.

To the delight of most of the room, the sound crew was ruthless. At exactly five minutes, they turned up the music to play the candidates off. And in a solstice miracle, it worked.
  • Beat the clock: Beto, Bullock, Warren, Gillibrand, Booker
  • Did not beat the clock: Klobuchar (barely), Pete (barely), Williamson, Delaney, Swalwell, Sanders, Gabbard
  • Total clock management failure: de Blasio, Bennet
  • Did not notice: Hickenlooper, Yang, Harris, Ryan, Inslee

Best Speeches: The two who moved away from the podium, and who gave the strongest speeches, were Warren and Harris. (Yang also walked, but seemed rushed.) Booker, Beto, and Pete were also good, as were Klobuchar and Gillibrand - the two trailing candidates who I can still imagine making a breakthrough.

Honorable mention:

Special Category: This event was not a good setting for Bernie Sanders. I'm not especially objective about him - but I have seen him enough at enough different kinds of events to know that his strength is at a rally of his own faithful, and that he's not great at multi-candidate events like this. The audience today was party regulars and elected official types, which is definitely not a Bernie-friendly crowd. His applause was only scattered other than at the Sanders tables, even when the words themselves were acceptable to the whole room.

Biggest gap between audience enthusiasm and position in Register poll: Klobuchar. 

Missed opportunity: Jay Inslee was really good on climate change. It could have been a breakout moment (no one had one of those today). But that was only a minute or so of his five. He should have junked the rest of the speech and done five solid minutes on climate - that's where his heart is. But: his ask for a debate focused only on climate change, which is becoming a litmus test for parts of the activist base, seemed to only get cheers from his table.

Weakest speech (serious person category): Most of the small fry were undistinguished, but Michael Bennet failed to even manage a graceful exit when the music played him off. He just kept talking, they had to turn it up and the audience had to applaud to get him off stage. Not good when you speak 18th of 19.

Weakest speech (special category): Marianne Williamson is a joke and we need to find a way to not have to invite her to things like this.

Death Valley: Speaking order was random drawn and we had a brutal mid-show three in a row of Tim Ryan, Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson.

Best self-deprecating line: "I have 8.6 million highly opinionated constituents" - Bill de Blasio

Best stage music: Was hard to hear most of the time but I did note that Beto O'Rourke took the stage to the Clash. They are obviously trying to get a commit card out of me.

Cheapest shot: Ideological elbows are fair, but Andrew Yang was the one person who criticized Joe Biden for not attending. Now, maybe Biden IS trying to limit attendance at multi-candidate events, but he had a grand-daughter with a graduation which 1) is totally on brand for Biden and 2) most Iowans would count as an excused absence.

Had to look it up:  Other than Biden, candidates missing were Seth Moulton, Some Dude Mayor Wayne Messam, and... had to look it up... Julian Castro.

Other notes from small fry: Gabbard led with Aloha and talked about peace; Delaney talked Big Tent Party and rural, Tim Ryan was all White Working Class and bringing the Rust Belt back. Bullock played his one Iowa card: the inexplicable endorsement by Attorney General Tom Miller.

Special gold medal: to Troy Price and IDP staff for the miracle of getting the whole show done in 2 hours 57 minutes. Extra special thanks to the sound crew for being ruthless with the play-off music.

More random notes on the Deeth Twitter Feed.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Kinney NOT running in 2nd CD

I would have been proud to have been represented by Kevin Kinney in Congress, and I'm also glad to keep him where he is. In 2014, a horrible year for Dems, Kevin GAINED a seat from the GOP, and that one seat held the majority for two more years. The excesses of 2017 would have happened in 2015 if not for Kevin Kinney.

Kevin doesn't look like or carry himself like an Iowa City liberal. He's a big quiet cop and farmer. But when he speaks it means something. Kevin has seen crimes worse than most of us can imagine - and he spoke eloquently this session against the death penalty. He's the kind of candidate who can win a district like he has - half is a non-Peoples Republic part of Johnson County, the other half is two rural counties. There's a lot of turf like that in the 2nd CD.

Plus, knowing Kevin, he's a great guy and a great dad.

Some other good people are still looking at this seat and I look forward to a good primary.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

DeBlasio Phoning Into Iowa

We may not yet be done with candidate announcements: Just sat through a nearly half hour survey call that was very clearly message testing for Bill DeBlasio.

Started with likelyhood of caucusing (do you KNOW who you are talking to?) and Iowa right/wrong track (WRONG!)

Was then asked fav/unfav on some candidates, DeBlasio listed first, Harris, Warren, Sanders, Buttigeig, Biden. Then did who would you support, choices were those names plus Beto, Booker, Gillibrand. (Names may have rotated?)

I had to coach the caller on how to pronounce "DeBlasio," this was before I figured out the call was actually for DeBlasio! He stayed with correct pronunciation for rest of call. You're welcome. Caller had touble with some other names, too; Gillibrand was "Christy Anne" and Beto was "O-ROAR-a-key."

Was then asked a series of characteristics; still had not figured out who call was for. Progressive policies, experience, bring country together not divide, "real results that matter to families," cares about people like you, can beat Trump... will support workers and the middle class, shares your values, inspirational, honest and trustworthy. Still had not figured out who call was for.

Was then asked a series of two statements, which I liked better. gets things done vs. ideas and polices Best to beat Trump. vs. views same as my own Progressive vs. pragmatism. Last one gave it away: Mayor of NYC out of touch vs. mayor of NYC an experienced executive.

Was then read a series of statements about DeBlasio and asked how I liked them. They were loooong. Health care, family (including specific mention of multiracial family), "compassion not hate," "experience standing up to Trump," "always on the side of the people."

I was also re-asked at the end about presidential preference. Names again rotated; Gillibrand was in the mix this time and the dude had more trouble with that than he had with "DeBlasio"

Closed with demographics: party, liberal/moderate/conservative, education level, employment, income, union membership, black or Hispanic. Not asked about age, they asked for me by name so I assume they had my voter record.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Settling for 10%

Disappointed that Iowa Democratic Party state central committee did not increase the delegate allocation of virtual caucus participants from the pre-set 10%. That said, Virtual Caucus is much more a Good Thing than a Bad Thing.

I have no doubt that far more than 10% of caucus participants will choose the virtual option – meaning those votes will be under-represented in the delegate count. Bu how much does the delegate count matter?

The importance of Iowa and First is not the relatively small national delegate count. It’s the year before caucus night when we get to see everyone, and it’s the news bounce that happens on caucus night.

This cycle for the first time IDP will give the national media what it has always wanted: a raw vote count. The complicated state delegate equivalents, while technically more important to the nomination, will be ignored.

If all you care about is “my vote getting counted,” Virtual Caucus is going to do you just as well as attending. Virtual caucusers can also sign up to be county alternates and can do platform stuff.

If we are going to make this process work in the large urban counties with overcrowding problems, we need to encourage people to choose the virtual caucus process and encourage emphasizing the raw vote in order to sell people on virtual caucus.

Johnson County’s votes are under-counted anyway – we had 11% of statewide turnout in 2016 but only got 6% of state delegates. And we are already organized within an inch of our lives so “party building” is less critical. You’ll be doing us a favor if you call your vote in.

I may choose virtual caucus myself. In 2016 I needed to chair my own caucus in a student precinct with no experienced chairs. The precinct we moved into in 2017 has other experienced people, so I can phone it in and then be on standby to help fix any problems that come up in other precincts.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Review of Roby Smith's Amendments: ½ ☆ out of ★★★★★

Reviewing the Roby Smith amendments to election bill and pointing out what I see as significant. This was originally meant to be a tweet storm, but when it grew to over 60 tweets I decided it should be in good old fashioned blog format instead. Welcome back to 2007, excuse me while I adjust the beret.

Organizing this in the order the bill is printed may not be the Classic Inverted Pyramid way to write this, but it's good as a reader's guide. The full text is here (thanks to Laura Belin for making it more linkable and legible than the legislature's site).

Page 1-2 is covering Paul Pate's ass on the legal publication of constitutional amendments . A failure to publish is keeping the NRA amendment off the 2020 ballot. (Chet Culver made the same mistake in 2006 with the famous "idiot amendment," so we waited two more years to remove offensive archaic language from the Constitution.)

My overall opinion on legal publication is that it's archaic in the Internet era and is a subsidy to the dying print newspaper industry. Is anyone really going to first learn about a constitutional amendment by reading the classifieds? This isn't something that's going to substantively hurt anyone or make it harder to vote - but anything that's basically designed to legitimize and excuse a prior mistake is kind of petty.

Page 2-3: Requires bond issue ballots to include a bunch of language about current and proposed tax rates and taxpayer impact - but does not require language about any benefits of the proposal. Basically this is designed to encourage No votes.

Our ballots are already crowded and confusing, especially with more items on combined city-school election ballots and with fewer special election dates allowed. We don't need more language on ballots. In some elections, physically making everything fit is a challenge.

Page 3: "Self-promotion with taxpayer funds." Basically this is a slap at Mike Fitzgerald's Great Iowa Treasure Hunt and at Rob Sand.

Pages 3-5 deal with hospital trustee elections. Doesn't seem like a big deal, but my county does not have this office. Maybe someone from Polk County has more thoughts.

Pages 5-13 are mostly drawn from the original Secretary of State technical bill that was filed pre-session. Some of these items address past issues that have come up.

The requirement that nomination papers include contact info for the petitioner is about the Theresa Greenfield situation where her campaign manager filed false signatures.

The requirement that petition signatures include street address, rather than PO Box, is about Joe Seng's sloppy papers from his 2012 primary challenge to Dave Loebsack. He was allowed on ballot despite the PO Box signatures he collected at the Fibbin' Fisherman. In a contradictory decision, the review board ruled that Seng should be allowed on the ballot (he eventually lost 80-20%) but that in the future such signatures should not count and that a ruling to that effect should be issued. So this is an item seven years overdue.

Language about crossed-out signatures is about Ron Corbett's paperwork from the 2018 governor primary. Corbett was thrown off the ballot after a challenge. In a last-ditch effort to get enough signatures to qualify, Corbett argued that crossed-out signatures should count.

Another practice that's codified: If the first day to mail ballots 29 days before an election falls on a Monday postal holiday, the ballots can't get mailed till Tuesday. This happens with Columbus Day 3 out of 7 November election years.

And dese here guys is not happy about it. Youse gotta problem wid dat?

I would rather have gone the opposite direction and mailed out the previous Friday. Actually, I would rather go back to the 40 days. A shorter time window for dealing with mail means more problems for voters.

The pre-registration deadline for on-line voter registrations is extended from 5 PM on deadline day to 11:59 PM. This has been practice anyway, since the data auditors get daily through the state voter system only includes a date, not a time.

Not sure why abbreviating party names is a thing, but it's a thing, and I don't think it's an important thing.

Now back to substantive changes: Pages 14-17 raise signature requirements to get on the ballot. I don't see much reason for this - Iowa ballots have not been overly cluttered (other than the current Democratic presidential race which is a caucus not an election anyway).

Never trust a dude in a funny hat.
I suspect the push to make getting on the ballot harder is because Cindy Axne beat David Young with under 50% in a 6 way contest. But I don't think any force in the universe will be enough to keep Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder off a ballot.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between goofyness of candidate and ability to get signatures on nomination papers. People sign just to get away.

Page 17 adjusts the allowed special election dates, to account for the combination of city and school elections.

Page 18 addresses the issue of people holding more than one office at once. However, checking the cross reference, it only deals with holding more than one office at the same level of government.

If you were, for example, a sheriff, and later got elected supervisor, that's the same level of government. The proposal specifies that you would vacate the FIRST office you were elected to, rather than both.

This would NOT address what we had in Johnson County where school board member Phil Hemingway ran for supervisor and said he would also stay on the school board. Lost supervisor elections so issue did not come up. School and county are considered different levels of government.

Page 18 moves some county filing deadlines back a couple days, which helps auditors a little with ballot prep and printing.  The Legislature made filing deadlines later in 2017, with the reasoning that absentee ballots were being sent later so auditors had more time. During the debate, they did not seem to understand that federal law requires ballots to be ready for overseas voters by 45 days out.

Pages 19 and 25 prohibit auditors from mass-mailing sample ballots - which Linn County did in 2018. The concern was that voters might think the sample ballot was their real ballot.

Pages 19 and later references take the auditor's signature off ballots and replaces it with a county seal. Petty, but not something that'll really hurt anyone.

Page 19-20 raises signature requirements for third party candidates, & page 20-21 moves their filing deadline (other than president) from August to the date of the June primary. If I read right, full status parties would still be able to nominate candidates at a convention till August.

Page 23 "The (auditor) shall not participate in an absentee ballot drive or collection effort in cooperation with a candidate, candidate’s committee, or (party)." This is vague and leaves a lot of room for unfair interpretation. An auditor is an elected official and has the right to have their own campaign. Could a challenger collect requests but not an incumbent? And how do we define "participate"?  State law already prohibits candidates from handling voted ballots so an auditor can't ballot chase in a presidential year anyway.

Pg 23-24 moves the general election voter pre-registration deadline from 10 days before an election (Saturday) to 11 (Friday). One less day is not good, but could be a lot worse - some states have 30 day deadlines and no election day registration. (Amazed that there has been no effort to repeal election day registration - it must be popular with GOP voters as well, and it required ID even before the voter ID law.) The proposed change makes the deadline consistent for all Iowa elections.

Page 24 requires the presidential ballot to explain that votes are for electors rather than candidates. More unnecessary words and more space taken up on an already crowded ballot. (If you want to do something with the electoral college - get rid of it. Trivia: Until 1920, Iowans voted for individual electors, leading to minor variations in vote totals. Also until 1920, only men voted for those electors.)
We could all use a drink after the polls close.

Page 26 is a big one: it changes the close of primary and general election polls from 9 PM to 8. One less hour to vote, makes all Iowa elections the same. Don't like this, but I think this is a done deal.

My experience is that the 8 to 9 PM hour is a little slower than average but not dead. Busier in town than in rural areas.  Not good but the loss of 11 days of early voting (in the 2017 ID law) is a bigger deal than losing one hour of Election Day

Page 28 would require a runoff for a tied election for partisan office (county, state, or federal). Possible, but rare. Ties for city, school and township would still be name out of a hat. (I have offered my beret for this purpose but my boss has never taken me up on it.) We have ties nearly every general election for township offices - this happens when no one runs and multiple people get one or two write-in votes.

Pg 29-30: "A commissioner shall not use the voter registration system to obtain" missing ID info on absentee requests. Instead I need to call or, worse, snail mail people to get ID numbers that we are already looking at. That's how the voter ID law was worded in 2017 - and that section of the law was and for now still is blocked by court injunction.

There was lots of voter confusion about this while it was in force during the 2018 primary. People calling about "where on my voter card is my PIN number?" (If you have an Iowa license, you don't have a PIN). People putting down Social Security numbers, or non-PIN voter system ID numbers, or even ancient ID numbers from 15 year old voter cards from our old in-county voter registration system that we shut down in 2006 when we went to the statewide system. (If you are going to require an ID number, make it the one that the most people remember: the Social Security number. Even so, I ran into many young voters who don't remember their SSN.)

With the vote by mail window already shortened from 40 days to 29, anything that slows down the mailing process makes it more likely the vote won't count.

Page 31 is aimed right at the People's Republic - it prohibits auditors from establishing satellite sites without petitions, except in special elections. We have a long and popular tradition of several regular sites, especially the public libraries and University Hospitals. Less places to vote means more people pushed down to the auditor's office or to Election Day, longer lines, less parking.

Page 32 is actually a small improvement: It gives voters who failed to sign their absentee affidavit envelopes a few days post-election to come in and sign. Still an issue, though: Auditors can't notify voters of these mistakes after 5 PM the Saturday before a general election (Friday for all others). So a voter who makes a mistake Sunday or Monday is SOL. (This isn't a change, just an un-fixed problem.)

Pages 32-34 appear to deal with signature verification - which I expect a court to shoot down.
Signature verification is a Big Deal for Pate. At a training a couple years back, a staffer let slip: the mythology is that staff at group homes are mass-voting the clients. Not something I've seen any sign of happening.

Page 37 is a gem: The earlier proposal to outright ban satellite voting in state buildings is dropped - but is replaced by some draconian reporting requirements that will be a burden to both auditors and state staff. Auditors would have to report on "each state-owned building in the county that may be petitioned for a satellite absentee voting location." I don't know exactly how many buildings are on the UI campus, but it's into triple digits.

Here's the poison pill. Report would need to include "The impact of electioneering laws on first amendment rights of the Constitution of the United States in state-owned buildings." (This same "logic" is not applied to Election Day voting. Why should satellites be treated differently?)

I have many many times had to get campaigns of all parties and types to get out of range of campus satellite sites. I guess to Roby Smith, the right to campaign is more important than the right to actually vote.

Page 38 remains from the earlier version: it singles out graduating college students for a special letter encouraging/telling them to cancel their voter registration. Can't imagine this surviving in court. (Targeting graduates for cancellation also treats them differently from grad-school dropouts like me.)

Page 39: adding polling place hours to a voter card isn't a bad thing (though losing that 8 to 9 PM hour in primary and general elections is a bad thing)

Page 40 requires counties to participate in the annual NCOA update. Almost all do, and I believe all 99 did this year. Current law allows the option of a county wide mailing to all voters instead, which we did in 2016 with great success in cleaning up the rolls.

Things start to get worse on page 41. Voters would be placed on inactive status for not voting in a presidential election OR for not returning a mailing. Current procedure is you only get inactivated if the post office returns mailing as undeliverable.

This inactivation (and eventual cancellation) simply for not sending a card back had been a major voter suppression problem/tool in some other states.

Our county has a very small population that skips presidential elections but does vote in local school funding elections.  Without digging deeper, I suspect they are from non-mainstream religious communities that discourage voting.

Pages 44-47 deal with ballot rotation. We get that Roby Smith is petty and doesn't want to let auditors decide who goes first, and that's not a hill worth dying on, but this could have been done much more concisely. Put 50 Ds and 50 Rs in one hat, 99 county names in the other, and draw.

Pages 47 to 52 are some minor cleanup items dealing with the combination of city and school elections that will mostly affect auditors, minimally affect school boards and city councils, and will barely effect voters at all.
The postal bar code provisions start on page 53. Again - this is an issue of some significance, but it is a much much smaller issue than most of the other items above. It's only getting attention because of one close race.

And to add more confusion: The postal bar code goes away in 2023. After that, mailed absentees must arrive by a drop dead deadline of when the polls close. (This is called, in Orwellian fashion, "Sure Count.")  I can at least understand the reasons for some of the other provisions, even if those reasons are partisan and petty. But I don't get this. Make auditors buy equipment and implement a system for two cycles, only to take it away? Either go with the bar codes or go with the deadline, but do one thing and stay with it.

On that low note, after 57 pages, the amendment ends.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The State of Mismatched Names

As the 29 Democratic presidential candidates fan out across our state, operatives and journalists are taking note of one of our notable quirks: our bad habit of mismatching city names and county names.

It starts at the top. Our capital, Des Moines, is in mid-state, while Des Moines County is on the Mississippi River. The city of Keokuk is also on the Mississippi, but Keokuk County is about three counties northwest. Cedar Rapids is not in Cedar County, Iowa City is not in Iowa County, the list seems endless.

There are so many mismatches that I wondered if it was possible to draw a RAGBRAI route that successfully avoided all places that have mismatched names.

After wasting a bunch of time I determined: Yes, it is, just barely and with a couple asterisks.

In the map above, "Match" means a city in the county with the same name, with no other mismatches. Washington is in Washington County.

A mismatch is when a city is in a county with a different name. This disqualifies BOTH counties. Des Moines is not in Des Moines County, which makes both Polk County and Des Moines county a mismatch.

Borderline cases involve name variations or unincorporated, little known places. And there are some counties with no matches at all.

To successfully draw a RAGBRAI route without cities and counties with mismatched names you need to start in Missouri Valley and swing northeast. You have to ignore two borderline cases: Lake Mills is in Winnebago, not Mills, County, and Mitchellville is not in Mitchell county (though the smaller Mitchell IS in Mitchell County.)

Once you get through that one county corridor along the Minnesota border, you have several options in northeast Iowa. For a slightly shorter route, stay along the northern border all the way to Allamakee County and finish in Lansing or New Albin.

If you want to finish in Dubuque, just make sure you pass your bike tires through a quadripoint where Fayette and Delaware counties meet (or, if you lean slightly to the right into Buchanan, you can opt to ignore the unincorporated town of that name in Cedar County).

If you've made it this far, you probably want to see my work. Someone else is welcome to do the pronunciation guide.

Adair - Adair is in Adair County. (Part of city crosses the line into Guthrie County.)

Adams - no city with this name

Allamakee - no city with this name

Appanoose - no city with this name

Audubon - Audubon is in Audubon County

Benton - city of Benton is in Ringgold County

Black Hawk - Borderline. Cedar Falls not in Cedar County

Boone - Boone is in Boone County

Bremer- no city with this name

Buchanan - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Buchanan in Cedar County.

Buena Vista - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Buena Vista in Clinton County

Butler- no city with this name

Calhoun - no city with this name

Carroll - Carroll is in Carroll County

Cass - no city with this name

Cedar - Cedar Rapids is in bordering Linn County. Almost a borderline name-variation case but Cedar Rapids is both big enough and close enough for confusion.

Cerro Gordo - Plymouth not in Plymouth County

Cherokee - Cherokee is in Cherokee County.

Chickasaw - no city with this name

Clarke - Osceola is not in Osceola County

Clay - no city with this name. Ignoring Clay/Clayton county confusion.

Clayton - the city of Clayton is in Clayton County, but they fail because the city of Monona is not in Monona County. There's also unincorporated Hardin here and not in Hardin County.

Clinton - Borderline and a tough call. The city of Clinton is here of course, but so are the unincorporated towns of Buena Vista and Lyons.

Crawford - no city with this name

Dallas - Melcher-Dallas (formerly two cities, Melcher and Dallas) is in Marion County.

Davis - Davis City in Decatur County

Decatur- Davis City in Decatur County

Delaware - Delaware is in Delaware County

Des Moines - City of Des Moines is in Polk County.

Dickinson - Borderline. Unincorporated Montgomery is in Dickinson County.

Dubuque - Dubuque is in Dubuque County

Emmet - Emmetsburg is seat of neighboring Palo Alto County,

Fayette - Fayette is in Fayette County.

Floyd - Floyd is in Floyd County

Franklin - City of Franklin is in Lee County

Fremont - city of Fremont in Mahaska County

Greene - Jefferson not in Jefferson County

Grundy - Grundy Center is in Grundy County

Guthrie - Guthrie Center is in Guthrie County

Hamilton - city of Hamilton is in Marion County; Webster City not in Webster County

Hancock - city of Hancock is in Pottawattamie County.

Hardin - City of Union not in Union County. Iowa Falls not in Iowa County. Unincorporated town of Hardin is in Clayton County.

Harrison - no city with this name.

Henry- no city with this name

Howard- no city with this name

Humboldt - Humboldt is in Humboldt County.

Ida - Ida Grove is in Ida County

Iowa - Iowa City is in next door Johnson County

Jackson - no city with this name. (Ignoring Jackson Junction in Winneshiek County.)

Jasper - Even if you ignore the Mitchell/Mitchellville issue, the city of Monroe is here and not in Monroe County.

Jefferson - city of Jefferson is in Greene County

Johnson - Iowa City not in Iowa County

Jones - no city with this name

Keokuk - city of Keokuk is in Lee County

Kossuth- no city with this name

Lee - Keokuk not in Keokuk County; Franklin not in Franklin County

Linn - Cedar Rapids not in Cedar County; Marion not in Marion County

Louisa - Wapello not in Wapello County.

Lucas - city of Lucas is in Lucas County.

Lyon - Borderline. Unincorporated Lyons is in Clinton County.

Madison - Fort Madison is in Lee County

Mahaska - Fremont not in Fremont County

Marion - city of Marion is in Linn County; Melcher-Dallas not in Dallas County.

Marshall - Marshalltown is in Marshall County.

Mills - Borderline. Lake Mills is in Winnebago County.

Mitchell - Borderline. Mitchell is in Mitchell County but Mitchellville is in Jasper County. I'm inclined to give them a break here, especially since they are key to the RAGBRAI route.

Monona - city of Monona in Clayton County.

Monroe - city of Monroe in Jasper County.

Montgomery- Borderline. Unincorporated Montgomery is in Dickinson County.

Muscatine - Muscatine is in Muscatine County

O'Brien - no city with this name

Osceola - city of Osceola is in Clarke County

Page - no city with this name

Palo Alto - Emmetsburg not in Emmet County.

Plymouth - city of Plymouth is in Cerro Gordo County.

Pocahontas - Pocahontas is in Pocahontas County.

Polk - Des Moines not in Des Moines County

Pottawattamie - Hancock not in Hancock County

Poweshiek - no city with this name.

Ringgold - Benton not in Benton County

Sac - Sac City is in Sac County

Scott - The biggest county with no mismatch. Iowa has no city named Scott or any variation of Scott or Scot, they don't have so much as a township sharing a name with another county, and I'm not penalizing them for unincorporated Scotch Grove in Jones County.

Shelby - City of Shelby is in both Shelby and Pottawattamie Counties. Unincorporated Jacksonville not in Jackson County.

Sioux - Sioux City is in Woodbury County, though Sioux Center IS in Sioux County.

Story - Story City is in Story County.

Tama - Tama is in Tama County

Taylor- no city with this name

Union - city of Union is in Hardin County.

Van Buren - no city with this name

Wapello - city of Wapello is in Louisa County.

Warren - no city with this name

Washington - city of "Warshington" is in Washington County

Wayne - no city with this name

Webster - Webster City is in Hamilton County

Winnebago - Borderline. Lake Mills not in Mills County.

Winneshiek - no city with this name (Ignoring Jackson Junction.)

Woodbury - Sioux City not in Sioux County

Worth- no city with this name

Wright - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Wright in Mahaska County.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Israel and Palestine: What I Really Think

1) I'm going to take a risk here and say what I really think about Israel and Palestine.

2) What follows would have been unthinkable to say in public in America even 2 months ago. (Israel itself allows more debate.) The discussion has been one sided far too long. It should go without saying that I respect everyone's heritage and faith - but I have to say it anyway.
3) First off I think people should be able to live where they want and migrate as they need.

I'm idealistic enough to be a Statue of Liberty literalist: the core principle of America is that we are a multi-cultural nation and the universal land of refuge.

4) We did not live up to these principles in 1933 or 1945, and we are not living up to them now. But these principles should be fought for, not abandoned, because they are at the core of what makes us American.

5) Aside: Our own hands are not clean. Neither America or Israel was "a land without a people for a people without a land." We can't ignore that our "universal refuge" was founded on African slavery and on the extermination of the Native Americans.

6) But we are what we are now, and while efforts are important, not every human tragedy can be fully atoned for or repaired. Trying to fix one tragedy can create others. Keep that concept in mind.

7) I also believe that nation-states should be secular and not sectarian, & multi-cultural and not ethnic or nationalist based. So I oppose the "right to exist" (sic) of Israel *as currently constituted and organized*. The status quo is immoral, unsustainable, & cannot continue.

8) I am an anti-Zionist because Zionism a) rejects America as land of universal refuge and 2) creates a colonial-immigrant state explicitly based on religion and ethnicity.

9) I believe the creation of Israel in the British Palestine mandate was the greatest foreign policy mistake of the whole postwar era - greater than Vietnam. We addressed one human rights tragedy, the Holocaust, with another -  the displacement of the Palestinians.

10) Rather than backing a specifically Jewish state in 1948, America should have accepted the Jewish refugee population in 1945 - or, better, in 1933.

11) But if there WAS to have been a Jewish state it should have been created in the region where most of the refugees and survivors came from - eastern Europe, where vast populations were already displaced and depopulated in the aftermath of the war. Basically, in East Germany.

12) All that said, "should have" no longer matters. This mistake can't be undone without creating yet another tragedy for four generations that have settled in the Holy Land. No one, be they an Israeli, a Palestinian, or a DREAMer, should be forced from a land they call home.\

13) Finally getting to the point here.

My preference is for a one person one vote secular & multicultural state that treats Jews, Muslims, Christians, and all others as equal citizens.

The problem is, I doubt most of the people who live in the Holy Land actually want that.

14)  It's been clear for many years now that the Netanyahu-Likud plan is to make the entire region between the Mediterranean and the Jordan and Dead Sea an exclusively Jewish state, one settlement at a time, with the Palestinians expected to simply go elsewhere.

15) The Israeli opposition is more open to negotiation, but not on equitable enough terms. (Israel is now in election season.) There are Palestinians who will accept anything they can get, and there are others who want nothing less than a full Jewish exodus.

16) So, sadly, there probably needs to be some sort of two state solution. The tragedy of a two state solution for two peoples so intertwined is that inevitable some people will end up on the "wrong" side of the line. See the India-Pakistan partition for bloody details.

17) If there are to be two states, they need to be more equitable than the 1967 cease fire lines which heavily favor Israel. The basis of discussion should be the original 1947 UN partition plan: 2 states made up of 3 parts meeting at points, with a Jerusalem international zone.

18) Both sides will have to give up a lot: their claims and "rights of return" on the other half, and Jerusalem as a capital. There will need to be compensation to families who lost homes - and in exchange they will need to give up claims on those homes.

19) There will need to be significant disarmament on both sides, including Israel's nuclear weapons. Both sides will have to rein in their extremists, which is easier said than done.

20) Many people will find their homes on the "wrong" side of the line, and their rights and safety must be protected whether they stay or move - again on the principle that people should be able to live where they wish. And any who choose to move should be welcomed in America.

21) Again, all of this is less preferable to a one person one vote equal rights state. And whether there is one state or two, there needs to be a South African style truth and reconciliation process. (Yes I said South Africa on purpose because the apartheid analogy applies.)

22) I an pessimistic and don't see how discussion can get to this point. America might not be the best broker for this discussion. And the hatred in the Middle East may be so great that even this might not work. But it's safe to say *nothing short of this* will work.

23) The point is, in the context of current American politics, we need to be able to HAVE this discussion honestly and without accusations of bigoted motives, and developments of the last few weeks give me hope for that discussion, if not for peace itself. end

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Notes on a BAD election bill

This is just tweets, minimally edited:

Still reading but new election bill very bad

All the provisions put together make this about as bad as the ID bill. This after GOP said they were planning no major election law changes

One provision that seems targeted straight at the Peoples Republic: no satellite voting in state owned buildings. With no sites at UIHC and the IMU the lines will be longer for everyone everywhere else.

So it's OK for a student at Dordt or Luther to vote early on campus, but not at UI ISU UNI or the community colleges?

2016 in Johnson County: 2004 voters at IMU, 2016 (not a typo) at UIHC, and 309 at other campus sites. All those sites banned under proposed bill. All those voters added to lines at other voting sites - or maybe, and that's the idea, not voting at all.

Cross references are always my weak point reading legislation but at first look it seems this bill could make voters inactive simply for not responding to a mailing, rather than current law which only activates if USPS returns mail as undeliverable.
Chris Andringa: @cjandringa

Step 1: send a card in January, and immediately make them inactive.
Step 2: send another scary notice in April.
Step 3: cancel them if they don't respond by July 1?!? (p. 39, lines 26-30; 48A.30 is the cancellation section)
These kinds of response required mailings have been big problems in other states - voters suddenly finding themselves unregistered. How much of this could automatic registration fix instead? πŸ€”

One provision targets student specifically and maybe illegally: University has to send a mailing at graduation that in effect encourages them to cancel registration.  No other group is targeted the same way.

Another item would add a lot of information about tax levy rates to the ballot itself for bond issues (in effect, encouraging a No vote; there;s no corresponding requirement to list any benefits of the proposal.)

Signature requirements would increase for independent candidates running in general elections - perhaps because Axne beat Young with under 50% in a six way race?
Chris Andringa: @cjandringa Is this really stating that *any* tied election gets a special (pp. 27-28)? Hello, township trustee special elections!
A runoff may be better than drawing a name for a legislative seat, but people have no idea how many township trustee elections are tied with two write in votes each. Would definitely need to be an exception for that.

Under current law there are no provisions at all for a township special election. All vacancies are filled by appointment till the next general election - which has not been  a crisis. Biggest problem is usually finding someone willing to do the job.

There's a different bill that would use postal bar codes but in this bill absentees would have to be in auditors office before polls close. The Newspeak term for this is 'sure count' πŸ™„

Bill would change close to 8 for all elections. Would also change registered deadline to 10 days for all elections. Currently 10 for general 11 for all others.

The consistency and extra day for registration deadline is good, but that's a Saturday. Will auditors have to be open Saturday for a reg deadline for a special election in their smallest city?

Pages and pages devoted to Roby Smith's pet peeve: auditor's discretion in which order parties are listed. Also changes auditor's signature on ballot to a county seal. Reasonable minds can disagree, but IMHO it's petty.

About the only thing I do like (and reasonable minds disagree) is a "sore loser" law that would keep primary losers from running as indys in the general election. I have always believed that if you buy into a nomination process you should accept the outcome and not get a do-over.

Can't wait to hear Roby Smith's "official" reasons for some of these items (we all know the real reasons). Should be even sillier than his "no one should vote before a debate" rationale for dropping 11 days of early voting, or his technically impossible 2017 ballot rotation plan.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

What's Not Anti-Semitic

Questioning the motives of American Christian conservatives who only support Israel because they think it means Jesus Is Coming Soon? Not anti-Semitic.

Likening Israeli policy to apartheid South Africa because the shoe fits? Not anti-Semitic.

Arguing for our right to use our dollars as we wish and boycott businesses that support governments with bad policies? Not anti-Semitic.

Questioning why Iran has to get rid of nukes and Israel gets to keep them? Not anti-Semitic.

Arguing for a two state solution starting from 1947 U.N. agreement lines and not from 1967 ceasefire lines? Not anti-Semitic.

Questioning the premise of Zionism that there HAS to be a specifically Jewish state, and arguing instead for a one person one vote equal secular state, the way we did in South Africa? Not anti-Semitic.

All these issues and more are legitimate subjects for debate but are silenced by the anti-Semitic card.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Which Candidate Will Take One For The Team?

The Democratic presidential field is growing almost exponentially - Jay Inslee makes it 13 candidates today - and the lanes are rapidly getting crowded.

Some of these people need an off-ramp. Buttigeig for Governor. O'Rourke for Senate (an option he just ruled out). Yang for a House seat somewhere. Marianne Williamson for Mayor of Fairfield (the New-Agey author shouldn't be taken seriously as a potential POTUS but will over-perform in Jefferson County and Maharishi Vedic City - and will be a useful Mendoza Line for other candidates to try to stay above).

But there is one high risk, high reward lane yet to be occupied, and that someone, for victory's sake, needs to occupy. It's the lane that meets traffic head on. It might not get you to the White House, but it could get you somewhere.

Let's set the Wayback Machine to 2004.

That was the last "normal" cycle: a large-ish field of relatively equal strength, and a nomination that was settled long before the last primary state.  No Democratic primary voter under 33 and outside of Iowa remembers any cycle like that. They have only seen bipolar races that go to the last state.

Howard Dean had been the front-runner for most of late 2003. But as caucus night drew closer, the top four candidates bunched into a four way near dead heat.

Back then, there were worries that Dean was some kind of "radical." He never was that. Dean had simply opposed the Iraq War when Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and John Edwards had voted for it, and he had shepherded his state through the then-cutting edge "civil unions" for gay couples. ("Civil unions" were to full marriage equality as "cannabis oil" is to full legalization.)

The actual far-left people we would now call "Bernie Bros" were with Dennis Kucinich in 2004 and were more hostile to Dean that they were to the candidates who had voted for the Iraq War. Team Dennis resented that Dean had gotten all the anti-war attention that they felt Kucinich deserved. (I expect similar antagonism this year from the Sanders camp toward Warren - in a multi-cornered environment, your biggest enemy is the one fighting for the same niche.)

There was also tension between Dean and the other camps, especially Kerry. Compared to 2008 Obama-Hillary and 2016 Hillary-Bernie it was small, but by the standards of the era it seemed big.

The expectation bar was very high for Gephardt. As the 1988 caucus winner (a fact some Johnson County Paul Simon fans still dispute), anything less than a 2004 win would be damaging - and it just wasn't happening.

Everyone remembers The Dean Scream, but everyone forgets that it came AFTER the much more important Dean Third Place In Iowa. You will never convince us Dean fans that there was anything but a coordinated strategy by the other campaigns: knock Dean out and knock him out in Iowa. 

Dick Gephardt, who knew he was fading, took one for the team:
Gephardt, locked in a desperate struggle for survival in the Democratic presidential contest, unleashed a blistering attack on front-runner Howard Dean yesterday.

His sweeping, and highly personal, condemnation of Dean also served to underscore the bleak reality Gephardt faces in Monday's caucuses. With his campaign running out of money and his prospects in the early primary states uncertain at best, the veteran Missouri congressman needs a victory in Iowa to keep his long political career alive.

But the decision to turn up the heat on Dean runs a risk of hurting Gephardt as well. If it succeeds, the attack could wind up indirectly benefiting two candidates already breathing down Gephardt's neck - Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina. The two senators appear to be surging in the closing days of the increasingly negative, and volatile, Iowa contest...
Stopping just short of calling him a liar, Gephardt accused the former Vermont governor of being on both sides of such issues as trade, Medicare, gun control and favors for American corporations.
"It's become nearly impossible to know what Howard Dean really believes," Gephardt said, urging Iowans to reject what he described as Dean's "cynical politics of manufactured anger and false conviction."
It was the only shot he had left. And it backfired; Gephardt finished fourth and dropped out on caucus night. But the attacks on Dean stuck, and scared Iowans into defecting to Kerry and Edwards. Even the hapless Kucinich got in on it, urging his people in non-viable precincts to realign to Edwards and not the more ideologically similar Dean.

In my own precinct, while we were still herding the Dean cats, the entire just short of viable Gephardt group marched en masse over to Kerry, and thus got reported as Kerry "state delegate equivalents".

(Stunts like that will be a little harder to pull off in 2020. With Democrats reporting raw votes for the first time, the national press will treat that first alignment as the "real" result. But it'll still have an impact in the delegate counts and party structure fights that matter within the state.)

Gephardt sacrificed himself by going hard negative against Dean and us Deaniacs in 2004, but his reward was presumably to come in the Kerry Administration. It was plausible enough that the New York Post famously got it wrong:

So that's history.
The question is, in 2020, which candidate in the 1 1/2th tier takes one for the team and does the same to Bernie Sanders?

The problem with the big field is that one candidate with a small but vocal and committed base becomes the front runner while the other candidates splinter the vote. Then that front runner becomes the winner, despite the opposition of most of the party, because the other's can't unite. Why should I drop out when I'm at 4%, if the second place candidate is only at 7? That's how the GOP got Trump.

In a gigantic field of ideologically similar (actual) Democrats, with everyone struggling for attention and viability, it's certain that SOMEone will gamble on explicitly attacking Sanders. Not on his message, which is popular with the base, but on the messenger: his personal history, character, and possibly supporter behavior if some of the more zealous ones create the opportunity.

This will backfire spectacularly, as it did with Gephardt, and destroy that candidate. But the other candidates, the longtime party activists and leaders, and the eventual nominee will be silently grateful, and if/when the election is won, that person will be rewarded.

Because the problem with the "Bernie Is The Most Popular Politician In America" meme that his acolytes constantly push is that it's untested. It's in a vacuum of no negative campaign against him.

Sanders was never truly, personally attacked on the national scale by either Hillary or Trump - because it served neither of their interests to do so. Clinton knew she had realistically clinched the nomination in March and would need the Berners' support, Trump needed Democratic division, and neither of those goals were served by going negative on Sanders.

Sure, there have been scattered negative news stories, which circulate and re-circulate in the #NeverBernie Twittersphere. They're not new to us political junkies. We all know what those issues are and I don't need to reiterate them.

But they WILL be new to the larger electorate. There has never been a sustained direct attack on Sanders from another candidate with the kinds of speech and debate quotes that mainstream news airs and re-airs. There have never been the kind of negative ads most candidates normally see at end game of a general election.

Even in an era of new media, 16 years removed from 2004, an awful lot of swing and low-info voters are still getting information through the old channels. At that point, it's too late. At that point, unlike in 2016, it's in Trump's interest to attack Sanders on everything (except releasing his taxes). You're into a wall to wall campaign of TV ads full of Sandinista videos.

No, not THAT kind of Sandinista video. Strummer-Jones 2020: Make America Clash Again

Bringing these issues up in the primary is doing the party a favor. If you don't care about the party, like some Sanders supporters, well, then, it  helps the cause of defeating Trump. It either tests Sanders' ability to handle a body check and gets these things out of the way, or (I think more likely) it culls out a flawed candidate before he's nominated.

But it's a suicide mission for whoever does it, so who plays the Gephardt role? Someone with nothing to lose. Someone with high expectations, stuck in the pack, who has accepted reality for now but has ambitions for later.

The reward can't be as great as the running mate role that was seemingly within Gephardt's reach. The Sanders supporters would never accept it. The reward would have to be post-election - maybe a cabinet shot to position someone for 2028 - meaning look to the younger candidates.

Two things are certain: It won't be Kamala Harris, who I believe at this point has the inside track to the nomination. And it won't be Elizabeth Warren, who has the most to gain from defections from Sanders.

But this contest is likely to come down to Sanders vs. one Not Sanders, and it's a safe bet that someone will gamble that Anti-Sanders is the best way to be the Not Sanders, or at least to get a cabinet seat from her.