How To: Party Conventions in a Pandemic

Thanks to Trump, corona virus cases in the the U.S, are doubling almost every other day and multiplying by a factor of 10 every 8 days. That means, for example, that a state like Minnesota which now has 5 cases will have 50 if we’re holding a party unit convention on saturday the 21st. Given that the corona virus has an incubation period of around 5 days and those infected with the virus are expected to isolate for 14 days, 8 days from now their will be another cohort of infected but undiagnosed persons 4 or more times as large giving us 200 infected and potentially contagious persons in Minnesota by saturday the 21st. That’s 3 for every senate district, and thus most every country unit convention will be in a “hot zone”.

By saturday the 21st many of the sites we hold conventions at such as schools will already be closed by the coronavirus. Even if our site is still available, it is irresponsible to hold an in person convention in the middle of a pandemic. We have a window for county unit conventions until April 19th and our Minnesota DFL party constitution and by laws appear to allow extensions with the permission of the state party chair.

But what if the pandemic continues and we still can’t safely hold a convention? Well, Article 3, Section 10 of our party constitution states:

“Section 10. Electronic Meetings.
Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and Bylaws, and according to the governing documents of any party unit, electronic meetings may be conducted to act on matters when time, weather or special circumstances do not permit a regular meeting.”


We do have a requirement that notice of a meeting or change be given at least 72 hours in advance by electronic means and 10 days by mail, so we can’t make this weekends meetings virtual. But with the exception of the state convention, I can find no requirement that any convention but the state party convention be held in person at a specific site. And this years state convention has to be convened in Rochester, but there’s no requirement that every delegate be there.
So looking ahead to the growth of this pandemic and the health risks of large gatherings such as party conventions, we would be wise to prepare to hold our conventions online to preserve the integrity of the process and keep that process accessible to all.

Will Coronavirus be delivered by long haul trucking?

This study in the Lancet pretty well predicts the now worldwide distribution of the coronavirus from China via international air travel patterns, and the Coronavirus “hot zones” in the U.S. tend to be around the busiest airports for international travel. Could long haul trucking further distribute Coronavirus throughout our country?

If we wanted to design the perfect system to deliver a communicable disease all over a country, we’d probably design something like long haul trucking. A literal sweatshop on 18 wheels, long haul truckers live in their trucks for weeks on end with little access to sanitation. These drivers schedules are dictated by greedy shippers and dictatorial trucking company managers who insist that the drivers keep rolling ‘til they physically can’t anymore- That’s why falling asleep at the wheel is one of the most frequent causes of truck accidents and you’ll see long haul truckers attempting to drive through blizzards. And the poor health of many long haul truckers make them likely to be the first victims of Coronavirus- They’re over 90% male, older and more obese than the average worker, have weakened immune systems from lack of sleep, live in a rolling food desert, and are much more likely to smoke that the average worker.

Every day thousands of truck drivers load up in the shipping centers and also epicenters of the Coronavirus epidemic in america- Seattle, the Bay area, southern California, Chicago, New York, etc…. After days of too little sleep and too many miles between being jammed in tight loading dock waiting rooms and truck stops they’ll deliver their loads and maybe Coronavirus too all over america. They’ll be among the first victims, with little access to health care and doomed by pre-existing conditions. And with a nationwide shortage of truck drivers, there’s no one to replace them and their absence will further delay deliveries of needed food and medical supplies.

It should have happened long ago, but in this deadly disease crisis it’s high time we improved the working conditions (and pay too) of long haul truckers!

Bernie Can’t Win…

And vulnerable Americans are going to die if Trump wins!

I follow polling a lot, and noting that Bernie is now leading in much of the polling for the nomination and in the prognosticators like 538’s predictions, I wondered, what if… Bernie was our candidate? So I took a deep dive into the polling data of matchups between our democratic candidates for president and Trump.

At first, looking at the results of national polling, it looks great- Bernie and most every democratic candidate beat Trump in almost every matchup. But as we learned in 2000 and 2016, the will of the people doesn’t necessarily pick our presidents. That power goes to an anachronism called the Electoral College which gives extraordinary power to 10 or so “swing states” to pick the president. 

So I looked at the 10 states that will pick the next president, examining the recent polling results in those 10 states with Cook PVi below 5 that also made 270 to win’s latest list of states that their consensus of the pundits rated as tossup or barely D or R. In the states with polling since the first of this year- NH, WI, MI, NV, FL, and IA- Biden, Bloomberg, or Buttigieg frequently outperformed Sanders. Only in FL does Sanders outperform Biden, Buttigieg, and Warren. In PA, MN, ME, and OH the most recent polling was from last year so the surges of Buttigieg, Bloomberg, and Klobuchar and the decline of Biden are missing, but still Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Warren outperformed Sanders.

In 9 out of 10 of these swing states that will pick the next president  Sanders trails our best performing and always more moderate candidate by between 2% and 8% in trial heats against Trump. In states with PVi less than 5, that’s frequently the difference between winning and losing. And did I mention that the republicans will cheat, big time? Think massive voter roll purges, armed Trump vigilantes intimating voters, stolen ballot boxes, ad nausuem… Followed by a second Trump term that drags on well through this decade and becomes a Trump dynasty for decades more. Drunk with power after a rigged trial and acquittal in the Senate, Trump is already letting white collar criminals out of jail and hacking away at Social Security, etc.. Give Trump another term and there’ll be no limit to his power and ability to torment and even kill vulnerable Americans.

In 1972 and 1984 we responded to tyrannical republican presidents Nixon and Reagan by nominating great progressive candidates, McGovern and Mondale. That political science experiment failed, as progressive candidates did not move enough new democratic voters to the polls to make up for the moderate and independent voters we chased to Nixon and Reagan. My generation learned Political Science 101 the hard way- Progressives can win in progressive places like Vermont, but in swing states only a moderate democrat can win, ‘cause a moderate candidate plain and simple appeals more to the moderate voters in these swing states.

So while we love Bernie, this is no time for political science experiments like running a progressive for president when we’ve already done that experiment and know  the results- A Nixon, Reagan, and now Trump re-election. For the vulnerable americans who will suffer under Trump, it’s a risky political science experiment we can’t afford to repeat.

Goodbye, Iowa Caucuses…

Being at about the age where many friends and institutions on the older side of at least one standard deviation disappear each year, I’m getting used to saying goodbye to a few friends, motorcycle shops, and great legacy products every year. In the case of the Iowa caucuses, that great and entertaining rite of democracy may not predictably return in three years or so.

Now the Iowa caucuses did their job, and with the exception of the late results, Iowa performed better than ever. I attended a caucus and it was run strictly by the book with midwest precision and no tolerance for error, in contrast to past caucuses when we knew there was plenty of statistical noise in the results from voters who got in the wrong precinct and couldn’t get out to the shenanigans of political hacks such as myself. With paper ballots being used for the first time, the whole caucus could be reconstructed on a thousand school lunchroom tables if there’s any doubt as to the results.

But who won?

Bernie AND Pete at about 26% of the delegates each, Bernie taking the more progressive strongholds in the cities and Pete the rural counties. 538 predicted otherwise, but other than Pete’s over performance it was exactly what political science 101 and I would predict- progressives do best in the cities and moderates do best in farm country.

And who’s still in the race?

Historically Iowa’s role was to narrow the field, but no candidate has dropped out. Predictably Elizabeth won on the campus, but the only county she won was U Iowa’s. Liz split the progressive vote with Bernie with her 18% share, total them together and we see the progressive dems strength at a losing 44% in this prototypical midwest swing state. Memo to the Iowa democrats: Run moderate candidates for statewide offices.

Joe Biden massively underperformed, his 16% of the delegates well forecast by the soft support I saw for Joe at an event but missed by the polls. Amy beat 538’s 9% prediction, winning 12% of the delegates, but won several rural counties in the Rochester, Minnesota TV market. That puts Amy just below the 15% viability threshold for winning delegates and Amy may pass that threshold only in northwest Iowa’s 4th congressional district, and with only five national convention delegates available there Amy will be lucky to get one DNC delegate out of Iowa.

Like Pete’s best turf, most of Joe’s and Amy’s support came from rural counties, put the three moderates delegates together they won a 54% majority of the delegates. That blows the progressive’s argument that you just need an inspiring progressive candidate like Bernie or a PC policy wonk like Liz to win rural turf, and if a progressive candidates can’t win a majority of democrat’s votes, how are they going to win the republicans?

If this were a traditional Iowa caucus Amy and everyone that finished below her would drop out, ‘cept the vanity candidates. But thanks to the incredible success of online fundraising everybody’s got not just gas money but business jet charter money to fly off to New Hampshire before the real Iowa caucus results come out and shade their prospects. Throw in the two billionaires already going nowhere in the race and a third that just jumped in, and we’ve got the makings of a contested convention in Milwaukee and a wounded presidential nominee coming out of that convention.

I’m going to miss the Iowa caucuses- It was an opportunity for voters to communicate with the candidates on a personal basis, and vice versa. Criticize Iowa for it’s lack of diversity, but good luck finding a state that matches the ten or so states that really decide the electoral college where you can buy prime TV time for less than $1000 a spot.

And I’m gonna miss making a short drive to meet the candidates in person, pick my candidate, and then see the effects of my campaigning at a friendly neighborhood caucus. Like the manual transmission and desktop computers, we’re gonna miss the Iowa caucuses when they’re gone!

Caucus Interuptus…

My apologies for not continuing my daily posts, but the polling took a downturn of a couple percent for Amy over the weekend and I knew better than to cast doubt on my candidate. The polls got weird too, with the Selzer Poll for the Register and CNN and the hour long primetime broadcast featuring it pulled at :00 due to possible interviewing error(s). Then with us Iowa pundits best navigation device down, CBS news dropped a poll Sunday which appeared then quickly disappeared from 538’s roster of Iowa polling. 538 has serious scruples, suggesting that poll had problems and 538 didn’t want to include it.

So caucus afternoon I road tripped to Sioux City Precinct 20 armed with a small collection of Amy lit, stickers, buttons, and signs. Told to report to campaign HQ there to pick up a “caucus box” of supplies, by late afternoon that had been picked over to comprise more of the above and I had to supply the box. Had a pre-caucus dinner at Culver’s then dutifully showed up at Precinct 20’s caucus in Augustana Lutheran Church’s gym at 5:30. The caucus was well and efficiently run by the book and by 8:30 Amy got no delegates and I was making time northbound on The King of Trails, AKA US75.

The after caucus routine is turn on Iowa Public Radio’s news network and by the time I arrive home in Minnesota a couple hours later the’ve communicated to me a pretty good idea of the results. Instead we got a lot of time killing interrupted by occasional missives from the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) assuring us that everything was under control and just be patient. After a bit of this the candidates realized there was dead air to be filled and pretty much gave their stump speeches to their assembled supporters at the victory parties and the rest of us waiting for real news. 

Got home and online around 11 and noted that the conspiracy theorists were having a field day  while 538 was pumping out their usual reasoned analysis of the debacle. Then a couple campaigns tried to be clever, first with Buttigieg all but claiming victory based on reports from their caucus captains. Then Bernie’s campaign tweeted their own caucus captain’s take based on reports from 40% or so of the caucuses. 

So based on this spotty data it looks like Pete and Bernie may be about tied for the lead, with Liz trailing by a bit and Amy and Joe barely in double digits. If that’s true Pete is now the moderate challenger to Bernie, Liz fulfilled expectations and Amy exceeded them, and Joe should work on an exit strategy.

The Iowa Democratic Party promises at least partial results at 4pm, which the candidates who didn’t meet expectations will plausibly deny, going on to New Hampshire and beyond ’til the money runs out… Sometime in June, maybe?

Amy’s Surge Continues: More SRO Crowds!

Full house… And Amy ain’t even due for another half hour!

I counted about 200 in attendance today in Sioux City, better than Biden drew a couple days ago in much more populous Iowa City. If you want a seat where Amy’s speaking, you’d best get there a half hour early. These are the marks of a surging candidate- A room full of energetic supporters and note the plentiful media in the back. This is what the campaign that will make it out of Iowa and maybe lead the rest out of Iowa looks like- Broad appeal to all democrats with a positive message and electability that wins in purple and even red districts.

Amy’s Iowa Surge Accelerates!

Been following the Iowa polling and Amy’s been surging and is polling in double digits in 7 of the last 9 polls. Even the cautious handicappers at 538 have noted the trend in this post: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/election-update-is-klobuchar-having-a-last-minute-surge-in-iowa/

One of the latest of these polls by well regarded pollster Emerson College has Amy passing Elizabeth Warren to move into 3rd place behind Sanders and Biden, here’s the link: http://emersonpolling.com/2020/01/27/iowa-2020-sanders-solidifies-frontrunner-status-in-iowa-while-klobuchar-nears-viability/  

This is the only recent poll of Iowa that broke down results by congressional district, and it showed Amy over performing her statewide result of 13% with 16% in northeastern Iowa’s 1st congressional district and 15% in southwestern Iowa’s 3rd congressional district. This means Amy will probably have the support to pass the 15% threshold for earning delegates at many caucuses as well as at these congressional district conventions. 

Nice to have some good news for Amy and all democrats on a day when the republicans put party before country and made Trump the Imperial President. I’m off to Sioux City tomorrow to catch Amy’s appearance and pick up some signs, I’ll be back in Iowa Monday night to speak on behalf of Amy at a caucus, and I might make it home Sunday… But I’ll update the blog daily through caucus.