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Iowa City doves urge Democrats not to caucus for Obama

BY DORA GROTE | DECEMBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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President Obama is a shoo-in for the Democratic presidential nomination, but some locals say dissent is still needed.

A group of local peace activists met yesterday to encourage Democratic caucus-goers to stay uncommitted next January instead of lending support to Obama.

 

"I hope people see the point to go uncommitted," said Jeff Cox, former Johnson County Democrats head. "It allows people to go to caucuses and take a stand for peace and hope that Obama pays some attention to it."

Iowans who favor ending the war in Afghanistan and the enactment of national health insurance attended a nonpartisan peace caucus-training Tuesday night, spearheaded by Cox and sponsored by the Iowa Health Care not Warfare caucus campaign.

The group gathered in response to Obama's June announcement to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by September 2012. Cox said he and others want troops out of Afghanistan now and are concerned the president will not follow through on his word.

Cox said the main goal of supporting nonpartisan delegates is to change Obama's stance on the wars.

"His position [on the war] is unpopular, and if he changes his mind, he is more likely to be elected," Cox said. "It is terribly embarrassing that there is no one in opposition to Obama in war."

But some caucus-goers are skeptical that nonpartisan caucusing will work.

"I think nonpartisan support is more spitting into the wind," said Ed Flaherty, a member of Veterans For Peace Chapter 161, Iowa. "But we need to get the country off the military act. Let's do what we can do."

Others are even considering caucusing for the Republican Ron Paul — who has vehemently opposed the U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

"I think if you really want to do something and send a message to the Democrats or anyone else — your fellow citizens — about being against this war and this intervention, you'll consider coming with me to the Republican caucuses," said Jim Walters, a University of Iowa groundskeeper.

Although Paul has gained attention and endorsement from college students, Cox said he is doubtful Paul will win the caucuses in Iowa City, because most students will be gone for winter break.

Cox said votes from previous Democratic caucuses during an incumbent election year were not reported and they hope to "make use of the caucuses" this year.

But Rachel Caufield, a Drake University associate professor of politics, said the nonpartisan caucuses are rarely effective.

"It's difficult to support ideas compared to candidates," Caufield said. "The structures and the rules of caucuses, is that the preference vote is for a candidate, not an idea."

Caufield said the likeliness of getting delegates at these caucus sights is extremely small.

"It's been a long time since undeclared or uncommitted have done very well in an Iowa caucus," Caufield said.


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