CLOSE
Original image

My Night at the Caucus

Original image

My first caucus experience was pretty awesome. Although I might be a little biased, since I'm for Obama and he did extremely well in Iowa. But that aside, it was just really cool to see people "“ especially people my age, who historically have been rather blasé about elections "“ out there caucusing and making themselves heard. I was impressed.

To be honest, going into the caucus, I didn't really know what to expect. What I didn't expect, though, was to go to the wrong caucus location and then have to run across a field of snow in heels. Let me explain. Theodore Roosevelt High School "“ they're called the Rough Riders, which always entertains me "“ is back-to-back with Hubbell Elementary School. Both schools were caucus locations. We thought they were connected so we could walk through Roosevelt and get to Hubbell without walking outside. Wrong. By the time we figured this out, it was about ten minutes to seven. That's when the doors close "“ anyone who hasn't made it inside their caucus location by seven p.m. sharp isn't allowed to caucus. So, we spotted Hubbell across a field of snow from Roosevelt. We decided to make a run for it, despite the fact that I was wearing open-toed heels (which I shouldn't have been wearing because of my swollen toe anyway"¦ I am an idiot) and the snow was a good foot deep.

harkin.jpgAnyway, we made it with about two minutes to spare. For those of you unfamiliar with the caucus process, this is how it went "“ at least for the Democrats. Republicans caucus a bit differently. After assembling in the location for your precinct (ours was in the gym), we listened to a speech. The speaker varies from location to location - ours was from Senator Tom Harkin (pictured). Then a representative for each candidate had 60 seconds to make a last-minute pitch for their candidate to convince people who hadn't made up their minds yet.

Then came the real caucusing. Everyone had 10 minutes to assemble in the designated spot in the gym for their candidate. Each candidate was allowed just one campaign sign to mark their area.

caucus-vote.jpg

Now 10 minutes might sound like a lot of time to assemble, but we had 444 people caucusing, plus observers, plus press all crammed into a relatively small elementary school gym. Maneuvering did take a little time and effort. Oh, and the press wasn't allowed to interact with the caucus-goers until after the caucus. By the way, 444 is significantly higher than the 279 people that showed up from my precinct to caucus four years ago, so yay precinct 49!!

So, with everyone in the spots for their chosen candidates, and with undeclared and independents in the middle of the gym, the counting started. If a candidate didn't have 15 percent of the room (67 people in this case) in their section, he/she was not considered viable. The people in that candidate's corner had to choose another candidate.

Here's what happened in the first round at my precinct. The first part of the first round was kind of unofficial "“ each group counts for themselves and lets the person running the caucus know what their numbers were. The unofficial count was:

Barack Obama - 168 people.
John Edwards - 81 people.
Hillary Clinton - 67 people.
Bill Richardson - 54 people.
Joe Biden - 45 people.
Dennis Kucinich - 12 people.
Chris Dodd - 11 people.
Six people were undecided.

So then everyone had five minutes to convince the undecided people to join them (or to get decided people to switch sides). There was lots of yelling and chanting going on "“ it seriously sounded like a cheerleading competition. I wouldn't have been entirely surprised if caucus-goers had started forming pyramids and doing basket tosses.

After five minutes, the official first count was taken. This was counted out loud for the whole room to hear. The official first round numbers were:

Obama "“ 175
Edwards "“ 87
Clinton "“ 69
Richardson "“ 63
Biden "“ 51

By this point, all of the Dodd and Kucinich folks had switched to another candidate since they knew there was no way their candidate would be counted as viable.

Then there was another five minutes of yelling and convincing and cheerleading. Apparently during this time period, the Richardson people convinced some others to switch to their side, so a quick, unofficial recount was done. Richardson now had 67, Biden now had 42. I guess some people left or were in the bathroom or something, because by my count that's only 440 people.

So, then it was time for the official final count, which was done out loud for the whole room to hear again. The official final count was:

Obama "“ 194
Edwards "“ 97
Clinton "“ 75
Richardson "“ 69

Those ended up being the four viable candidates from our precinct. Richardson was a bit of an anomaly, because he only won two percent of Iowa as a whole "“ that means in most precincts, he wasn't viable at all.

Each candidate gets delegates based on the number of people that caucused for them in that precinct. From ours, Obama got 4.3 delegates, Edwards got 2.1 delegates, Clinton got 1.6 delegates and Richardson got 1.5 delegates. Those delegates then go on to basically caucus again at the county level. The same process will happen and then the delegates from the county caucus will go on to the state caucus. Then the state caucus delegates will go on to the nationals.

obamalac.jpg

So, that's the whole process! We headed to the Obama after party in downtown Des Moines after that. That's where I saw the Obamalac. I had to get a picture of that, of course.

obama-daughter.jpg

Anyway, despite trudging around in the snow with my broken toe, I had a great time. It was a very educational experience and I just loved seeing people who were so passionate about their candidates and causes.

What do you guys think about the Iowa caucuses? Any New Hampshire-ites gearing up for the caucuses? Michiganers, Floridians?? Let's hear it!

Original image
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
arrow
#TBT
Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
Original image
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
Original image
iStock

Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios