Make Them Work to Get Your Body

Iowa Cocky-Us: How to be a Caucus Tease
By MARY McINNIS

Let the drooling begin. Over me — one Iowan who, any other time, is as recognizable on the national landscape as a furrow.

Last night was my night. Iowans like me traipsed across icy parking lots and tired TV screens to tell the world, “Hey! Iowa is more than a bunch of vowels! We got the caucus!” (Try to say that without a tongue.)

And boy, do we milk this udderly unique opportunity. Here are a few notes from last night’s proceedings, a “lessons learned,” if you will, on how some of us Iowans make the most of these 15 minutes… or 117, if your bespectacled Precinct Chair goes by the book.

Never arrive at your caucus decided. No matter how decided you are.
Avoid wearing clothing that gives away your leanings (i.e. second-hand duds: Kucinich; anything with the word “rock” on it: Obama)

Politely decline all stickers thrust at you upon entry into your precinct site. Alternately, you may choose, as a friend of mine did, to wear them all.

Remember, though, the goal is to appear available, not slutty.

Sit in a portion of the room on the immediate border of an established group — even better, sandwich yourself between two. People will repeatedly confuse you for a member of their camp, and will then be beholden to woo you.

Talk to as many people as possible, particularly when the Democratic Party Order of Proceedings are being read.

If your precinct is large, and there is a question about something insignificant, like anything at all about Mike Gravel, wave the notebook page written by your 8-year-old and speak authoritatively to keep things moving.

When the Chair instructs you to choose a “preference group,” look down and scuff your shoe in front of you. Only look up if nobody comes to sweep you off your scuffing feet. Then, mill into a camp coyly. They won’t be able to help themselves.

If you find that nobody is panting after you, ask arbitrary questions of glum-looking people. To those on the prowl, this has opportunity written all over it.

Avoid interacting with the loud people. Instead, offer them a stick of gum.

When you ask a question about global human rights issues, and the kid says, “I don’t know about that but I’m in education — do you like education? Let me tell you about this guy and education…” offer him a stick of gum, too.

Be a tease. Commit to a group only after much wandering and waffling. Make them work to get your body.

Take it to the wire. Make your choice in the final seconds. This will elicit cheers from the prowlers in your chosen camp, and envious stares from those that sat there all along.

Commit dramatically. A throaty “Sticker me” works well.

Notice how, when the Obama camp Captain makes their final count, it’s like they’re doing the wave in slow motion. You are suddenly a rock star.

And that does it. We head home to our foursquares and farmhouses and once again assume the form of Field of Dreams extras to the rest of the country. But a little taller, perhaps. And who knows what these stickers might fetch on e-bay.

Mary McInnis lives in Iowa.

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