How can Democrats send a message of disappointment to Obama in the Iowa caucuses without significantly harming the Obama campaign?
We can do it pretty much anyway we want -- wearing kilts to the caucus meetings, smearing ourselves with woad, talking to fellow caucus-goers only in Pig Latin -- so long as our actions are understood as conveying our intended message. We accomplish that by letting people know ahead of time that that's what we're doing.
So, while I disagree with Cenk Uygar's diary calling on Democrats to cast uncommitted votes in the Democratic caucuses next Tuesday, I do sympathize with some continuing disappointment with our President (although much less than I felt last summer. Standing strong has been good for him.) If I were an Iowa Dem, I'd want to "send him a message," but in a way that would not be fundamentally hurtful to his campaign.
(But isn't any even token opposition to Obama hurtful to his campaign? Not really; it depends on how one does it. If done with good cheer, it sends a message to voters that one can be disappointed with, or even pissed off at, Obama in some ways and still plan to support him.)
How to accomplish this, though? I think that I might engage in a benign version of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos." I'd re-register as a Republican for the day and take part in the Republican Caucus. But rather than trying to propel Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum or some other sad creature to the nomination, I'd stand in a corner where I and my fellow Democrats could stand alone.
I would vote for Herman Cain, who remains on the ballot.
I have to admit that some part of me would be interested in going into the write-in line, where "Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Buddy Roemer and others who are pursuing the Republican nomination" will have their supporters. But I wouldn't want to do that. For one thing, writing down a name is too effortful. For another, people who write in those names will not, for the most part, be doing it as a joke. And, to have its desired impact, it has to be clear that it is a joke.
Voting for Herman Cain at this point -- probably at any point, but certainly at this point -- is clearly a joke.
The Republican Party is not allowing its voters to vote "Uncommitted" this year. (They are most likely afraid that it would be the runaway winner.) But they couldn't take Cain's name off of the ballot -- and a vote for Cain is, in 2012, the way that Republican caucus voters (be they Republican or Democratic the rest of the year) can, in effect, vote "uncommitted." And that does hurt the Republican storyline.
I mean, just imagine the headlines if Cain wins.
(Hell, just imagine the headlines if Cain doesn't get the joke after winning -- and so reopens his candidacy. But, to paraphrase Barney Frank, I don't think that God likes us that much.)
So here's my proposal to make everyone happy: if you're happy with Obama and you want everyone to know it, hold on to your Democratic registration and vote for Obama in the Democratic caucus.
If, however, for whatever reason you don't feel like voting for Obama in the caucus, though you still do feel like embarrassing the Republicans in a way that they will understand, then your path is clear: attend the Republican caucus and VOTE FOR CAIN.
We have five days to organize these efforts; that should be enough. After all, you don't have to come up with some long persuasive speech on behalf of your candidate. Whatever anyone asks you, you just have to say "Nine! Nine! Nine!" (Alternatively: "Nein! Nein! Nein!")
People may think that you're crazy -- but that's how they'll know that you belong there!
Iowa Democrats, I leave this in your capable hands.