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I’d never heard the phrase before — “Crabs in a bucket.”

Robert Leonard, affectionately known around here as “Dr. Bob,” used it to describe these final days before the Iowa caucuses.

When I googled it, I discovered it suggests chaotic striving, crawling over each other, pulling one another down in a desperate effort to get to the top. Do-or-die.

It’s an apt image. Here in Iowa the airwaves, social media, mailboxes and more are deluged with advertising for the candidates. Rallies and appearances by candidates have ramped up with our February 3 caucus almost here. Many (maybe even most?) Iowa Democrats still remain undecided, including me.

I invite you — really urge you — to listen to my conversation with Bob Leonard. It’s also an opportunity to become more familiar with the Reformed Journal Podcast — an endeavor we hope to grow over the next year.

Bob has more access and understanding of the candidates than almost anyone. Maybe you’ve read him in the New York Times, where he appears with some frequency. He’s a unique blend of a true and trusted Iowan who can walk fearlessly through hog manure, and yet write incisively for Salon or Politico and appear on CNN.

Bob and I talk about “Why Iowa?” and Bob offers his analysis on all the different candidates — those who have already come-and-gone, the dark horses, and of course, the front runners.

Give a listen, please.

These specials-of-the-day are also on today’s menu at the Caucus Cafe.

  • The Joy of Caucusing” from the Reformed Journal. It’s my take on the feel and the energy surrounding the Iowa caucuses.
  • And then, my most memorable caucus experience — honestly, one of the most unforgettable nights of my life — is recounted here.

Iowa — come for the corn, stay for the caucuses!

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell is a recently retired minister of the Reformed Church in America. He has been the convener of the Reformed Journal’s daily blog since its inception in 2011. He and his wife, Sophie, reside in Des Moines, Iowa.


  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    Well, that was interesting. I think the first podcast I ever listened to in my life.

  • Allan Janssen says:

    I’ll be in Iowa when the caucuses are happening. Can you get me in? Problem is, I don’t know who I’d opt for!

    • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

      Al, guests and observers are welcome. Obviously, you can’t participate. One of the gifts and criticisms of the caucuses is that you have to be there. That excludes people. But it is also part of what gives them the unique energy and face-to-face engagement. As for now knowing, join the club.

  • Crabs In a Bucket! Love it!

  • Karl VanDyke says:

    I am torn. We believe that the gospel and our salvation underlies all. if politics can split us from that belief we have our priorities wrong. However, introducing people with specific political opinions in this blog has a risk of the dreaded polarization so prevalent in political life.

    I have no problem with a discussion of the underlying issues, however, I feel that the inevitable division will occur with others expressing their own opinion. Can we maintain a common view here?

    I wonder if the blog master has to block many raw answers, I hope not.

  • Steve,

    Maybe “crabs in the bucket” or maybe rats in the s-house. The politicians strive to be the last rat standing. It sure isn’t the best view of democracy.



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