Cory Farley, voted "Best of Reno" 26 times in 27 years by readers of his column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, takes an unconventional look at topics from presidential elections to the best way to cook Brussels sprouts.

Location: Verdi, Nev, United States

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Why do we care what happens in Iowa?

That headline, which you headline-skippers should go back and read, is a dead serious question. I've been wrestling with it for years:
Here in the land of democracy, where the soul of our government is wise choices made by an informed electorate, why does anybody care what happens in the Iowa caucuses?
As I write this, the very early returns are beginning to come in. On the Republican side, the phony from Arkansas seems to be pulling out a surprise lead over the animatronic candidatoid creation from Massachusetts. That's good news on at least one level, and perhaps two:
  • Mitt Romney annoys me in much the same way Ronald Reagan did. He's just so obviously bogus it shakes my faith in human nature that people can't see through him.
  • Mike Huckabee is maybe too crazy to go very far. He'll probably do well in South Carolina, but so did George Wallace. Then it's bye-bye, Mike.
Maybe. I can believe it, sort of, if I don't think too hard about those polls showing that 25 percent of Americans expect Christ to return and carry them to heaven this year, or that about the same number think George W. Bush is doing a bang-up job.
On the Democratic side, where at least none of the candidates is openly loony, Barack Obama holds a slight lead over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards at this point (remember, it's very early). That choice is hard for me: I think I like Edwards, but the election of either a woman, especially a Clinton woman, or an American of African heritage would really piss off the kind of people I like to see pissed off as often as possible.
What still mystifies me, though, as I think I said up there before I got sidetracked, is why anybody outside of Iowa cares. A couple of hundred thousand people from a place normally dismissed as a "flyover state" or "one of those dreadful places that begins with a vowel" will shuffle around in somebody's den or the Grange Hall or somewhere this evening, and tomorrow morning the news will be full of portentous headlines about what their opinion means to the nation. The whim of a fraction of a percentage point of our eligible voters can shape, if not decide, the fate of the nation. How'd we get here?


Blogger Lyrical Coyote said...

Cory, I've been pondering this very question for the last couple of days.

I don't really think the noise in Iowa has anything to do with anything. In fact, I don't think any of the heat generated by any of the caucuses warms one ounce of rabid party-faithful spittle sprayed on an unbeliever obviously spawned by the Devil.

I think the answer is, if yer gonna have yer basic political party, ya gotta have...well...parties. That's all a caucus is. It's a woo-hoo, bond-with-my-agreement-system, let's-pretend-that-yelling-at-each-other-makes-a-difference, where-are-you-going-after-this-event? event.

It only matters to those who participate and isn't in any way meaningful unless you value the opinions of those intoxicated. You know, like a party.

In our society, it is impossible not to vote. Your only choice is to whether to cast a ballot. If you choose not to cast a ballot, you vote for the winner of the election. The only difference between you and someone who casted a ballot is that you have to wait for the end of the election to find out for whom you voted.

The primaries will decide who runs in the general election and the general election will decide who wins. You can argue that the caucuses decide who runs in the primaries, but that's non-binding. It just decides who the party will support.

Yeah, party!

And all us registered Independents sit on the sidelines, shaking our heads at the lampshade-frocked party faithfuls and wish for the day when hairstyles, faith, infidelity, a woman's womb, cheap labor, race and flying saucers are not the focus of our nation's leaders.

Yet one of them is out there right now.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Steve_R said...

Cory, I'm so glad that I don't have to wait for publishing day to see what you have to say. You can now say what you want, when you want. I also suspect yhat you see fewer angry dissenters.. your writing no longer assaults them in their homes at breakfast.. they have to seek it out. That may be a good thing, although I bet you miss some of it..perhaps not.

I support your question. I'm still not sure how they come up with a count on caucuses.. Does each "group" have to rach consensus ?? Can some loudmouths take over the group?? Doesn't seem like voting to me. I am a firm believer in the secret ballot. Every person's choice should count.

I live in a "blue" state.. possibly the bluest. (Massachusetts) I can spell it and pronounce it :-) I have also learned and embrace the proper pronunciation of "Nevada".

I visited Iowa once.. had a really good ham steak breakfast, but that doesn't mean that the opinions arrived at in some house party would reflect my views on anything.
I'm afraid I just don't "get" the caucus process. It sure doesn't seem comparable to actual voting.
I don't always like the way the vote turns out, but I have to respect the process.. wait.. I guess I'm not crazy about the Electoral College, either :-)

Keep up the good work.

10:14 PM  
Blogger mindervillain said...

Yes, but:
The most beautiful thing about democracy is its disorganization. If a system is sufficiently disorganized, it may be inefficient, but it's almost impossible to corrupt (which is, coincidentally, the argument I use with my wife when she complains about the garage - at least it's not corrupt.

I've worked seriously as a volunteer in politics exactly twice. The first time was helping manage a headquarters for Eugene McCarthy and other Democrats in Albany, California in, needless to say, the sixties.

Now I'm working, without a bit of management responsibility, as a volunteer in the Obama campaign.

Politics is what it is (regardless of the Clinton definition of "is"). And I submit that the disorganized, nonsensical silliness of our political campaigns is so representative of the actual workings of a real democracy that, as inefficient as it seems, it is far superior to all of the alternatives.

Caucuses have the potential of returning the rough and tumble to our democratic process, which can only be good. The only problem that I can see is that folks who simply cannot make it to the caucuses (I'm referring to aged, the infirm, the hospitalized, the landlocked in some sad mobile home park - not the vacationers in Cancun or the folks who chose a wedding over the democratic process) are basically disenfranchised. This may be an unsolvable problem, somewhat like the problem of having about 10 disabled placards issued by the state for every one person with an actual disabling disability.

But I'll be at my local caucus on January 19 (as I assume any reader of Cory Farley will as well), and I'll feel a hell of a lot more comfortable that my input was taken into consideration than I'll ever feel in a county voting booth, pushing buttons in a computer.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Ken A said...

The thing I like about the Iowa caucuses is that the candidates are forced to actually go out and talk to the constituents. It helps to remind them that they have to deal with "the people" and not just the lobbyists and corporations to get elected. Almost everybody in Iowa, that wanted it, got face time with the candidates. Iowa is just small enough to be able to do that. Can you imagine doing that in Kalifornia? (k used ala Arnold). Now for the rest of the campaign all they have to do is make some stump speeches and run tv ads. It takes them out of the person to person mode but at least "the people" got to tell them what's on their minds at the start. Hopefully that will continue to leave an impression on them.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Skyshrink said...

I agree.....what Iowans think specifically about individual candidates on either side is not of great concern to me. What is of interest to me is to look at the turnout, the results...again on both sides...and ponder whether it portends a large Dem election win across the country in November, '08, or whether it means the Dems will lose one of the biggest election opportunities they've had in a long time. So far, it looks like it could go either way. Perhaps the worst case...Obama/McCain... with the "fear/weak on defense" factor making wimps of the independents and others such that McCain pulls it out. Too early to tell, though.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Pogonip said...

January 19 will be the first caucus I've ever attended. It seems sort of an exercise unlikely to affect much in the greater scheme of things.

These early caucuses and primaries strike me as being the "pre-season games" like in sports.

The worst of the whole process is that both parties will end up with a candidate who doesn't really stand out much, but who will be acceptable to the largest number of people. Who those two people are is uncertain at the moment.

11:23 AM  
Blogger nopastels said...

At this point in time, I would much rather hear about what happened in Iowa last night than to hear any more about Britney. See, everyone know who she is without having to use a last name, sad.

I do not care for Mitt as he sounds way too slick, didn't we just go through this, corporatism at it's worse. For the moment, Barack is a breath of fresh air.

Keep on writing, just love to bypass the paper and their obvious right-wing letter writers!

2:59 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Viva Mexico! (Sorry, couldn't resist, since it's 78 degrees here and margaritas are flowing and we purposely don't have a TV.)

Iowa matters only inasmuch as it gives pundits one more thing to talk about that ostensibly "means" something, which it probably doesn't.

I second the person who posted here earlier this week that the media have gone way too far into the crystal-ball-gazing territory. Everybody reads the tea leaves and makes their pronouncements ... and then it becomes a game of "which pundit called it?" and suddenly we're yet another step removed from what used to constitute actual news.

To paraphrase a Seinfeld episode, "....yadda yadda yadda, Obama ended up taking the oath of office."

5:04 PM  
Blogger sabjoro said...

The religious leaders scares me. They complain about the Islamic countries run under Muslim religious laws and the lack of freedoms due to the restrictions of the religion yet these conservative evangelicals would do the same to this country.

As a registered independent I wish NV could have a different system as I have to sit out all the early fights and have no say on who gets to be on the ballot.

Iowa? I rather see a more diversified state be the first to choose. 5% minority population in the middle of the Bible belt doesn't represent the rest of the country.

If it wasn't Iowa then the first in the nation will get the attention Iowa received. At least we didn't have to deal with all the TV ads Iowa had the past few months.

5:09 PM  
Blogger dwoods48 said...

i need to "Out" myself in a couple of Areas, in order too make my Response valid. 1st: I grew Up in Iowa , My Mom and Sister Still live there .. I visited Mom in Sept. 2nd: i am a christian , Yes small c , but "Jesus" is a large part of my life. If "He" comes back tomorrow, that would be fine with Me.

We may not care what happens in Iowa , but the "Media" sure does.. They [The Media] have created this Circus.. The People in Iowa would have their Caucus's any way , whether Charles [charley, whatever] Gibson or George Stephanopolus ,showed up or not. They just want to talk to the Candidates , face too face... Not a Bad thing , in My Opinion.

My wife and I watched a PBS Special on Andrew Jackson , this Week , Narrated by a well known Liberal Democrat, Martin Sheen.. For those of You Who don't know Your History , Andrew Jackson, formed the Democratic party , so I am glad too see that You all have evolved a little also...

As far as not having any "Openly Loony Candidates". Where is Howard Dean when you need Him..

Go "Mike Beat Barak" , this is much more fun than Basketball , and Spring Training is still 6 Weeks away...

7:24 AM  
Blogger tuzoner said...

I don't care one banana.

I feel so disconnected from government on all levels - federal, state and local.

I'm not certain if this is because I am:

1) Older and wiser

2) Older and dumber

3) Just plain apathetic.

As un-American as it seems, I don't vote for a number of reasons.

8:48 AM  

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