January 3, 2008

Are you all atwitter with excitement over the Iowa caucuses?

Or are you mostly just excited to get closer to the point where we don't have to hear about them anymore? Based on talking to ... one person... I think excitement arises in proportion to support for an individual candidate. I am not for or even against any particular candidate, and I therefore find myself coolly observing the scene with uncanny equanimity. I await the news of what Iowans think is best for us. I would like to thank Iowa. For everything. For all the corn. For the best rest stops on the interstate highway system. And for listening endlessly to politicians so we don't have to.

Meanwhile, if you feel like voting, it's your last day to vote for me here [no, actually it's too late], which I'm reminded of by reading this, where there happens to be a little poll where you can toss me a teentsy vote if you're so inclined and you've got nothing better to do while waiting for Iowa to go through its little ritual.

And, really, what's with Christopher Hitchens gettting so pissy about it?
It's only when you read an honest reporter like Dan Balz that you appreciate the depth and extent of the fraud that is being practiced on us all. "In a primary," as he put it, "voters quietly fill out their ballots and leave. In the caucuses, they are required to come and stay for several hours, and there are no secret ballots. In the presence of friends, neighbors and occasionally strangers, Iowa Democrats vote with their feet, by raising their hands and moving to different parts of the room to signify their support for one candidate or another. … [F]or Democrats, it is not a one-person, one-vote system. … Inducements are allowed; bribes are not." One has to love that last sentence.
Oh, the horror, that people should have to interact with each other in the flesh instead of pushing a button off by themselves. What is the fraud? That they do exactly what they say they do: caucus? Is it undemocratic? Hasn't Iowa democratically chosen to do things this way? Is it wrong that we focus on one state at a time? What could be more American (or, I should say, United Statesian)?

Frankly, it seems that Hitchens is mostly irked that the system — whatever it is — worked out well for Mike Huckabee.
[T]he rest of the United States is a passive spectator while about half of 45 percent of 85,000 or so Republican caucus voters promote a provincial ignoramus and anti-Darwinian to the coveted status of "front-runner" or at least "contender."...

It is impossible that the Republican Party could be saddled with a clown like Huckabee if there were a serious primary in Iowa, let alone if the process were kicked off in Chicago or Los Angeles or Atlanta.

59 comments:

Yachira said...

"...it's your last day to vote for me here..."

They're saying the voting closed yesterday!

George said...

Clearly, we mystify the furreners, especially those who read at Oxford and daily consume mule-killing doses of alcohol.

From afar it must look as though we are in the midst of some religious upheaval--the hillbilly preacher, the Mormon, the Jewish New York billionaire, the Catholic mayor, the Methodist church lady, the guy who may or may not be a Muslim....

This is how we confuse people and get them to undermisestimate us.

Anyway, Fred wins Iowa by placing third.

Ann Althouse said...

Yachira -- you're right. Sorry. Correction added.

save_the_rustbelt said...

The entire primary system is goofy, and especially the Iowa mess.

I am in Michigan today, they wanted to have a meaningful primary (I suppose because they have lost jobs for 8 straight years) and both parties spit on them. Very grouchy here.

Some day the politicians will get what they deserve - but not soon enough.

Der Hahn said...

The bizarre 'viability' requirement with open voting and horse-trading is a feature of the Iowa Democrat gatherings only. On the Republican side, presidential preference is obtained by a *non-binding* straw poll. National convention delegates won't be selected and pledged to a candidate until the Republican state convention later this year.

Huckabee's rise can be traced much more closely to his being the freshest face with the biggest and most quotable mouth on Republican side, not that Iowa has a caucus and not a primary.

goesh said...

" bizarre viability" (der hahn) - that made yet more 'Iowa' worthwhile reading - be glad to have it done and gone...

Dadgum said...

In my little Iowa burg of 12,000 Hillary is leading in yard signs, generally a reliable Iowa indicator. Sure hope it's wrong this time.

Simon said...

"I think excitement arises in proportion to support for an individual candidate. I am not for or even against any particular candidate, and I therefore find myself coolly observing the scene with uncanny equanimity."

That certainly aligns with my state of mind right now. The only candidate who stirs particularly strong feelings in me is Obama, and they're negative feelings rather than support. Watching to see if the other party have been taken in by this most facile of candidates, I feel rather like a man being escorted into the Lubyanka, uncertain whether he's merely visiting for a chat or heading straight for the basement.

peter hoh said...

I went to a caucus in Minnesota once. Not sure that I really want to do it again. A caucus eats up a lot of time, and I'm not sure that there was any justification for it. My nearest polling place is a few blocks away. The caucus was a few miles away.

Sheepman said...

Is it undemocratic? Hasn't Iowa democratically chosen to do things this way?

Well it is undemocratic in that it disenfranchises those who are unable to attend a caucus because of work or family obligations.

bill said...

Are you all atwitter with excitement over the Iowa caucuses? No. But that question doesn't take into account that different readers may have different degrees of excitement: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being a complete lack of twitter and 10 being all the twitter, how atwitter are you with excitement over the Iowa caucuses?

Or are you mostly just excited to get closer to the point where we don't have to hear about them anymore? I am currently exhibiting no signs of excitement concerning Iowa, Iowa caususes, or any of the primaries. I am without twitter.

And, really, what's with Christopher Hitchens getting so pissy about it? Would a nonpissy Hitchens be any fun to read? Maybe, but why risk it.

Middle Class Guy said...

T]he rest of the United States is a passive spectator while about half of 45 percent of 85,000 or so Republican caucus voters promote a provincial ignoramus and anti-Darwinian to the coveted status of "front-runner" or at least "contender."...

It is impossible that the Republican Party could be saddled with a clown like Huckabee if there were a serious primary in Iowa, let alone if the process were kicked off in Chicago or Los Angeles or Atlanta.

**********************************
Hitchens is English. He does not understand the American way- that anyone can succeed or run for the highest office in the land. Even a rube like Huckabee or an intellectual idiot like Clinton.

Tantallonblog said...

First it was "all fusty."

Now it is "all atwitter."

What is it to be next, "All... Huckabeed?"

bill said...

What is it to be next, "All... Huckabeed?"

My money is on "tenterhooks."

Roger said...

"...atwitter...over Iowa caucuses.? In a word, no.

The caucuses are simply an invention of the Iowans to freeze the respective butts off both silly candidates and even siller pundits and reporters. No one has figured out yet that the dreaded axis of evil, Iowa and New Hampshire, do this every four years to watch the inside the beltway bozos suffer in really cold weather and see real snow and ice and recycle silly platitudes trying to pass it off as "anal...ysis."

Once again, I fearlessly repeat my totally uninformed predictions for the democratics, Edwards will be the surprise winner in Iowa, Obama will take New Hampshire, and Clinton will take SC, although narrowly, over Obama. The real issue will be what happens on Feb 5, and there my crystal ball is totally spun out. Although I suspect that at least one candidate and numerous pundits will use the phrase: "the comeback kid" in both NH and SC.

I havent got the remotest clue about the republicans, and somehow hope the staid Republican Iowans and New Hampshiremen (and women), reject the Huckster much as their democratic cohorts did with Dr. Dean four years ago.

Roger said...

Oh--and although I don't think we have heard them yet, the punditocracy will return their thesauri and resurrect "gravitas," and "nuance."

EnigmatiCore said...

"It is impossible that the Republican Party could be saddled with a clown like Huckabee if there were a serious primary in Iowa, let alone if the process were kicked off in Chicago or Los Angeles or Atlanta."

If they kicked it off in New York (which probably belongs in Hitchens' list rather than Atlanta), then the GOP could get a clown like Bloomberg, who is pretty much exactly like Huckabee excepting being for abortion rights rather than against them.

SteveR said...

Its a joke, but mainly because the process repeats itself every four years. Let's change the order. Try having different issues frame the debate so that its not so calculated around Iowa and NH every time. For instance, if they came to my state they'd have to go someplace besides a "diner" to talk to the folks, they would have to discuss border security and use of public lands, not just farm subsidies.

John Stodder said...

Are the Iowa caucuses more objectionable in a situation where there is a candidate like Huckabee whose main appeal is religious? What if I was a member of a church and attended a caucus where other members of my church were the biggest contingent. My fellow parishioners might not want to see me in the part of the room where another candidate's supporters sit. If there was a secret ballot, none of my friends in Christ would ever have to know that I think Huckabee's a boob.

Another problem: In both parties, there have been candidates famous for taking reprisals against fellow party members who support another candidate. "The War Room" documented this kind of politics. It's fine if intimidation drives endorsements from hack politicos, but ordinary voters should be immune from it. If I walk into a Dem caucus wanting to support John Edwards, shouldn't I be worried about whether Clinton's people are taking my name down and putting me on a shit list that might affect my business or family if HRC wins?

You shouldn't be able to take away democratic rights, even if the vote to take away those rights was taken democratically. The secret ballot is sacred, or should be.

Jacob said...

"Oh, the horror, that people should have to interact with each other in the flesh instead of pushing a button off by themselves."
Ppeople have to commit several hours of their night– which excludes people who work night shifts or who are unable to go.
Soldiers serving overseas are disfranchised– they are not allowed to vote.
There is no secret ballot.
Only a small fraction of Iowans participate.
(All of these apply to the Democratic Caucus, but that's not so for the Republican one)

reader_iam said...

johnstodder:

On the GOP side, as noted earlier, caucus participants DO cast their vote via SECRET ballot. So it's perfectly possible to privately express one's opinion of Huckabee by voting for someone else.

Also, note that the GOP caucus is really a ***straw poll***. It is ***nonbinding***. Actual delegates are determined later, at state convention.

(Yes, we have unexpectedly just made it back from W.Va., in time for Caucus day.

So, what to do? Participate or not? Register as members of one of the two major parties for the first time ever in order to participate? Which one? Where best to make a statement--however feeble and ineffectual?

These things, travel weary and otherwise drained, we ponder.)

hdhouse said...

Simon,

I got a short tour of Lubyanka in the early 80s when it was being redone....and I think past it's heyday. Frankly I grow more afraid walking by the Justice Department in Washington than I was on the little tour in Moscow.

reader_iam said...

shouldn't I be worried about whether Clinton's people are taking my name down and putting me on a shit list that might affect my business or family if HRC wins?

I worry about that not one blessed wit.

Hoosier Daddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reader_iam said...

On New Year's, my mother was talking about having participated in the Delaware Caucuses on the Democrat side back in '92, and particularly with regard to the well-oiled Clinton machine (even) back then.

She said the whole experience--I mean, generally, overall--was enlightening.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I got a short tour of Lubyanka in the early 80s when it was being redone....and I think past it's heyday. Frankly I grow more afraid walking by the Justice Department in Washington than I was on the little tour in Moscow.

Considering you seem much more comfortable with the former Soviet Union than the United States, I am not at all surprised.

PatCA said...

Hitchens is a born again American, so he gets testy at all this messy imperfection.

It's okay with me. If all the primaries were identical in form, it would not be long before some political operative figured out how to game the whole system. At least we, the people, have a fighting chance--thanks to all this messy imperfection.

John Stodder said...

I worry about that not one blessed wit.

I think perhaps the point is being missed. I wasn't talking about you or me. I was talking about a hypothetical Democrat at a caucus tonight. A candidate known for "playing rough" might have an advantage in a caucus situation by his or her ability to intimidate some caucus-goers.

This is the same argument used (correctly I think) against organized labor's number one policy objective, card check. Right now, labor organizing decisions are made via secret ballot. For whatever reason, labor loses more often than it wins. So, what they want to be able to do is change the process so that a worker's vote to join or not join would be made by filling out a card handed to him or her by the union organizer.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I'm sick to death with Iowa and New Hampshire,both.

It passes understanding why we should let a National campaign and the selection of our National Candidates for President of the United States be picked by a tiny percentage of the people in tiny States. Why in the world does anyone give a rip what the handful of people in Iowa say or how the isolates in New Hampshire vote? Seriously...someone explain it to me.

It also passes understanding why we allow the media to control the process with their slanted, biased, superficial and ignorant coverage. They are panting to have Huckabee and Clinton win and marginalize all others. We haven't had a decent debate. We have crappy 30 second soundbites, at best, and have very little idea of what these aspirant for the highest office in the US believe in or what they stand for. Of course we know what their favorite books are, what vegetables they hate and what essays they wrote in first grade.

We are going to hell in a hand basket and no one seems to be minding the ride. This may be the first election in 40 years in which I will not be voting for President. I just don't care anymore. There is no point.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I'm not even agog, much less atwitter.

Let's face it, if tenterhooks were ever going to stage a comeback it would have happened by now. Nor is Iowa likely to repeat its disastrous 2004 flirtation with the kerfluffle. But what will take its place? Most likely a motley assortment of hullabaloos and foofraws. This is an electorate without direction.

titus08 said...

Good morning fellow republicans. I am actually excited about the caucuses tonight.

Not that I have a big favorite but I just like competitions. I think it will be interesting to see who wins-that's all.

I could never actually attend a caucus. I don't want anyone knowing about my vote which I think is personal. And I don't need to be in a room with a bunch of people discussing my vote or learn about why they are voting the way they are-I don't give a shit.

Also, Iowa, come on, have we not all seen enough of the Iowa population over the past year? They are white, fat, wear lots of flannel and patterned sweaters (with holiday things hanging off of them).

I would hate to be a mo in a state like that. I bet it is slim picking in the mo hog department. I would definitely have to lower my standards or do without and I generally am unable to do without.

Also, Iowa is the number one recepient of farm susidies-porkers.

Roger said...

Good morning chief republican Titus--Perhaps I missed your journal of your trip back to the midwest--have you published it yet? Did the rare clumbers accompany you? Again, as the source of all information meterosexual, you used the expressed "mo" in your post above? I am assuming that means monosexual? At any rate, welcome back.

Simon said...

DBQ, with all due respect, the only way I can construe "[t]here is no point [in voting]" is if you don't see how it makes any difference which candidate wins. And if you don't see the difference between any of the candidates for the Dem nomination, on the one hand, and any of the candidates for the GOP nomination, maybe we're better off with you not voting. I hope that you're speaking too hastily out of frustration, and not voicing your more considered judgment.

And the reason for the debates not being real debates is because there are too many candidates. That's not to say that if there were only three candidates invited to each debate they'd necessarily be any better, but the reality is, as a matter of pure logistics, when you have limited time and that many candidates on stage, the format we've seen is inevitable. The only way around it is to say "look, Tancredo, Hunter, Paul and Brownback on the one side and Biden, Dodd, Kucinich and Gravel on the other side - these people aren't serious candidates, so we're not going to invite them to the debates, which gives the real candidates time to actually talk." But then you get criticism that the media is stiffling certain candidates, as we're seeing from the Paul camp this week.

reader_iam said...

Well, Titus, I hadn't really consciously considered what to wear tonight if I participate, but I suspect the default would have been along the lines of your basic plain sweater over your basic slacks, but maybe I can find some time to run out and buy a flannel shirt or something, just to annoy you.

Alternatively, I'll pop over to one of my gay neighbors' homes and ask for their suggestions on proper caucus attire.

reader_iam said...

Also--miaow!--I must say that my fellow Iowans, at least in this southeastern, bi-state portion, are looking a great deal slimmer & etc. to me after my sojourn in West Virginia (at least the part which we were visiting).

Perspective really can be relative.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Simon...yes I am frustrated.

And if you don't see the difference between any of the candidates for the Dem nomination, on the one hand, and any of the candidates for the GOP nomination,

It's hard to see what differences there are between the candidates when we are only given glimpses of them through a glass darkly. The biased media that consists mainly of ignorant and biased reporters filtering and distorting at every turn. I do mean ignorant in the uneducated stupid sense.

It feels like we are just skipping stones over a black lagoon that might just contain a monster that will destroy us all, but we have no curiosity as a nation to see what lurks beneath.

Seriously...if Huckabee is the Republican nominee I will not vote for him. And I would cut my own throat before voting for any of the Democrat candidates ...especially Hillary. Obama is the least obnoxious to me on that team, mainly because I think he would be the most ineffectual and probably accomplish nothing. That would actually be a good accomplishment. The less the government does the better.

This entire process is a bad joke and the American people are the butt of the joke.

reader_iam said...

Which reminds me!

titus08 said...

Roger, I am here to educate, mo is short for homosexual.

Hog is slang for penis, not to be confused with a pig. Being that we were talking about Iowa I didn't want anyone to think I was considering actual pigs or hogs when I refer to hog. I think hog is one of the more enduring terms for the penis.

Wisconsin was cold and awful. I couldnt leave the house because it was either snowing, below freezing or both. The rare clumbers stayed in the doggy daycare in the ghetto where they both received report cards of all A's with the exception of C's for the social skills-which I take as a compliment. They don't socialize with to others. They are aloof, reserved, and somewhat cold-I could of asked for better qualities in my dogs. FYI-that is a characteristic of all rare clumbers. But never aggressive or mean-they just are very cautious and suspicious of others.

reader_iam said...

While in W.Va., I actually saw the words "Merry Christmas" posted on the marquee of a public school for the first time in years.

/OT

titus08 said...

"Alternatively, I'll pop over to one of my gay neighbors' homes and ask for their suggestions on proper caucus attire." I don't think the Iowa mo's would be a good source for caucus attire. My recommendation would be to go with the crowd and don't cause any disruption in the caucus by wearing anything fabulous. So I say flannel and or a sweater with bells and christmas ornaments hanging off of it-that's probably what I would wear.


You actually know real live breathing mos in Iowa? Wow, that's incredible.

titus08 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Zrimsek said...

I don't want anyone knowing about my ____ which I think is personal.

Titus, I've converted this sentence to template form for your future use.

titus08 said...

I have actually traveled all over Iowa and lived in Dubuque the summer of 1993. I taught the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps. We used to go to East Dubuque which had all these strip joints-straight unfortunately, but it was fun. The women were scarey.

I have also been to a gay bar in Des Moines-horrible and a gay bar in Iowa City-horrible. I was in Cedar Rapids, The Quad Cities-awful, Clinton, Ames, Grinnell (is that a university?).

Dubuque was kind of a cool little city. It was on the Mississippi and had a cute college there-is that Drake? I could be wrong.

titus08 said...

The college in Dubuque I was thinking of was Loras Colllege-pretty buildings.

Also, Dubuque is somewhat hilly-much different than the rest of Iowa which if I recall correctly is very flat.

I liked Dubuque-cute in midwest, all american, heartland, condescending way.

titus08 said...

Don't get me wrong fellow republicans Dubuque is not cute in a Burlington, Vermont, Portland, Maine, Northampton, Mass, Portsmouth, NH, fabulous east coast cute.

Oh no, we all know it can't match up to those cities of similar size but all of which have the air of fabulous east coastness to them which unfortunately, Dubuque does not have-and which separates little Dubuque.

Let me just say it tries and for that we should all be grateful.

reader_iam said...

Titus, there's even a Rainbow district in Davenport. I mean that literally; that's the title that the gays who developed that piece of downtown put on the banners on the street poles.

And my neighborhood (which, in addition, is located in one of the more ethnically, racially [and socioeconomically] diverse section of the city and state) contains quite a few gay people, especially male, living quite openly.

Sorry to shock you.

titus08 said...

Let me make is simpler-Dubuque does not have a Kiehls store and Northampton does-enough said-OKKKKKKKKKKKK

reader_iam said...

Titus, there's also quite the active community in the Illinois half of the Quad Cities, according to my dear friend and hairdresser who lives there and is, shall we say, quite plugged in.

And would you be able to stand the shock if I shared with you the percentage of Iowa Episcopal clergy who are gay (male and female)? Would the clumbers?

reader_iam said...

Yeah, I suppose Dubuque's sorta cute, kinda, but it's darn hard for vegetarians to eat out well there (not a problem for me, but it is for my family), so better to continue on to Madison, WI.

I'm SO not into Cedar Rapids, and if I've got the time to travel to Des Moines (where, by necessity, I've gone a number of times, staying--amusingly--in one of the places I keep seeing on TV), I'd rather go to Chicago instead, the distances being basically the same from where I am.

Grinnell is a town AND a college.

reader_iam said...

And I live at the top of a steep incline, just so's you know.

Der Hahn said...

Titus08... wild! I know a couple who were both part of the Colts.

Reader ... I've hung my hat in Cedar Rapids for quite a while after growing up in north central IA. Sad to see a town so bent on self-destruction. I can understand why you avoid it. If I could swing deal with my employer to work remotely, my SO and I would probably move to Chicago.

Der Hahn said...

For caucus attired I'd suggest jeans and sweatshirt as the halls are usually drafty. Hawkeyes east of I-35, 'clones west of I-35.

Der Hahn said...

I would be more than happy to give up our first in the nation status in favor of regional or multistate contests with a couple of conditions. I don't want anything done before the first of February. I don't want to put California or New York first to dominate the process either. Pick a mix of states so a roughly equal number of delegates are selected every two weeks for a couple of months in the spring.

Noted in the 'today in history' section of the paper that JFK didn't announced his candidacy until Jan 2 or 3rd, 1960.

Iapetus said...

Iowa and NH are not about garnering convention delegate votes. They are about impressing the "political bankers" to gain their financial support, which will be crucial as the campaign moves into its more serious phases in larger states, when gobs of money will be spent on tv and large campaign staffs. One might have hoped that public financing of elections would have blunted the excessive attention given to Iowa and NH, but the reverse seems to be true. One possible explanation is that public financing encourages even marginal candidates to enter the race early, hoping for an upset win in either state. A crowded field then serves to enhance the roles of Iowa and NH far beyond their delegate counts.

hdhouse said...

Simon is right. too many debates mouthing nothing. often blogs have too many writers writing jibberish ...

MadisonMan said...

Hawkeyes east of I-35, 'clones west of I-35.

But Isaiah 35 passes -- what -- 2 miles west of the ISU campus. I think all of Story County should be cyclone country.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Why should the Republican Party mind be saddled with a clown like Huckabee? It didn't mind being saddled with a clown like Bush...

Cedarford said...

Iowa gives very atypical results, allows special interest groups a unique change to focus on the population and activists of one state to lobby Candidates and compromise them in some areas the rest of the country disagees with - massive farm and ethanol subsidies, extreme populism, and on the Republican side smootching up to radical Religious Right in a way they don't have to except in the Deep South.

America needs to scrap the current system that screws 48 other states and allows activists and lobbyists decades to set up operations to pressure candidates in NH and Iowa.

My preference is that given America has 10 large states, 20 mid-sized, and 20 small ones, that we go with the Parties have a neutral Commission randomly select 2 small, 2 medium, and one large state to begin the Primary season and end it over 24 weeks. With NH anf Iowa barred for 3 election cycles.
The mix would still allow an underfunded unknown to prove their mettle in low-cost small state venues, but not disenfranchize voters for foolishly living in places where most Americans live. And would eliminate the year long pressuring and expectations of pandering that residents, activists, and influence peddlers use Iowa and NH for, because the schedule wouldn't be known until 2-3 weeks before the 1st ones. It would eliminate the asshole who says that it is the sole right of NH people and Iowans to expect each candidate personally look them in the eye and answer their concerns and ignore the other 98.5% of voters.
And not knowing the schedule would mean an end to years-long schemes and money allocations of Agribiz, Right to Lifers, Gun lovers, prarie populists, and DC Beltway lobbyists setting up to "dance" with the candidates in only two states they focus on.

************************

hdhouse said...
Simon,
I got a short tour of Lubyanka in the early 80s when it was being redone....and I think past it's heyday. Frankly I grow more afraid walking by the Justice Department in Washington than I was on the little tour in Moscow.


Not surprising. As an anti-American, Henhouse apparantly thought the Soviets and their center of judicial terror, Lubyanka, less threatening than institutions an elected Executive, Congress, and the courts look after here.

Simon said...

hdhouse said...
"Simon, I got a short tour of Lubyanka in the early 80s when it was being redone....and I think past it's heyday."

I was kind of sad to miss the opportunity to do that when I was in Moscow in I think '95 or '96 - time just kind of ran out, but that would have been fascinating in a macarbre kind of way.