Thursday, January 03, 2008

A few thoughts on the Iowa caucuses

We don’t call them "Idiots Out Wandering Around" for nothing.

Iowans have spoken! Sort of. Well, a few of them anyway. Why should this small and unappealing state, a state utterly addicted to farm subsidies, play such a role in presidential elections? And with such an anti-democratic process as the caucuses? It's not even all of Iowa voting, but just a handful of people meeting and voting in an utterly untransparent process. No one knows, for example, how many people voted for Obama, or Edwards, or Clinton, or, for that matter, exactly how the delegates were awarded. All we know is that these boobs go behind closed doors, squabble for a while, and suddenly the rest of us are told who our choices for president are likely to be. Iowans call it democracy; the rest of us call it bullshit.

(Forgive me, dear readers. I promise to curb my longstanding feelings of hatred for Iowa; they date back to my childhood and the miserable summer trips our family took there, and I just had to let them out for a moment.)

Mike Huckabee: it's becoming increasingly clear that he is clueless on foreign policy, economics, the nature of the American political system, and anything else beyond Baptist theology. So far as I can tell, he's the least competent of all the candidates in the race, for either party. So of course, he wins handily. And Rudy Giuliani takes only 4% while Ron Paul takes 10%, so during the returns CNN studiously interviews Rudy and their pundits discuss his chances while completely ignoring Paul... Rudy is a serious candidate, after all. (I am sure I'm not the only one to notice that on the big pie charts CNN keeps showing with the vote breakdowns, on the Republican chart Paul's name is omitted, while on the Democrat chart, Bill Richardson's name is boldly listed above his 2%. Of course, Richardson is a serious candidate.)

Barack Obama: I never said so here at UC, but I have always said in conversation that Hillary would not be the Democrats' candidate. I still think this, but not for the reasons the CNN "experts" are citing. The heart and emotion shown by the candidates, how "presidential" they sound, and the rest of this nonsense are irrelevant. Hillary galvanizes the Republican opposition like no other Democrat. She's too hated to be a reasonable choice for the Democrats.

They are right, though, that Obama does have emotional appeal beyond his true believers; I admit even I like listening to him, so long as he doesn't mention any of his policies. He'd be a bad president, possibly worse than Hillary, but he'd be a fine choice for a candidate (and he's far better than Edwards, at least). (OK, a little better?) (How can you know with these clones?)

The most galling thing about this "democratic" process is how utterly rigged it is, and not simply in the Iowa charades. The news media works to make or break candidates. It fails to give the ignorant Mr. Huckabee any sort of serious scrutiny, and consistently treats Ron Paul as a non-serious candidate (after all, he actually intends to shrink government - only proposals to increase it are serious). The media treats the race among the Democrats as a sporting match - who will best marshal their team in the coming battle of strategy and tactics. Ideas? Forget it. No wonder Paul gets such short shrift - and it's not conspiracy - Paul really has no strategy or tactics to analyze, just ideas. No clever plans to grab this or that segment of the vote, no trick to strip off some particular interest group or other from another candidate - just a repetition of the same set of unchanging ideas. And ideas, if taken beyond the level of the barest, shallowest, most cartoon-like bromides, are anathema to modern media. Even NPR, arguably the finest broadcast new media in today's world, can’t get its campaign analysis beyond tactics, sports analogies, and the touchy-feely.

And so we march on, to perpetual war, endless deficits, and a growing police state.

OK, I'll stop. Back to economics.

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