Thursday, January 3, 2008

Things That Are Overrated: The Iowa Caucus

First of all, the Iowa caucus doesn't even decide anything. It is not a primary, and the outcome of the caucus doesn't decide any delegates, doesn't win you any states, and doesn't lead to anything tangible in the way of getting you elected president. This thing is just level after level of confundity. As best I understand it from reading the Wikipedia entry on the matter, the caucus determines local delegates, who then go and elect county delegates, who then in turn go to elect district delegates, who then select the state delegates. AKA, this process is useless.

Also the way the caucuses are run is a fucking travesty. In order to vote you have to take several hours out of your day and go to the meeting place. Then when it's time to vote you don't get to cast a secret ballot, instead you have to stand in a group with the people who all support the same candidate. And then in some other corner of the room are the people who support another candidate. So you could get mad peer pressured into casting your vote. Or you could just be a non-Goldman who doesn't like to stand out from the crowd and so you linger for a second and then get in the group with the coolest people in it or whatever. That shit is mad rigged.

Also, the result of the caucus doesn't exactly line up one to one with the eventual results of each party's nomination. Since 1972, which is apparently how long the media have been sucking cocks in Iowa, the Deomcratic winners have been: 1972-Uncommitted (more people essentially abstained from voting rather than pick a candidate. Good way to spend your two hours at the caucus, people), 1976-Uncommitted, 1980-Jimmy Carter (incumbent), 1984-Walter Mondale (eventual nominee), 1988-Dick Gephardt (Dukakis finished 3rd), 1992-Tom Harkin (Iowa senator, the other candidates didn't run in Iowa), 1996-Bill Clinton (incumbent), 2000-Al Gore (only other contender was Bill Bradley), 2004-John Kerry (after the Howard Dean meltdown)

The Republican winners have been: 1972-I don't know, apparently only the Deomcrats made a big deal about 1972, 1976-Gerald Ford (incumbent), 1980-George Bush Sr. (Reagan won nomination), 1984-Reagan (incumbent), 1988-Bob Dole (George Bush Sr. eventually won, finished 3rd), 1992-George Sr (incumbent), 1996-Bob Dole (eventual nominee), 2000-Dubya (eventual nominee), 2004-Dubya (incumbent).

All of this is confounded too by the fact that the Republicans also hold something called a straw poll in Iowa, which is an even earlier vote held in the previous year that sets the tone for the Republican caucus.

I lost something there in the middle, but my point is that this is essentially just a media exercise where nothing gets acoomplished unless you decide to scream like a chicken afterwards (Byaaaaaahh).


Anonymous said...

Goldman=Likes to stand out from the crowd. Priceless!

Side Bar said...

I watched this thing on CSPAN last night and I agree with Chuck that it is an absolute travesty. The way they were counting was ridiculous . . . it was like trying to choose up sides in a pick up basketball game. They all would raise their hands, and put them down when they were counted, but you could see how much they were screwing it up (two people would put their hands down after only one had been counted, no hands would go down after both had been counted, etc.). This is certainly no way to elect a president.

That said, one take away from the post is that since 1992 on the Republican side and 1996 on the Democratic side, the Iowa caucus has picked the eventual nominee (side note: the Dean meltdown came after Kerry was picked in the caucus -- some would say because Kerry was picked in the caucus -- so it isn't fair to suggest that as the cause for Kerry's victory in Iowa). I am not sure whether this means that (a) the system in Iowa isn't really that bad, since they get it right, (b) the system in Iowa is terrible, and is tainting the process, or (c) the system in Iowa is stupid, but it's largely a coincidence that they have been getting it right.

I hope it's (c).
That said,

Open Bar said...

I think it's (b): the system in Iowa is terrible and is tainting the process.

The influence of the Iowa caucuses is way way way way way way waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too large.

The way in which the Iowa caucuses are conducted is no fucking way to pick a president, much less the class president of a high school, but CERTAINLY much less than a way to pick the most powerful person in the fucking world.

One of the most basic principles of elective democracy (which, I guess, is redundant, no?) is the secret ballot. The fact that you have to stand up in front of other people to visibly demonstrate your vote is horseshit.

It's even worse when you take into account the fact that Iowa is mostly small towns, many of which are one-industry towns, meaning that if you want to vote for someone that the majority of that small town doesn't want, you have to do that openly. Peer pressure (or family pressure, or job pressure, or friend pressure, etc.) clearly exerts an effect.

Think about it: If everyone in your family thought (A), but you thought (B), would you be more likely to vote for what you wanted in a secret ballot or a public one, in which your whole family could view (and judge) your decision?