Home 2012 races Send in the Clowns: Iowa Caucuses are a Sick Joke (and a...

Send in the Clowns: Iowa Caucuses are a Sick Joke (and a Waste of Our Time)


I have no predictions about the Iowa Caucuses because they do not matter, not to me, and not to the matter of who will win the GOP nomination.  Tradition notwithstanding, the Iowa Caucuses are one of the biggest bad jokes ever foisted upon Americans.  An atypical electorate (Iowa Caucus goers are considerably more conservative than the population as a whole, even in Iowa) is so unrepresentative of Americans that it almost unAmerican to vest Iowa with so much clout in our electoral process. But here we are again, with the supposed Republican “presidentials” giving Iowans far more attention than nearly any other state gets. And nowhere else, but Iowa and New Hampshire do the candidates go door-to-door, routinely drop by diners in towns of any minor consequence and give voters such access. They give that kind of attention to voters who would turn on a dime.  It would be laughable, as this article suggests, if it weren’t so undemocratic.  Send in the clowns (again).

If the Iowa caucuses have ever gotten it “right” (defined by voting for the one who actually got elected), prior to 2008, you had to go all the way back to 1976 to find Iowa predictive, in a Democratic caucus, not a GOP one. So bereft of any thinking capacity or any real conviction, person-on-the-street interviewees (and opinion poll responders) cannot make up their minds.  They claim to be values voters and yet have so little conviction they keep moving their support with each new gust of political wind. As just one example, read the rationale in the article I link above.  Yeh, I know, a single case does not an electorate make.  But polling shows how very malleable are the Iowa voters who warm up to one and then another and then another candidate in a manner only ditzes would.  Anyone can change his or her mind and do so reasonably–no question about that.  BUT, this year Iowa has brought new meaning to the word “indecision.”  They are indecision on steroids.  When that happens, voters no longer shape their own vote.

Essentially, the media are in charge and Iowa caucus goers are only too happy to dumb it up for them and allow the so-called mainstream media to influence them.  Of course, they are then more susceptible to negative ads as well.

Which brings me to another point. If the media are in charge, why feed them with our paying attention? Please, join me in NOT watching any of them the next couple for days, while they try to feed their overblown egos and their sponsors’ wallets.

But perhaps the worst thing about the caucus is how they are run. Unlike voters in a voting booth, you have to publicly chose which side of the room you will stand on and face pressure both social and sometimes physical over your decision. Where else does peer pressure play so visible a role and personal decison-making so little? In previous years caucus goers have gotten downright pushy (in a literal sense). The voting context should be the opposite.  What wouldn’t be tolerated in primaries is OK at the Iowa Caucuses.

But it is worse than that. There has been  considerable mischief regarding the locations of the caucuses, some of which are in homes. During the 2004 Democratic Caucus in Iowa, shenanigans included the last-minute moving of locations so supporters of a certain candidate (Howard Dean) could not find them.

In numerous ways the Iowa Caucuses make a mockery of the democratic process. It makes one wonder how we dare lecture other countries about “spreading democracy.” So, this week, I’ll take my news online and bypass caucus-related articles in the so-called MSM. And I’ll stop tuning in in the future unless and until we have a more equitable and democratic process.  

  • NotJohnSMosby

    Are you saying that elderly white rural christians do not represent the electorate, which is increasingly majority urban/suburban,  increasingly non-white, increasingly non-christian and increasingly not old?  

    Sounds like blasphemy to me.  

  • Johnny Longtorso

    It’s essentially a straw poll: caucusgoers are given a blank piece of paper and they can vote for whomever they want. Candidate supporters can speak in favor of their candidate beforehand, but there’s no requirement that voters say who they’re supporting.


    “If the Iowa caucuses have ever gotten it “right” (defined by voting for the one who actually got elected), it was only once-in 1976, in a Democratic caucus, not a GOP one.”

    Barack Obama would disagree with you on that one.

  • AnonymousIsAWoman

    I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination, but I have thought the Republican base has been flakier than usual this year – and that’s saying a lot.  Every candidate, except the one sane sounding one, Jon Huntsman, has been flavor of the week, especially in Iowa, where the GOP voters seem to change their mind with every candidate they hear.  And each of the candidates are competing to outdo the other in the craziness sweepstakes.  I mean, Ron Paul?  Really?

    And Kathy hits the nail on the head about the Iowa caucus system.  The most central feature of a true democratic process is the secret ballot, which ensures that each voter can vote their conscience in the privacy of the voting booth, free from harassment or coercion.  In the caucus system in Iowa that is turned completely on its head.

    The system is a lame joke that has gone on for far too long because it provides the media with a 12 month circus.  Well, so did bear baiting in the 16th Century and the real Roman circuses, where they threw gladiators into rings to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowd.

    Iowa can do better.  The citizens of Iowa deserve a real democratic system that doesn’t make a joke of the electoral process.  And if they want to keep their “first in the nation status,” so does the American people deserve more from them.

  • labman57

    Santorum’s last minute rise is really not all that surprising. Iowa’s GOP caucus has always been and shall always be a political anomaly. The people who participate are disproportionately extreme right wing hyper-religious conservatives, and therefore are not a useful indicator of the general Republican voting population.

    Sanctimonious chest-thumpers often perform well in Iowa’s caucus, only to flame out when other states have their more democratically-run primary elections.

    Of course, the alternatives are between an isolationism and anarchy-promoting conspiracy theorist, a master flip-flopper (who happens to be … gasp … a Mormon), a repeat adulterer and self-serving financial opportunist, a buffoon governor from Texas (part deux), and a dim-witted Minnesotan with a poor grip on reality.   GOP voters will no doubt engage in a fair amount of hand-wringing in the next few months.

  • Hugo Estrada

    The whole idea that you have to go to a place and hang around until a certain point means that you are disenfranchising the sick, the people who have to work during the caucus, students who must study, etc. They should be abolished.

    Yet I can see why local political leaders love it. It is so easy to rig under normal circumstances. In some cases, when you have more active people running, it becomes harder to fake results. Which is part of the reason why the Iowan GOP is so upset with the scenario of Ron Paul winning.

    For Iowa, I want Ron Paul to win, just so that I can see him ignored by the media; for the lulz. There no is danger in him becoming the nominee, and his winning Iowa will make the charade more interesting.