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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.  

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