The Iowa Caucasians
You are driving along. There is an accident ahead. Finally you pass it and, as you do, you turn to see the carnage. Sometimes you wish you hadn’t but you know you will do it again next time.
Failing concepts stitched together to support the embarrassing anachronism known as the Iowa Caucuses is pretty much like that. I have no empirical data, but there seems to be increased use of the word “trudge” in stories about this quadrennial political rite.
The components of the Iowa democracy industry lean on each other for support like a bunch of drunks lacking a lamppost. They praise democracy but practice only the business of democracy. The Iowa Caucuses, better named the Iowa Caucasians, are at best an anachronism and at worst outright harmful.
About one American voter in 1000 participates. The Democrats use this vital event to select less than 1 in 50 of its convention delegates. The Republicans do better: 1 in 40. And the voters at the caucuses don’t even select these delegates; there are two more steps in that process.
Even this micro-sample is unrepresentative: 9 out of 10 Iowa voters are white vs. 3 out of 4 nationally. 57% of the GOP turnout will be Christian conservatives, a far larger percentage than will vote in November. But, because Iowa comes first, many months of attention, to say nothing of several debates, are focused on its unique constituents. The Democrats turn left and the Republicans turn right.
Accepted practice requires each campaign to have a colorful bus in which the candidate is driven around to sample unusual foods that he or she would never willingly eat. The lesser candidates try to gain attention by executing the Full Grassley – visiting all 99 counties – named for 82-year-old Senator Chuck Grassley who originated the practice back when it might have been remotely relevant.
Most organizations try to become more efficient, but the democracy industry thrives on being less so. It is supported by contributions in ever-larger amounts of which participants often receive a percentage. Our two political parties, charged with facilitating the selection of the leader of the free world, are ringing doorbells and planting yard signs in the frozen ground. They are trying to get people to leave their houses, go to a high school gym, argue with their neighbors, listen to boring speeches then indicate their preference by moving to one corner of the room or another. This is called the ground game and it is a big part of what the Ds and Rs spend money on.
Meanwhile there are coders in Silicon Valley making themselves useful.
Polling is the art of gaining useless and generally inaccurate information sooner than other people. The Iowa Caucasians caucus on Monday and the results will be irrelevant soon after. Why then does one need to have the results a few days earlier especially when most of it will turn out to be wrong? Polling was once done door-to-door, but now the best of it is done by phone. Not all phones because it is illegal to cold call cell phones and guess which voters only have cell phones. Despite being inaccurate, polling is important to determine the ad buys. This is the holy grail of the democracy industry because of the huge commissions paid to the top campaign consultants.
And then there is ethanol.
You see it at every gas station and it comes from the corn they grow in Iowa. It is useless environmentally and mandating its use increases the cost of gasoline while simultaneously increasing the cost of food. It’s not even that good a business as the same amount of corn would be grown to be eaten as would be grown to fuel your car.
The mandatory inclusion of ethanol in automobile fuel is nice but the real money is in lobbying for the mandatory inclusion of ethanol in automobile fuel. And who is a leader in that industry? Why none other than Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and his family.
There is a blizzard expected to hit Iowa tonight but unfortunately not until after the Iowa Caucasians have caucused. If Iowa boosts the prospects of candidates you hate, you’ll wish the blizzard had arrived sooner.
And if one of them gets elected, you can thank Terry Branstad for keeping Iowa first on the electoral calendar.