Iowa

So now that the dust has cleared and the smoke has settled (for the most part), what can we gather from the Iowa Caucuses?

Well, obviously, Iowa needs to work on its ballot counting system. A few kinks should always be expected, since no system is perfect – especially because no matter how foolproof you make it, some fool isn’t going to follow the perfectly clear instructions and screw things up. But when you’re making such a major change, you probably should do a dress rehearsal field test before the big event.

The news media ought to have a bit of patience, too. In situations like this, you don’t need to have the results yesterday, if not sooner. Wait a bit and give them the chance to get it right. You can spend more time speculating about the outcome, too!

The other major complaint I’ve been reading about is from political junkies buffs complaining about how the Iowa Caucuses are so “undemocratic”. Seems they don’t like this rural, low diversity, low population state acting as a sort of “kingmaker” in the nominating process.

Well, first of all, it’s Iowa’s caucus – they get to set the rules. Is it more “democratic” to allow them to do so, or have rules imposed on them by some outside dictator? And it’s only to decide the party’s nominee – not something that affects the entire country, regardless of political affiliation. The party can set its own rules. Everyone will have a chance to weigh in on the matter come November.

Secondly, Iowa isn’t some watery tart lobbing a scimitar at the caucus “winner”, thereby anointing them as The Nominee. They are just one out of several primaries, and not even the largest. Iowa sends the grand total of forty-one delegates to the national convention. That’s about one percent of the total. It isn’t even a “winner take all” state! Delegates are apportioned among the candidates who did well in the caucus (“You get some delegates! You get some delegates! And you get some delegates!”) How can that be anything like “kingmaker” status? If it occupies that position, it’s largely because the news media put it there. It’s the first contest on the calendar, so the press finally has some actual results to talk about. So they tend to treat it with more import than it really deserves.

Look, in pretty much every way you can schedule the primaries, there’s going to be one that comes first. No matter which state it is, the press is going to overhype the results. And forget about scheduling all the primaries on the same day. The candidates won’t like it – they’ll be forced to travel like mad across the country. The press won’t like it – they won’t be able to stretch their coverage out for months, discussing and debating all the issues like who’s advancing in the polls and who’s fading and what each candidate needs to do to win. And the voters won’t be well-served either – they won’t be getting enough facetime with the candidates to have their concerns given any sort of attention.

Finally, as far as the “diversity” issue goes, well, if we stop treating Iowa as if it were the only primary, then diversity isn’t important anymore, is it. If you pick another state to go first, which one? I really doubt that any single state is truly representative of the diversity of the country. That’s why Iowa is one of many states with a primary – so the net result does give a representative sample of Americans. Heck, even if you look at just the first four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina – that’s a pretty representative sample in itself.

I’m starting to think of the Iowa Caucuses as the equivalent of a Spring Training game. We’re finally getting to see the candidates in something resembling the “real world”, where actual voter preferences matter. Though there are still a few kinks to be worked out, we can start getting a good sense of how things will shake out over Primary Season.

“Mayor Pete” is doing better than expected, and may give us a true breakout season. Sanders is looking good, but can he keep it up over the long haul? “Big Liz” Warren is just about fully recovered from a minor injury early on – can she be back at full strength in time for it to matter? Amy “The K” is performing about as well as we thought she would – can she still surprise us? Crafty veteran “Uncle Joe” Biden is off to a slow start in what is almost certainly his final season. If he hasn’t come around by the time the team leaves South Carolina….

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