People who follow politics can get as sick of a story as those who don’t. Not often; just occasionally. That’s because our junkie tolerance for eating sawdust without asking for water is a little higher. But, in the case of the Iowa Caucuses in particular, and the Republican presidential primaries in general, I’m reaching for a large – very large – glass.
The shameful pandering of the incompetent-leading-the-unknowing has been going on for months. Now, in the final days, rock hard political positions have become just so much verbal putty to be reshaped on a moment’s notice depending on the audience. “Nailing Jello to a tree,” the man said. Promises of “clean campaigning” have been broken as often as a maiden’s heart. Fully half of all political ads in Iowa on this day are bashing Newt. Half! And dollars by the millions are pouring in from just about everyplace except Iowa.
Still, most of us really don’t know how the Iowa process works. Or even if it does. Herewith, some thoughts on that.
You start off with the basic, indisputable fact that Iowa – demographically and politically – is unlike the rest of the nation in nearly every category. It’s political history – stacked up against nearly any other state – is peculiar to itself. Even who votes and how is not widely understood. Or copied.
For example, the 2010 census count for the state was 3,007,856. In the 2008 primary election, the caucuses had a record-breaking 118,411 delegate votes cast. Just under four percent of Iowa’s total population. Statistically you could make a case that less than four percent of 3 million is hardly representative of Iowa much less anywhere else.
Nearly all caucus delegates are chosen at the county level. Since the fundamentalist Christian movement – and the right wing in general – among Republicans controlling the delegate selection process in Iowa is higher than many other states, their influence in that less than four percent is outsized and distorts both the Republican Party at-large and the state as a whole. It should also be remembered that in Iowa – as in many other states – the right wing controls the state GOP mechanics which can make nearly any “official” view a minority view among all Iowa Republicans.
Then there’s cost. Huge cost. The Des Moines Chamber of Commerce has estimated spending by candidates, parties and all those legal-but-shamefully-wrong anonymous Super Pacs amounts to seven to 10% of the state’s total economy in a primary year. No small potatoes.
So, what is the cost? Well, here very late in December, the latest official tally of candidate and PAC spending is $15,433,000. And that’ll go up before the Jan. 3rd caucuses. As of today, that figures out to be about $130.32 per delegate vote. Add to that the costs of campaign staffing, huge amounts of travel and all the other outgo associated and you can see why the Des Moines Chamber is a big booster of the event.
It’s big bucks. But is the outcome worth it? Or even valid? Winners of past caucuses have not notoriously been the eventual Republican nominee. Some – like Mike Huckabee in 2008 – disappeared within a couple of months of his Iowa victory. Most politicians look at Iowa as simply a “momentum starter” as they go on to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and elsewhere. And sometimes it is. Then – look at Huckabee.
What’s made me reach for large amounts of water to wash down the political sawdust isn’t the Iowa primary itself. Even though the case can be made that all the millions of dollars, irrelevant noise, the incessant polling and candidate posturing aren’t terribly helpful to the nation when it’s over. It just ends.
No, as one of the registered Independents that Republicans want – and badly need – this time around, what’s soured me on the whole situation is the motley group of candidates from which to chose. As a whole, these eight have more baggage than a United Airlines flight to London.
None of them – not one – has taken a position on a major issue and stuck with it. None – not one – has laid out a coherent plan for our economy, foreign affairs, national defense or any other major category. None – not one – has given this registered Independent voter a reason to mark his/her name on a ballot.
We’ve been given nearly a year of constant criticism, misinformation. distortion and outright ignorance without any positive – or even knowledgeable – plan for the future. Information we voters badly need.
Those of us who don’t hold a party affiliation – for which we can be counted on for near-automatic support – have to be offered better than we have. By both major parties. I’m not entirely crazy with the status quo in the White House. But I’m not going to chose one of these crazies just to change it.