Iowa

January 3, 2008

Finally.  In just a few hours, a tiny percentage of Iowa’s voters (the most partisan and ideologically driven, of course) will, on behalf of us all, take the first (disproportionately large) steps toward electing our next president.  Ah, Democracy.  I hadn’t planned to post about this today, but it was all over NPR and CNN this morning, and when I went to the gym, everyone I encountered there was talking about it, too.  Really.  Both of them.  You see, the University isn’t in session, so the students aren’t around.  But had they been I’m reasonably certain that, though they wouldn’t have been talking about the caucuses, they would have been capable, with only a bit of prodding, to tell me where on a map Iowa could be found.  (“It’s in the U.S., right?  One of the middle ones?”)  But I digress.

One hears a lot these days about how ridiculous it is that Iowa and New Hampshire (which, as many students know, isn’t even near the middle) wield such a huge amount of influence over the Presidential selection process.  You’ve heard the arguments.  Both states are too small and too homogenous to offer a representative sampling of the country’s opinion on a matter of such importance.  Blah, blah, blah.  Let’s be honest about this.  Hosting these early contests is like siting a nuclear waste facility.  No place is a good place, but you sure as hell don’t want it happening in YOUR state.  I mean, think about it.  Would you really want Mitt Romney traipsing through your living room?  Would you want to host a coffee for Dennis Kucinich and then have to spend two hours talking to the guy yourself because no one else showed up?  Of course you wouldn’t.  No one would.  It’s not that Iowa and New Hampshire lucked out.  More likely, some years back their governors were the last guys to shout, “Not it!”  Poor bastards.

More to the point, there is some logic to this.  You couldn’t possibly have the first caucus in New York or California, or even Florida or Texas.  Why?  Because even in January, there is WAY too much to do in those states.  Given the choice, would you rather a) caucus for Joe Biden, or b) go to Disneyland?  Yeah, I thought so.  But I promise you, there isn’t anything else to do in Iowa when it’s 7 degrees and snowing and the sun goes down at 4:00 in the afternoon.  Might as well have coffee with Hillary or Rudy or Barack or Mike.  (At this point I was going to type, “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick,” or some such.  But then it occurred to me that having experienced neither a candidate coffee nor said poke in the eye, I wasn’t ready to render judgment on the choice.)

In any case, my point is, before you go complaining about Iowa’s inordinate power in this process, you should ask yourself, “Would I have wanted to spend the last eight months dodging motorcades and stepping over the political corpses of Mike Gravel and Tom Tancredo?”  I think not.

In all seriousness, I have my ideas about what’s going to happen tonight and on the primary nights to come, but what’s remarkable about this year is the uncertainty of it all.  Before becoming a writer, I studied political history, and before that I worked for a political consulting firm.  And I can safely say that I’ve never seen anything like this year.  I can come up with plausible scenarios by which 5 different guys win the GOP nomination, and though the Democratic race looked like a coronation a couple of months ago, it’s not looking that way now.  If by some chance the finish tonight is 1. Edwards, 2. Obama, 3. Clinton, the race will be wide open, and even the fourth place candidate, whoever that may be, will have a chance at the nomination.  And I’d argue that this is not only fun, it’s how it should be.  This may well be the most important election in my lifetime.  The campaign deserves our attention; it should be suspenseful and exciting and even tumultuous.  Maybe if campaigns were as exciting as sporting events, debates would get better ratings than bowl games.  Imagine that.

Today’s music:  Kenny Burrell (‘Round Midnight)

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2 Responses to “Iowa”

  1. Frank said

    The Thing that bugs me about Iowa being first is the fact that every candidate (Or at least every democrat) is compelled to pinky-swear to support corn-based ethanol simply because it is good for the corn farmers, regardless of the fact that it may or may not be very good for the nation.

    Back years ago, more oil was needed to make a gallon of ethanol than the ethanol could replace, making it a de facto, mathematically proven losing deal. But candidates supported it anyway, cause they needed the votes of corn farmers’ friends and families.

    Nowadays we just barely more than break even, energy-wise, with corn ethanol, so it’s viable, but there are still problems. I work in a gas station and recently saw an internal memo detailing the procedures for handling E-85 ethanol at those locations which do. I was shocked, SHOCKED, to find that if any water at all get in your 2000+ gallon tank full of E-85 Ethanol, YOU HAVE TO THROW THE WHOLE BATCH AWAY.

    It doesn’t separate from water the way gasoline does. A couple of pints of rainwater can ruin a four thousand gallon batch of ethanol faster than you can say “Energy Independence”

    There are hundreds of alternative, efficient, renewable energy sources out there; Ethanol is over-represented because Iowa is over-represented.

    And, in the words of Forrest Gump, That’s all I have to say about that. Sorry about the long rant/comment.

  2. davidbcoe said

    Thanks for the very interesting comment, Frank. I agree with you about ethanol, and it’s a shame really, because there are biofuel alternatives that DO work and that CAN be good for the environment, but the agri-lobby has grabbed hold of ethanol and turned it into something as entrenched and harmful as oil.

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