…or run an empire. Paul Waldman, in a fit of coastal pique, critiqued the myth of the informed Iowa voter as a reason to switch the primary calendar. But what’s really bothered me about the Iowa primary is the entire caucus process. While I’m not a believer in the idea that a different political voting process would yield dramatically better governance, the Iowa caucus procedure is so stupid that I’m willing to make an exception (italics mine):
Unlike the Republican caucuses in Iowa, which are fairly simple, akin to a straw poll, the Democratic caucuses are arcane, rule-bound Party meetings where members are not picking Presidential candidates but choosing delegates to their county conventions. Winning the most delegates for your favored candidate requires not only a sure grasp of mathematics but a keen understanding of group dynamics. In 2004, John Kerry’s precinct captains were generally professionals who knew how to use caucus arithmetic to get more delegates for their candidate, while Howard Dean’s captains were young and poorly trained newcomers who were outmaneuvered in caucus rooms across the state. Waliser is training her captains to be disciplined. Within each precinct, she counselled, an Obama team had to include people responsible for specific tasks, including a “host,” a “greeter,” a “checker,” and a “persuader.” And then there’s the “corraller.” At each caucus, any candidate who does not gain the support of a certain percentage of the attendees–typically, fifteen per cent–is considered nonviable, and supporters may disband and align with other candidates. “Realignment” is a chaotic moment when campaigns descend on each other’s groups and try to poach from them. The arguments used during realignment are notoriously haphazard, ranging from the high-minded (“Join my group because my candidate opposed the war”) to the pedestrian (“Join my group because I loaned you a snow shovel last week”). This, Waliser explained, is why every Obama group needed a corraller–to ward off the poachers. “This person will in a polite and respectful manner physically contain the Obama group and ask them to stay in their place,” she told her precinct captains. She suggested feeding them in case they got restless. “The name of the game on caucus night is stand and stay, so this is where the chocolate-chip cookies are crucial.”
The future president of the most heavily armed (and too often, bellicose) nation will be decided by fucking cookies? Will macadamia nuts put Obama over the top? And I am definitely not an Iowan, because if someone tried to ‘corral’ me to keep my vote*, said corraller would get a wicked headbutt**. This kind of manipulation sickens me, and is no way to run an empire.
Or even a democratic republic.
*I can’t imagine the hilarity, albeit possibly violent, that would ensue if this were tried in much of the Northeast. At best, voters might simply demand a ballot (actually, a “fucking ballot”).
**If he or she were really tall, a punch to ‘the groin area’, as sportscasters like to say, might have to do.
Whatever the caucus method, it is ridiculous that a small, rural, demographically unrepresentative (white as snow) state has such disproportionate power. It is past time to end the tyranny of Iowa.
I participated in the Iowa Democratic caucus seven years ago. Yes, the run-up to that infamous election! To be honest, I registered as a Democrat solely for the purpose of participating in the caucus.
We met at a school and were shuttled into various classrooms. I can’t remember what the sorting procedure was. I remember that the people in my room conducted a vote regarding our preferred candidates. Al Gore beat Bill Bradly by a pretty good margin in my room. Most of what we discussed, after selecting a delegate to the state convention (I don’t think it was a county convention, as stated above; either the procedure changed from 2000 to 2004, or my memory is faulty – probably the latter), were local organizational issues. We discussed various committees and voted on people to fill vacant slots, etc. It was an educational experience.
When my family and I moved to another state the following year, I registered per my true preference, as an independent.
You might want to ixnay on the eadbuttinghay: