Caucus Schmaucus

While I know that the media is salivating because of the Iowa Caucus results, methinks they celebrate too early. What is the deal with Iowa, anyway? I mean, why on Earth does anyone put so much stock in this silliness? While it delights me that Hillary came in third, I am by no means confident that it means she won’t end up as the Democrat candidate. In fact, I’d bet the ranch on it, if I had one.

But this weird idea that Iowa is somehow representative of the rest of the country, that it is a microcosm of America is just wrong. Its population is approximately 2.9 million people, less than a third of the population of Los Angeles. The city. You know? It is 94% white, of those only about 3% hispanic and 2.5% black and primarily agricultural. How does that equate to being representive of the whole country? Answer: it doesn’t.

From the LA Times: If history is any guide, only about 200,000 of Iowa’s 3 million residents — or about half the population of Long Beach — will actually turn out for today’s caucuses. Will this handful of voters really decide the winner of the 2008 presidential race, as the media hype and furious campaigning from contenders in both parties seem to indicate? Of course not, though there’s a chance they could help determine the losers.

So, how good have they been at picking/prediction our next Commander in Chief? Since 1972, only once has a winner gone on to the presidency – George W. Bush in 2000. Jimmy Carter’s presidential victory in 1976 is said not to count because though he was the top Dem finisher in Iowa, more voters chose the “uncommitted” category (so, he won because the uncommitteds voted for him? I confused) therefore there was no clear Democratic winner that year. In 1988 George H.W. Bush, who went on to be the 41st president, finished behind Bob Dole and Pat Robertson. In 1980, George H.W. Bush beat out Ronald Reagan in Iowa Republican caucuses, but ended up as Reagan’s vice president. In 1992 Bill Clinton only got 2.8% of the Democratic Iowa vote, losing to Tom Harkin of Iowa and behind Paul Tsongas.

So, I’d have to say based on those statistics, they ain’t batting a thousand. In fact, based on my math it looks like they get it right about 3% of the time. Now, tell me again, why they are popping champaign corks and going wild all over the place?

The fact is, if you want a caucus such as the one held in Iowa to really measure anything, to really mean anything – it would have to be held in a state perhaps just a little bit bigger. Say, I don’t like…California, New York, Florida, Ohio…you know a place that actually has a population and a cross section of same. I’m loathe to use the D word but how does a small bunch of white farmer dudes have the pulse on the nation?

Frankly, I think the caucus tradition as it is practiced today is utterly worthless. It simply sets up certain geographical locations to get a buttload of money and tourism every four years and feel important.

And unfortunately, it’s not likely to change – it seems a pretty sure bet that Iowa won’t be letting go of that gravy train any time soon. So every four years we’ll be subjected to this false indicator of American politics.

Like so many others, it only serves to excite the media and rarely influences the rest of us.

Word of advice to the bass player and the rock star – your fifteen minutes may be up sooner than you think.

WC

If you want to know a little bit about the history of the caucus, read this.

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10 thoughts on “Caucus Schmaucus

  1. I agree with most of what you said. The caucus is really indicative of only one thing: People must actually DO something now… they must physically get up from the couch and go to a polling place and spend some time there. So, in my opinion, it’s simply a gauge to what people are willing to do. As far as Barack – this is a strange thing that I’ve heard about the southern black vote – black folks in the south are not willing to support him because they think that white folks won’t support him. But with Iowa, being predominantly white, it’s obvious that white people like Obama as well.

    It’s moderately interesting right now, but it’s a long long way until the election.

    peace,
    P

    Hey Phil,
    I think you’re right, people must do something – whether they will or not remains to be seen.

    As to Barak, I’ve read differing views on the issue of whether or not blacks will vote for him – but the issue seems to be that they don’t like that he isn’t a Christian. Of course, it’s probably all rumor, no one really wastes time truly analysing anything, especially pollsters and media types. They find a little hook/niche that they like and run with it. As to Iowa disproving the ‘whites won’t vote for him’ theory – I don’t think it does prove anything either way – Historically, blacks vote Democrat, regardless – if Barak becomes their candidate, I’m sure they’ll pull the lever for him. I think the only thing that would change that is if Barak were a Republican – then probably yeah, they wouldn’t vote for him. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

    WC

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  2. LOL, WC. Who are you cheering for to get the nominations? So far, I can tell who you don’t like, but I can’t tell who you like.

    Every time I see Ethanol being used as an additive in my gasoline or High Fructose Corn Syrup as the first or second ingredient in something that my toddlers are eating, I offer up a whisper of gratitude to that small bunch of white farmer dudes in Iowa. No, actually I don’t do that. But your post gave me the idea. 🙂

    Hey Windy!
    I guess the problem is that I really don’t know who I like or if I like any of them. So far, no one has impressed me on either side of the aisle. They’re either froot loops, smarmy or boring as hell. Anybody out there, please feel free to sell me on your candidate, because at this stage, I endorse no one. In a way, that’s kind of fun because I can poke fun at all of them equally – trying to look on the bright side here.

    Though, all kidding aside, I’m a little vahklemped that I don’t feel like I have a horse in this race. I’d love to have a candidate about whom I could feel passionate and want to support. That may change as the wheat is separated from the chaff or I may just have to hold my nose and vote against a candidate by voting for another. Sad, really as I hate feeling that way.

    Let me know how that ethanol/corn syrup post turns out. 😉
    WC

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  3. Great post…but I just have this little child that laughs inside at the word caucus. I can’t even help it.

    My girlfriend moved out to Iowa this year and has no idea what is even going on there. She had no idea why anyone would spend $$$ to woo the folks there.

    I’m with you, Cowgal – caucus does lend itself to pun, eh?

    Your girlfriend isn’t alone – I’d say much of the country is wondering the same thing – yet, nothing changes. Go figure.
    Wc

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  4. WC, because I detest “pings” I came over to let you know that you were mentioned in my latest post, but I didn’t link to you because pings always end up looking so sloppy. 🙂 Cheers!

    Hey Windy,
    Tell me more about your disgust with pings – interesting. Commented on yours just now.
    WC

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  5. Hi WC,

    The main reason anyone pays attention to the Iowa thing is that it is an early indicator of how the Party Faithful will vote. Also, for those candidates who are having trouble convincing the Big Donors to shell out the funds a win, place, or show can loosen the purse strings. One must also suspect that the news media, not known for their intellectual ability, has to be fascinated by the unusual complexity of the Democrat caucus.

    As to a small bunch of white farmer dudes and American politics, who do you think fomented the revolution that founded this country? I would also point out that, as a member of that group, I seem to know more than most where politics, and many other subjects, is concerned. Of course, there is also something to be said in favor of the idea that those who feed the nation run the nation, which, if you care to look at any of the last few dozen agricultural spending bills passed by Congress and signed into law by Presidents of both Parties, seems to have some factual support. On the other hand, there’s also the influence and money our Secret Society controls, but I really can’t say more about that.

    the Grit

    Hi Grit,
    While I bow to your superior political knowledge, I fear you missed my point. My point is that I don’t believe that Iowa reflects the current electorate. They may reflect the original settlers of this country and certainly the framers – but that is another post for another time. Also, if I’m not mistaken, it tends to be predominately democrat, doesn’t it? Maybe I’m reading my stats wrong?

    You see, my dear blogging friend, if most people knew as much as you did about politics and the Constitution we would indeed, live in a much different country. Sadly, they don’t.

    WC

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  6. Excellent points. Of course, I’ve heard that both Biden and Dodd are going to drop out because of the results last night, and Romney is in serious trouble because he spent so much money to win and ended up coming in a distant second, so I think the results could be lasting. I think a big reason why it has so much pull is because it’s the first major election.

    Hey Caryn,
    Welcome back! I’m not surprised about Biden and Dodd, they always run and they never get any traction, so to me, that was a given. Romney has lots of dough and lots of supporters – he still came in second and considering that a huge Evangelist majority block exists in Iowa, the cards seemed a little stacked in Huckabee’s favor. He won’t find the same reception in New Hampshire, I don’t think.

    I agree, the reason it is such a pull is because it is the first caucus – but my gripe is that the first one is in Iowa – as opposed to a more populus state, containing a larger cross section of our society. I still contend, were that the case it would be a much more valid political indicator. Though, I could be wrong. 😉
    WC

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  7. Hi WC,

    I was only trying to explain why, to most everyone’s dismay, so much attention is paid to the Iowa Caucus thing. As to your complements (blush, kick dirt) thanks. You’re welcome to Sunday dinner any time.

    the Grit

    Hi Grit!
    And a good explanation it was – as I said, I bow to your superior understanding.
    WC

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  8. The issue with Iowa is not so much that it’s small and it’s early, but that it’s all alone – nothing else going on at that time, and the people who turn the cranks for the 24-hour news cycle see themselves as having no choice in the matter but to front-page every time a contender sniffles. Then again, to undercut my own premise, I must point out that there were caucuses in Wyoming today, but you didn’t hear about them, because [1] Wyoming has about the same population as Long Beach, California and [2] no Democrats were involved – it was a Republican event only. Oh, and Mitt Romney won.

    Call me crazy, CG, but you seem to be proving my point. 😉
    WC

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  9. whether iowa is representative of the nation is one thing… and obviously it is not. whether it influences states to come is another thing, and i am not at all convinced that it does not

    a few points: you have to look at the nominees that won iowa rather than at the presidents who won it; also, the fact that W. took it last time IS important, especially couple with the fact that Kerry took it in 2004. because that means that it is since clinton in 1992 that someone wins without iowa. and that’s almost twenty years! (gore won in iowa in 2000 as well; dole in 1996 too)

    so it does matter; also, its not as if Iowa influenced, alone, the whole country. it obviously goes more like an avalanche: iowa influences NH; Iowa and NH influence the rest of the january states; all the january states influence supertuesday

    Well, sorry Yucca but that wasn’t the point. The point was that Iowa doesn’t represent – as to candidates vs presidents, you lose me a little there – but if your theory is correct, you must be sad that Hillary came in third.

    As to this election cycle – I still believe Hillary will become the Dem candidate, regardless of what happened in Iowa and (conversely) I doubt seriously that Huckabee will get the ultimate Republican nod. While I might like to fantacize that Hillary’s last place slot in the Iowa caucus means she won’t be accepting her party’s nominaton in the not too distant future – I’m just not that naive. As to Barak Obama, by and large his largest contingency appears to be the younger, 20 something crowd, which historically is the lowest turnout demographic for any election (remember McGovern?).

    And speaking of demographics, NH’s demos are so far and away different than those of Iowa, I simply don’t see one influencing the other.

    All that being said, in terms of predicting who the next president of the united states will be, Iowa has a 3% success rate.

    WC

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  10. Inasmuch as actual policy differences among the Democrats are minimal to nonexistent, what you have here is a referendum: Hillary or NotHillary. The various flavors of NotHillary don’t matter so much as their simply being NotHillary. Discourages looking too deeply into their souls, I suppose. (Except John Edwards, who, if he has a soul, shoplifted it from a Banana Republic store.)

    Hey CG!
    Well said and I couldn’t agree more.
    WC

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