So they’re leaving us, Iowans, the candidates, their staffers and, saddest of all, the traveling media. Soon jets filled with journalists will be streaking eastward, carrying with them the nation’s strategic reserves of conventional wisdom, kilotons of coffee and thousands of Raygun shirts.
Now, Iowans, who is going to point out gaps in our state’s almond milk supply chains, or marvel at all of our “unbuilt” land and our terrifying rural roads? Who will gaze upon our expertly stacked straw bales? Who will praise or pan our breakfast pizzas or write that our great state fair “is everything that’s wrong with presidential politics.”
Someone has a stick up their corn dog.
But most importantly, who will remind us, hourly, that we’re too white, too old, too rural, too small and drink way too much Busch Light to be allowed anywhere near the start of a presidential nominating process. And by the way, your weird undemocratic and inaccessible caucuses suck, too.
Three tickets, two preferences and delegate equivalents? Gack.
“Right now, I’m as obsessed as anyone with the early-state polls. Yet I also want to use this moment to point out how bizarre the current system is — and to make a plea: The 2020 cycle should be the last time that Iowa and New Hampshire benefit at the country’s expense,” New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote last weekend in his column, “Iowa should never go first again.”
Iowa is taking sharper, more sustained criticism this time around than in any caucus cycle I can recall. Maybe it’s because these 2020 Democratic caucuses are so consequential, as Iowans tie themselves in anxious knots trying to figure out which candidate has best chance of beating you-know-who. Iowans don’t always pick winners, but the fear of picking a loser this time is palpable.
Democracy hangs in the balance. No pressure.
And we know the criticism is largely on the mark. As Leonhardt points out, Iowa’s demographic profile looks like the nation only if we’re teleported back to 1870. Candidates of color failed to gain much traction here this cycle. And please, if you’re about to say “Obama!” just stop. You’re liable to make someone yell “Steve King” at you.
For all of its quaint throwback quirkiness, our caucus process does stink for shift workers, moms with kids, disabled people, elderly folks, etc. As with so many things, the barriers are higher for low-income voters and racial minorities. These are the exact people whose backs Democrats are supposed to have.
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“Why almost nobody will defend the Iowa caucuses,” The New York Times headline blared in November. Yes, yes we know.
Actually, our best defense, by far, is that nobody has come up with a popular alternative to Iowa always going first. Forever feisty USA Today, in its recent editorial “Letting Iowa always go first in the presidential primary is un-American,” supports rotating regional primaries. Leonhardt says more diverse small states, such as Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi or Rhode Island, could go first. A national primary has been suggested, but only big money candidates could compete.
But the catch is somebody will go first. And almost everybody else will cry foul. Every state is flawed in some way. And, really, Delaware?
Of course, Iowa would be better off with a primary. But if we went to actual voting with absentee ballots, polling places open all day, etc., we’d run afoul of the galaxy’s most potent, powerful force, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. It’s his job to make sure New Hampshire always has the first primary, come earthquakes, meteorites or Iowa’s desire for improved democracy.
Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz has called for a syrupy civil war, corn vs. maple, with the winner securing the first primary. I’m just here to say, “I’m Todd Dorman, and I’m reporting for duty.”
Another problem may be whatever happens Monday night. New caucus rules could cause confusion and delay. Phone apps calculating delegate equivalents could hit a snag. Crowds could test the limits of available space and sanity.
Maybe our media pals will understand the results and report them in a thoughtful manner, allowing for quirks and foibles. And maybe they’ll declare it all a hopeless mess and do live shots in front of the burning remnants of Iowa’s political prominence.
And what will the media say about us when they’re gone? Will they crave breakfast pizza? Will they shock their coastal pals and order a Busch Light? We’ll soon find out.
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Of course, these sorrowful partings always are hardest on the children. When little ones wonder why is nobody is asking mommy or daddy about “electability” anymore, what do you say?
So, to make it easier, I’ve rewritten Goodnight Moon.
In a Midwest state
There was a caucus night.
And some crowded rooms.
And an odd quirky process —
The media loved to hate.
And there were three final tallies, after so many rallies.
And too many winners
And Casey’s pizza dinners.
Hopes for almond milk dashed.
But there’s plenty of ranch.
And a Joe and a Pete and a Bernie compete
And a woman from Mass. with her plans so complete.
Goodbye rooms. (they booked on Expedia)
Goodbye fried food we all tried feedin’ ya.
And, yes, we’re too white.
And yes, we’re too old.
Goodbye young kids who toiled to the end
And goodbye working moms who couldn’t attend.
Goodbye live trucks
And goodbye ad bucks.
Goodbye sleepless staffs
And goodbye Biden’s gaffes.
Goodbye Medicare plans
And goodbye Yang’s monthly grand.
Goodbye poll explanations
And goodbye gamed expectations.
Goodbye hot-take tweets
And goodbye big bar receipts.
And goodbye full inbox.
And goodbye not viable
And goodbye to also-rans with names so un-rhyme-able.
Goodbye pundit frustration.
Goodbye reporters, way up in the air.
Hello sweet quiet everywhere.
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