Friday, January 04, 2008
I'm not usually a cynical person [shaddap] but this interminable presidential campaign is really getting on my nerves. So as a palliative, here's a partial response to all the pundits, commentators, and bloggers who have been bloviating, predicting, speculating and analyzing Iowa to death.
One: IOWA DOES NOT MEAN JACK SHIT. Who wins in Iowa doesn't (shouldn't) affect the outcome any more than who wins in Wisconsin (just to pick a state at random, y'know). Except that there are always fewer candidates to choose from by the time they get to Wisconsin. Sometimes there's only one.
Iowa is only important because it's first, which takes me to point number...
Two: Iowa is first because in 1972 the state conventions set rules that caused their primary to be held on January 24th, which just happened to be earlier than everybody else's. The only reason, now, for Iowa to be first is 'tradition,' but that tradition is only 35 years old. I think that politicians, seeing that Iowa is first, try to suck up to voters there by promising them that Iowa will always be first, that Iowa should be first.
I've argued before: group the states into regions, have a regional primary every few weeks, and rotate them so everybody gets a chance to be first.
In 2004, Hawaii held its primary and the only candidate that even bothered to show up was Kucinich. How do you think Hawaii feels? On to point number...
Three: I said recently about Tommy Thompson: if you're dropping out of the race because you did poorly in a straw ballot, you can't have been very serious in the first place. Well, if you're dropping out after only one state has actually voted, you can't have been very serious either. Dodd, Biden, I'm talking to you. You wasted your time, and dissed everyone who volunteered on your campaigns. In case you missed it, scroll back up to point number one: Iowa is only one smallish state. Not that many delegates. Yet you took Iowa so seriously that you pinned your entire campaign on it, just because its first. That apparently makes sense to a lot of people, but not to me.
But maybe I'm being a little harsh, as I explain in point number...
Four: Dodd and Biden (and Richardson, and everyone else) had the misfortune of never being dubbed "the front-runners". And who are the Democratic front-runners? Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, who all together are less well-traveled than any one of the previously mentioned gentlemen. And how did they get to be the front-runners? I don't know but will speculate for your entertainment.
Early (really early) opinion polls, asking questions like "which of these might you support for president?" Well, everybody's heard of Clinton and Edwards, right? Same goes for Giuliani and McCain. But how many Americans, prior to the three million pre-Iowa debates, knew who Chris Dodd or Mike Gravel were? Duncan Hunter? Anyone?
People aren't going to answer that question with a name they've never heard before, so they either decline to answer or they pick someone they know something about. That is, someone they've heard of. And the media report that these candidates are popular among likely voters and are therefore "front-runners" before anyone is even campaigning, really.
I realize this doesn't explain Romney or Obama. I further speculate that they received extra attention because they come from minority groups.
Either way, once the media starts reporting that you're a "front-runner," more and more people hear your name and learn that lots of other people support your candidacy. And they think 'well, candidate A has all the support, there's no way candidate B could possibly win. I guess I'll go with candidate A.'
We may have reached the point where only a celebrity can be elected president.
By the way, its very likely that the primaries will effectively be over by the end of February, leaving us with a single candidate per party still going and therefore a general election campaign that's EIGHT F***ING MONTHS LONG. Everybody gets that, right?
So our system of choosing presidential candidates, and therefore presidents, is dominated by a small, nonrepresentative, and arbitrarily chosen portion of the electorate. It heavily rewards celebrity, self-aggrandizement, and superficiality. It is hostile to a large field of candidates, which seems counter to the national interest, in my estimation.
And because the primaries are controlled by the parties, not the states or the feds, and because public perception is largely a function of the news cycle and polls, and because neither of those things is inherently wrong...
point number five: there's not a thing any of us can do about any of it.
Gaze in awe as I spit in the face of conventional wisdom. As I blame the establishment, and the media. Gaze in awe.
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