Why the Iowa Caucuses -- and the GOP Clowns Competing in Them -- Are a Total Joke
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Pardon me if I fail to join the crowd handicapping next week’s Iowa GOP caucuses like race track touts peddling betting tips on the Kentucky Derby.
To begin with, I have no clue. Except on the sports page, I normally skip articles speculating about what might happen tomorrow. Damned if I’m going to start writing them.
Also, who cares? History teaches that Iowa Republicans have a particularly poor record of supporting the eventual presidential winner. In six contested GOP primaries dating back to 1976, Iowans have gotten it right exactly once. They chose George W. Bush in 2000 — definitely nothing to brag about.
In essence, the Iowa caucuses amount to a marketing device for cable TV news channels; it’s “American Idol” for the politically obsessed. Their secondary function is to introduce cosmopolitan news correspondents to the homespun wisdom of Real Americans in places like Ankeny, Iowa, a Des Moines suburb where John Deere tractors are manufactured.
A Washington Post reporter found a grandmother there he thought epitomized Iowa voters’ inability to make up their minds. First, she liked Texas Gov. Rick Perry on account of his advertised piety. Then she watched Perry’s hilarious impersonation of a stoned cowboy during the umpty-seven GOP debates, and switched to The Girl With the Faraway Eyes, as Esquire’s Charles Pierce calls her, also due to her religiosity.
Alas, Michele Bachmann “has kind of an annoying voice,” so grandma changed to Newt for a few days before seeing a TV report of U.S. troops pulling out of Iraq, taking no casualties as they went. God, she believed, had protected them in spite of gay marriage, abortion, consumerism and greed. And if God hadn’t given up on America, how could she? So she dropped “the smart one” (Newt) in favor of the holiest candidate of all.
“It was just this big epiphany,” she said. “We’ve got to vote for Santorum! That’s all there is to it.”
If Santorum’s lucky, his newest supporter won’t learn that he has bitterly criticized President Obama on the grounds that very far from following God’s plan, by leaving Iraq the U.S. has “lost the war.” He’s also keen on attacking Iran, a nearby country several times larger than Iraq.
Anyway, who knows? Maybe the nice lady in Ankeny — whose vote counts every bit as much as yours, mine and Lady Gaga’s — would be down with that, although in my experience it’s the rare grandmother who’s enthused about preemptive bombing strikes.
Besides, what’s alarming about the GOP contest isn’t the indecisiveness or poor reasoning processes of Iowa voters. It’s the dismal quality of the choices they’re offered. Is this the best that one of America’s two major political parties can do? You’ve got to wonder what would happen if they put “None of the Above” on the ballot.
With the possible exception of Mitt Romney, there’s not one among them you’d hire to run a WalMart — a difficult job requiring mastery of a million details and an ability to manage people. Of course, if you did hire Romney, you might wake up to find he’d fired all the employees, spun off the grocery operation, and sold the building to Dollar General for a fraction of its value and a player to be named later.
Even the former Massachusetts governor appears only intermittently in touch with the visible world. Recently he described himself as an advocate of “the opportunity society” and his putative opponent as follows: “President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing — the government.”