I like the Iowa caucus.
That’s not to say I like everything about the Iowa caucus.
I don’t particularly care for perpetual phone calls from amateur candidate marketers. I don’t especially like strangers in matching T-shirts knocking on my door to discuss politics. I don’t like political flyers in my mailbox — and I especially dislike negative television and radio ads.
These things irritate me, but that’s OK. I can stand a little irritation from time to time. If it weren’t this, it would be something else.
I like the Iowa caucus because every four years, a bunch of people who actually want to be the president of the United States come to the town I live in and try to explain to me, sometimes face to face, why they want that horrible job. No matter what political party you belong to, and no matter where you stand on the issues of the day, I find the desire to be president fascinating.
Why would you want a job where — regardless of how good or bad you are at it — half the country is going to automatically hate you?
And if you think “hate” is too strong a word, you haven’t been paying attention. When people start to discuss politics, even here in “nice” Iowa, there is an inevitable amount of indiscriminate — and sometimes literally odoriferous — nastiness and hatred that spews unfiltered out of mouths, off of keyboards and mobile devices and over airwaves, penetrating our skulls and leaving permanent stains on the more pliable segments of our brains.
I’ve been guilty of it. So have many of you. It might be the price of living in a free-thinking society, although I wish we’d all concentrate a little more on the “thinking” before we open our mouths or activate our fingers.
Regardless of all that, the Iowa caucus brings all these possibly insane people who actually want to be president to our communities, and you and I get to meet them personally, if we so choose, and form our own theories and conclusions about them.
Everyone’s conclusion is going to be a little bit different — although mine is probably going to be better than yours. You’ll think yours is better than mine, but you’ll be wrong.
If that joke made you immediately angry at me, then you see my point about politics and hatred. It was just a joke. Calm down.
This year, it’s been the Democrats — I think about 200 of them, give or take a few. Four years ago, there were just a couple of Democrats, but a whole bunch of Republicans running around. For me, it’s been a pleasure to meet every one of these strange people who actually want to be president. Every time I’ve gotten a chance to talk with them, I’ve taken a second to thank them for coming to the town in which I live.
Of course, for years there’s been movement inside both political parties to do away with the Iowa caucus, or perhaps just juggle things around a little so that the Iowa caucus isn’t the nation’s first election, and isn’t as important as it is now.
The main argument is that Iowans aren’t representative of the rest of the country. We’re way too white, we’re way too old. We’re terrible at choosing candidates that speak for the nation as a whole.
This stands to reason. Candidates who do well at the Iowa caucus are going to say they like the Iowa caucus. Candidates who do poorly at the Iowa caucus are going to say the Iowa caucus is terrible. Since there’s only one winner from each political party, there are always going to be far more candidates who do poorly than there are candidates who do well. So there are going to be a lot of people out there who hate the Iowa caucus.
Personally, I think my state does a pretty good job, and I appreciate the opportunity we have here in Iowa to meet all these people, regardless of how I feel about their politics. But to tell you the truth, I’d also be fine if we took a break and let some other state take a turn at it.
See how much you like it, Ohio. Give it a try, New Mexico.
See how much you like truckloads of east coast media elites moving to your state for six months and analyzing you. Every time, some of them are bound to say untrue and condescending things about my fellow Iowans and our quaint traditions. A handful of them will say nice things about us, too. They’ll say we’re “smart” and “well-informed.”
Most of the things they say, negative or positive, will have just a small grain of truth to them. We aren’t a bunch of hicks, but some of us are. Nor are we any smarter or better informed than anyone else in the country, although some of us are.
Let some other state try it for a couple of years, and see how they like it. My best guess is they won’t. They won’t be able to take it, they won’t be able to behave themselves, they won’t be any better than we are at choosing candidates who represent the nation as a whole.
In the meantime, I’m going to caucus on Monday. I asked for permission to do so, and received it from my superiors here at work. When I report the news I need to be an unbiased observer, but I have the right to vote as an American citizen, after all, and since the Iowa caucus is how we do it here, I’m proud to participate in what I consider my civic duty.
Don’t ask me who I’m going to caucus for. Here in Iowa, rather than fill out a secret ballot, we have to publicly proclaim which candidate we support. I honestly haven’t made a decision yet. I might not know who it is until the last possible moment.
Whoever I choose to support, I’m pretty certain that candidate will be nuts.
You’ve got to be crazy to run for president.