Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa Caucuses

I actually lived in Iowa City, Iowa, from (roughly) the summer of 1987 to spring of 1991, with a year in Chicago in 1990. My then-girlfriend was attending the University of Iowa for an MFA in painting, and I was working as an editor for a test publishing company. While there, we did go to to the 1988 caucus, and I have to say it was probably the strangest political event I've ever attended. At the time, I was pretty much undecided on which of the Democratic candidates I liked best (or disliked least), but I was vaguely behind Bruce Babbitt because he'd been the only one of the candidates at that point with the cajones/honesty to stand up and say that there would probably have to be some kind of tax increase to fix the federal deficit.

The caucuses work like this: you go in the room (in my case, it was the cafeteria at a local school), and everybody groups off by candidate. You have to have a certain number of people in your group in order for your candidate to get delegates. Naturally, Bruce Babbitt's supporters were not nearly enough (eh. Who wants a tax increase?) What happens then is that the smaller groups are undeclared "unviable" and the larger groups try to siphon off those supporters in order to earn more delegates. The room becomes simply chaotic, with people arguing back and forth about the candidates. What ended up happening in my caucus ultimately is that Democratic candidate Paul Simon (the guy with the silly bowtie) had the most support, and his very loud and vocal group ended up sucking the most people away from the other groups. Simon wound up coming in second in Iowa, very close behind Dick Gephardt.

If you think about it, though, it's not surprising Simon did so well in Iowa because he was from the state next door, Illinois. This is why I'm going to predict Barack Obama will do well in Iowa this year. It's a stupid reason, for sure, but people can be pretty provincial. Another thing about elections that is often amusing to me (aside from being frustrating) is that sometimes people will vote for whom they think is going to win rather than whom they actually WANT to win, as if they were betting a horse race.

Anyway, as I recall, the caucus dragged on for hours and hours and I was braindead afterwards. I'm glad here in California all I have to do next month for the primary is fill out a ballot and mail it in.

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