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Marvin Kitman Headshot

As Iowa Goes, So Goes....

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Am I as excited about the Iowa Caucuses Thursday night as the media appears to be?


Come to think of it, I wasn't that excited about them in 2004 or 2000 or 1824, or whenever they began. The truth is I've never been excited about the caucuses.

Neither Iowa nor Ioway, as the natives and pandering out-of-state politicians call it, meets my low standards of political excitement

The point of this exercise in the blizzard of coverage the media gives it is that it's not a primary. Lost in the snow job TV news viewers are getting is that it is a caucus, or a gathering of people who feel moved to express their opinions.

In itself basically the importance of the event is comparable to the number of people who showed up at a Politburo meeting in the old days of the limited democracy in the USSR. The Iowa Caucus is an exercise in Leninist Democracy, based on the principle of democratic centralism in which small groups get together to elect bigger groups.

It's a cross between voting in a primary and the time honored American tradition of selecting candidates in smoke-filled rooms before a convention.

The Iowa Caucus is less democratic than the Politburo election since it disenfranchises so many eligible voters: people who work on Thursday nights; folks who can't afford a babysitter; those who are away fighting our country's battles on foreign shores; people out of town on business, or afraid of the dark, whatever reason only 120,000 or so people will be voting in the Democratic caucus or 80,000 in the Republican side of the cornfields.

It's always seemed to me that the Iowa caucus is an institution born out of the long Iowa winters. You have a lot of folks in isolated areas spending months cooped up in their dwellings, with nothing to do but stare out of frosted windows at fields covered with snow. They needed a reason to get out of the house before or after they went stir crazy.

All of this, of course, was before the invention of TV and the excitement of watching reality TV, of going to "Disneyland," or moving south for the winter with the money the government has given them for not planting soy beans or sorghum.

Over the years, the parlor Grant Woods got together and played their political version of spin the bottle. Little did they dream the media would go apeshit over their little game the way they are this election.

The whole thing is an exercise in futility, a form of political masturbation. How they vote doesn't have any real impact. No, I shouldn't say that. It gets to eliminate the three or four candidates at the bottom of the list, who tend to be the most interesting (Kucinich, Dodd, Richardson et al).

What they get is a bunch of candidates who are saying the same thing they've been saying for 30 years: it's time for a change. So far about 40% of the potential voters, according to one reliable Iowa poll, are still undecided. Not only about their first choice for president but the second and third choices. This is really a brain-twister for the Hamlets who are still walking the ramparts undecided after months of listening to the ten TV debates, having donuts and a cup of Joe with the candidates in the coffee shops in Waterloo or Oskaloosa.

Presumably, they are also undecided about their second and third choices, one of the quirks in the political parlor game that requires them to vote for the candidates who haven't been eliminated in the first round. The undecideds hold the balance of power, which is really scary.

Another more positive way to look at the Iowa Caucus is that it is an opportunity for politicians to go the Midwest and promise to maintain price supports on crops, the subsidies that the rest of us will have to pay for the next four years.

As far as I have been able to see, not a single candidate in either party has advocated getting rid of price supports. Fact of the matter is, if this country abandoned farm subsidies we'd save about $40 to 50 billion a year, enough to half pay for the war in Iraq this year, enough to get rid of a third of the Federal deficit every year.

If only there was one candidate who advocated phasing out subsidies and phase in Federal purchase of farmland. The idea, as one advanced thinker put it, is instead of farmers selling farmland to suburban developers, which is what happens now, the government would pay for reforestation. Because farmers are cutting down trees to plant more corn. The only problem is corn is not the most efficient way to make ethanol. A still in the woods makes a better alternative fuel.

But there I go again bringing up issues. The Iowa Caucus is about personalities: who can eat more corndogs or pumps hands better or has the most honest face when he looks them in the eyes.

I mean, how can you take seriously a campaign in which current trends seem to say that Mike Huckabee may be the man who the people of Ioway believe is the most suitable Republican candidate for president, a man who believes God is on our side and Jesus could be his running mate, or whatever he has been saying on the pulpit, I mean stump.

Some of my best friends are Baptists, but the Founding Fathers might not be so thrilled to have Cotton Mather following them in the Oval Office.

Gov. Huckabee could very well win tomorrow night. I am praying for another miracle: Republicans wake up to reality and roll the dice on McCain.

I better shut up here. Don't want to be accused of electioneering so close to election night.

Still, whatever happens at the Ioway Caucuses, when all the first, second and third choices are tallied, personally I'd sooner put my money on the winner of the CNN Ballot Bowl, that other travesty which took place New Year's Day.

Now I'm going to take a Prozac or two to calm myself down as we wait for the results tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, remember, as Iowa goes, so goes....nothing.