Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 2, 2008

MUCH TOO SILLY....In "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," King Arthur and his knights come across Camelot, and at least initially, couldn't be more pleased. After thinking it over, and considering exactly what goes on inside Camelot, Arthur concludes, "On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place."

I've come to think of the Iowa caucuses in the same light. Before the nominating process begins in earnest, Iowa has a certain Midwestern charm, filled with voters who appreciate their role in picking the next president. Like Camelot, it's something to look forward to. But as we finally come upon Jan. 3, and get a look at what's involved, it's pretty obvious that the Iowa caucuses are much too silly.

Because the caucuses, held in the early evening, do not allow absentee voting, they tend to leave out nearly entire categories of voters: the infirm, soldiers on active duty, medical personnel who cannot leave their patients, parents who do not have baby sitters, restaurant employees on the dinner shift, and many others who work in retail, at gas stations and in other jobs that require evening duty.

As in years past, voters must present themselves in person, at a specified hour, and stay for as long as two. [...] Now some are starting to ask why the first, crucial step in that process is also one that discourages so many people, especially working-class people, from participating.

"It disenfranchises certain voters or makes them make choices between putting food on the table and caucusing," said Tom Lindsey, a high school teacher in Iowa City. Mr. Lindsey plans to attend this year, but his neighbors include a cook who cannot slip away from his restaurant job on Thursday night and a mother who must care for her autistic child.

Voting by absentee ballot is prohibited. There are no secret ballots, a bedrock democratic principle. The notion of "one-person, one-vote" does not really apply (the NYT noted that votes are weighted according to a precinct's past level of participation).

There's a legitimate debate to be had about whether Iowa deserves to go before the other 49 other states, in every presidential campaign, forever. But this is a different question altogether: if Iowa is going to go first, could they at least use a reasonable process that encourages Iowans to participate?

Worse, Jeff Greenfield adds that Dems have actually made participating more difficult than Republicans.

The Republican Party, by contrast, has recognized that the change in function, from local party business to presidential contest, requires a change in form. The GOP caucus process is straightforward and simple: You show up, perhaps listen to appeals from candidate's supporters, and then write the name of your choice on a blank piece of paper and drop it into a box. The results are phoned into headquarters and tabulated. That's it—one person, one vote; the candidate with the most votes wins.

But the Democrats have a totally different thing going on; one that discards at least two key elements of an open, fair system.... When you show up at a Democratic caucus, you and your fellow participants divide up into different corners of a room, based on who you are for. You don't submit a secret ballot; you stand up to be publicly counted. What if you're in a union and want to pick someone your union hasn't endorsed, and your shop steward is there, watching you from across the room? Or the person who holds your mortgage? Or your spouse? Tough. "It is free, it is open, and you are there of your own volition," says Carrie Giddins, the Iowa Democratic Party's director of communications. But of course, you are also in a polling place on election day of your own volition -- and most free societies think that it's a good idea to let voters keep their choices to themselves.

And just to add insult to injury, no one is allowed to know exactly how many Iowans actually voted for the different candidates -- the Iowa Democratic Party gets the numbers, but keeps them private. (The results that designate the "winner" only reflect the share of state delegates each candidate has won.) As Greenfield noted, it means "a candidate who turned out more total supporters than anyone else, across the state, could wind up in second or third place -- and no one will know."

A secretive, undemocratic process, that avoids democratic norms, and discourages participation?

Like I said, it's a silly place.

Steve Benen 2:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (83)

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Comments

Run away!

Posted by: Bush Lover on January 2, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I think there should be a lottery every election cycle that determines the order that the state's hold their primaries. That way, the candidates can't game it in advance.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 2, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Let's just have a national primary.

I have never voted in a presidential primary election where my vote counted.

It's always been decided by Iowa, New Hampshire and in rare cases by the states immediately following. How is that democratic?

Posted by: ferg on January 2, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think there should be a lottery every election cycle that determines the order that the state's hold their primaries. That way, the candidates can't game it in advance.

Right on!

Posted by: bubba on January 2, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

If you're suggesting something like the party could rig the results, that's impossible. Every major candidate has a captain in each caucus, and they're definitely counting both final voters and delegate assignments and reporting them to headquarters. If something did happen, like Obama had more total voters across the state but Hillary was announced to have won more delegates, it would be all over the news on January 4.

Posted by: SP on January 2, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

If something did happen, like Obama had more total voters across the state but Hillary was announced to have won more delegates, it would be all over the news on January 4.

What he's saying is that's a perfectly legal and valid result of the current system. No ballot-box stuffing required.

And I thought the BCS was bad...

Posted by: ArkPanda on January 2, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK


Let's go back to first principles: we're talking about PARTY primaries. Political parties are private associations, not constitutional entities. They should handle their own damn nomination processes, with neither interference nor help from any level of government.

If a party wants to pick its nominee by caucus, or by auction, or by lot, what's it to YOU? If you don't like the way YOUR party does business, take it up with your co-partisans. So long as I get to vote in the general election, why should I care how the nominee offered up by your party was selected?

Naturally, this conception of parties as private entities amounts to a crackpot notion in today's America. Whether that says more about the notion or about America is a good question.

-- TP

Posted by: Tony P. on January 2, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

There are no secret ballots, a bedrock democratic principle.

John Stuart Mill wrote in Considerations on Representative Government (1861), ch. 10, sec. 1:

Secrecy is justifiable in many cases, imperative in some, and it is not cowardice to seek protection against evils which are honestly avoidable. Nor can it be reasonably maintained that no cases are conceivable in which secret voting is preferable to public. But I must contend that these cases, in affairs of a political character, are the exception, not the rule. [...]

It may, unquestionably, be the fact that if we attempt, by publicity, to make the voter responsible to the public for his vote, he will practically be made responsible for it to some powerful individual, whose interest is more opposed to the general interest of the community than that of the voter himself would be if, by the shield of secrecy, he were released from responsibility altogether. When this is the condition, in a high degree, of a large proportion of the voters, the ballot may be the smaller evil. When the voters are slaves, anything may be tolerated which enables them to throw off the yoke. [...]

People will give dishonest or mean votes from lucre, from malice, from pique, from personal rivalry, even from the interests or prejudices of class or sect, more readily in secret than in public. And cases exist -- they may come to be more frequent -- in which almost the only restraint upon a majority of knaves consists in their involuntary respect for the opinion of an honest minority. In such a case as that of the repudiating States of North America[*], is there not some check to the unprincipled voter in the shame of looking an honest man in the face? Since all this good would be sacrificed by the [secret] ballot, even in the circumstances most favourable to it, a much stronger case is requisite than can now be made out for its necessity (and the case is continually becoming still weaker) to make its adoption desirable.

[* The US did not universally adopt the secret ballot until 1892.]

Posted by: alkali on January 2, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

[* The US did not universally adopt the secret ballot until 1892.]

I think that one point of this post is that the U.S. has still not universally adopted the secret ballot. One hundred and sixteen years after 1892. And counting.

Despicable.

Posted by: collin on January 2, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I live in Iowa City, and our family eagerly looks forward to participating in tomorrow night's caucus--a solemn rite that we have celebrated ever since we moved here 21 years ago. I understand all the Iowa caucus bashing. Much of what has been said is legitimate, especially about people who cannot attend due to work, family responsibilities, and so forth.

On the other hand, no one can understand the electricity of the Iowa Democratic caucus (the Republicans just hold a vote--yawn) until he or she has actually participated. We come together with our neighbors and talk openly, jokingly, and raucously about the candidates. We really DO seek to persuade one another. The room is full--usually overflowing--with committed Dems who want to select a nominee who will beat the Republicans. It is SO much different than the stale, isolated step of casting a secret ballot. And we DO listen to one another--especially when we try to decide what to do with the mathematical "remainders." For example, if it takes 25 people to gain one delegate, and 35 folks want Obama to win, at ten people must head to another group (or the Obama fans must induce another 15 people to join them), or their votes are "wasted." This leads to cheerful, exuberant "raiding" of friends and neighbors through friendly persuasion.

It may be wrong for Iowa to be first. It may be wrong to do it by a method other than by secret ballot. But I assure you that we take our responsibility very, very seriously, and that we will be giving it our all to help select a Democratic WINNER tomorrow night.

Posted by: Stensvaag on January 2, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Why thank you, Mr. Benen, ever so much for sneering at my local caucus and labeling my personal participation in the electoral process as "silly."

The Iowa Caucus is structured that way for a specific reason, secret ballots would not work. Caucusgoers move into groups for each candidate. If that candidate does not gather enough voters to apportion a single delegate, those voters must redeclare for a "viable candidate." For example, in last year's Caucus, Kucinich didn't get enough caucusgoers in my precinct for a delegate, so they had a deal worked out in advance to switch to Kerry.

Furthermore, the Caucus is participatory and interactive. You do not sit and listen to speeches by a representative at a podium. Caucusgoers are encouraged to speak to other people, and try to persuade them to come to another candidate's camp. This can only be done with public declarations of affiliation, not a secret ballot. So for example, I might head over to the camps of weaker candidates and try to persuade them to switch to my camp. But if the ballot was secret, I could not do this effectively, and anyone could switch declarations at any time.

So again Mr. Benen, thanks for your excellent mindless repetition of the Beltway sneering at us rubes out here in Podunk. Don't let any inconvenient facts, or that time-consuming problem of researching the subject get in the way of your opinionating.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on January 2, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

What he's saying is that's a perfectly legal and valid result of the current system. No ballot-box stuffing required.
In that case it would still be all over the news- the power Iowa holds isn't the number of delegates but early momentum. If everyone heard that Obama had more actual voters but Clinton got a few more delegates because of the arcane Iowa rules, Obama would get the momentum boost. It's like the electoral college except that the result that matters isn't the official winner, it's the person who makes headlines, and I can't think of a scenario that would get more attention.

Posted by: SP on January 2, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

collin: Obviously, I was referring to federal elections, not the caucuses. Per Mill's argument, I don't see any reason why the secret ballot should necessarily be universal. I have no idea why you think it's "despicable" that in some instances a vote might be public.

Posted by: alkali on January 2, 2008 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

While a party caucus ostensibly is supposed to attract the truly committed party faithful, the Iowa Democratic Caucus unfortunately allows for same-day registration and participation by independents and Republicans. Thus, Sen. Obama's pointed appeal to voters in those two groups. He could well win, not because he's the choice of Iowa Democrats, but because he's attracted a significant enough crossover to put him over the top.

But, then again, while it's something I would not have advised, it's not like the Obama campaign is doing anything illegal. After all, he's only doing what the state party rules freely allow him to do. And in a year when many moderate Republicans find their field of presidential candidates generally wanting, if not downright distasteful and / or repugnant, Obama's pitch to them might prove decisive.

Anyway, we'll see what happens tomorrow night.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, heading back to the islands on January 2, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like somebody is uncomfortable with the likely outcome...

Posted by: Adam on January 2, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Why thank you, Mr. Benen, ever so much for sneering at my local caucus and labeling my personal participation in the electoral process as "silly."

Wow. You get a massively-disproportionate power to choose the nominee and you're whining about a little criticism?

Posted by: ferg on January 2, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Iowa doesn't represent me; it's far too urban.

Posted by: Wyoming Voter on January 2, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Unsecret balloting has its good points; for example, it discourages the ever-feckless "swing voter" from participating. Voters must have the courage of their convictions, which gives them an incentive to acquaint themselves with the issues. And anyway, why encourage voter cowardice?

However, secret balloting trumps in the end, not because of its benefits for the weak-willed but because it eliminates vote-buying. Nobody will pay for my vote unless he can verify that I cast the vote as instructed.

Posted by: Stuart Eugene Thiel on January 2, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

ferg, I don't think anything written by Jeff Greenfield can be legitimately be called "criticism," not in the academic sense of the word. Greenberg is just another beltway insider who sold out, and makes his living sneering at "flyover country." I remember when he was the wacky counterculture reporter at NPR, but I guess there is more money to be made as a CBS Senior Political Hack. So I am entitled to sneer back. And if you don't like how I vote or how our system works, you are allowed to move to Iowa and vote against me in the Caucus.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on January 2, 2008 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

What I have enjoyed most about this round of Iowa Caucuses is that proctoringcongress.blogspot.com has its own correspondent up in Iowa giving us first person reports. Henry P. Wallace has put up four the last few days, one on Barack Obama just a few minutes ago.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 2, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think there should be a lottery every election cycle that determines the order that the state's hold their primaries. That way, the candidates can't game it in advance.

Eh...good idea, but not quite there IMO. I think maybe a regional lottery would be better. Say, "the south", the "mid atlantic", the "northeast", "breadbasket", "southwest", and "pacific northwest" or some such thing...are all entered into a lottery to determine order of voting.

If it's going to be one state at a time, then it needs to be drawn out to neutralize the whole "momentum/slingshot" effect that we currently see with Iowa. With NH just 5 days after Iowa and SC just a short period after that, a loss in Iowa will create a wave of positive press (and the rise in the polls and "momentum" that come with that press) that won't be able to be stopped until maybe Feb 5th. The way this year is set up, short of a major gaffe, anyone who wins Iowa handily will basically get a free ride of positive press for the month leading up to the de facto national primary, which is, of course, the most important time of the year for campaigning in those states.

Regional primaries, conversely, say spread out over the course of a month, would offer the chance to involve more people in the process, give an opportunity to stem momentum in the down periods between regionals, and still likely give the parties their nominees early in the process (I'd imagine by the end of the 3rd regional, say ~March 5th based on when the primaries are starting this year and the calendar I'm suggesting), thus reducing the type of destructive party in-fighting that doesn't really serve anyone's interests.

Of course, being stuck in a state after the 3rd regional would be somewhat sucky, but, in the next primary, your region might be first.

And lastly, while a single-shot national primary is prohibitively expensive, a regional primary actually would give us an interesting backdrop for multiple campaign strategies. Do you try to raise as much money as possible and go with lots of TV ads, radio ads, mailers, etc? Do you focus your efforts on, say, 4 states in the region, and do retail politics there, while spending money on ads in the bigger states?

A national primary will always favor the big-name, big-money candidate, but at least gives everyone a chance to cast a relevant vote. A state-by-state primary will always either create a circular firing-squad, or let 2 or 3 states decide the nominee for everyone else, but at least it puts a big money candidate on even footing with a poorly-funded retail politician. Neither option is particularly appealing. A regional primary seems to get the best of both: still compact enough to allow for retail politics to have a big impact(though obv not as intensely as Iowa and NH receive), protecting against the slingshot effect, and giving everyone a legit shot at being first-in-the-nation.

At least in theory.

Posted by: Michael on January 2, 2008 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

While a party caucus ostensibly is supposed to attract the truly committed party faithful, the Iowa Democratic Caucus unfortunately allows for same-day registration and participation by independents and Republicans. Thus, Sen. Obama's pointed appeal to voters in those two groups. He could well win, not because he's the choice of Iowa Democrats, but because he's attracted a significant enough crossover to put him over the top.

But, then again, while it's something I would not have advised, it's not like the Obama campaign is doing anything illegal. After all, he's only doing what the state party rules freely allow him to do. And in a year when many moderate Republicans find their field of presidential candidates generally wanting, if not downright distasteful and / or repugnant, Obama's pitch to them might prove decisive.

Umm...why, exactly, do some people want high barriers of entry into the Democratic party again? Isn't the goal of elections to gain more votes than the opposition? And don't you do that by expanding the pool of voters who view your party as desirable? Why are some Democrats averse to this notion?

I can't believe some people think its a bad thing that there's a candidate who's appeal is so wide that he runs neck-and-neck with the establishment candidate with teh rank-and-file and ALSO has a strong enough appeal to non-partisans that they're willing to become registered as Democrats and take part in an incredibly difficult process in order to see him elected?

Wouldn't that be, by definition, the ideal candidate?

And Obama does poll quite well with the rank-and-file Dems, mind you.

Posted by: Michael on January 2, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I like the idea of a regional primary like Iowa. Without it John Edwards and Mike Huckabee wouldn't stand a chance of being nominated. We would be limited on the Democratic side to Hillary and maybe Barack Obama, and on the Republican side the only names that would have a chance of surfacing would be Romney and Giuliani. Everybody else wouldn't have the funds to put up a national campaign. I also like the idea that one small state has a chance to look the candidates over closely. As mentioned above, Henry P. Wallace had a chance to get up close and personal with 4 of the candidates. That would never happen with a large national primary.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 2, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Iowa doesn't represent me; it's far too urban.

Someone pass me the Windex wipes. I gotta clean the coffee off my screen.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 2, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Tony P.: "If you don't like the way YOUR party does business, take it up with your co-partisans."

Excellent point.

In 1988, one year after I was persuaded by the local head of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition to switch my party affiliation from GOP to Democrat, I participated in my first Hawaii Democratic presidential caucus as a committed Jackson supporter. We swamped the caucuses that night, and Jackson took well over 60% of the caucus vote, while Gov. Michael Dukakis took a little over 30%. Sen. Al Gore took the remainder, but because he finished under 15%, by party rules in place at the time he was not eligible to receive any delegates.

However, party rules at that time also specified that only half of Hawaii's 28 delegates to the convention that summer were to be chosen by the caucus, with the remainder to be named by the titular head of the party, which was then-Gov. John Waihee. And because Waihee had already committed to Dukakis prior to the party caucus, those 14 delegates were all pledged to support the Massachusetts governor.

Therefore, even though the Jackson campaign had thoroughly out-organized the Dukakis-leaning establishment Democrats, Rev. Jackson received but nine of our state's 28 delegates, with the remaining nineteen going to eventual nominee Michael Dukakis.

We Jackson supporters were so angry at what had happened that we made a commitment to each other at the state convention that year to further organize, with the collective mindset to go into the 1990 state convention as a majority, elect one of our own as party chair, and change that ridiculous rule that gave party leaders undue leverage over the choosing of national delegates to the presidential convention.

While we didn't quite reach that majority in 1990, we succeeded decisively in '92, and today all our national delegates are determined directly by party caucus.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, heading back to the islands on January 2, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

oh pity the poor Iowans! they demand the privilege of over-representation in picking the nominee, but they get all pouty when people who are essentially un-represented by the primary process point out that their method is silly.

Posted by: cleek on January 2, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should remember that it's not Iowa's fault (or New Hampshire's) that they are given so much "power" in the process. The actual delegates selected represent a tiny fraction of what's needed to carry the day at the party conventions. It's the fact that the press rushes to anoint someone that quickly, and those of us voters in the follow-on states go along with it. We -- the voters that follow -- are the brainless sheep who need a good kick in the ass, not Iowans.

Posted by: Glenn on January 2, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Why not just open the primary season with a "super tuesday"? Multiple states' primaries on the same, first day. Hell, all the states could go on the same day. Why have any primary order at all?

Posted by: ckelly on January 2, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

There is a lot of peer, social and economic pressure in the Iowa caucuses. That pressure prevents many people from participating because they do not want to have to explain their votes to their neighbors or suffer prejudice for whom they voted for.

Posted by: Brojo on January 2, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

I spent a fair amount of time in Iowa during the 1988 campaign, working for my good friend Pete DuPont.

It was there that I discovered that the Republican Party of my youth--the Nelson Rockefeller/Leverett Saltonstall party that I revered--was about to be hijacked by the clown circus that is the 'Religious Right' and the Bush clan. These are low people, with no taste and little or no enthusiasm for being in touch with the needs of the business class in this country.

I truly believe Pete had a great chance--he was a successful governor, he was a Navy veteran and he could speak to the issue of fiscal restraint like no one else. I half-jokingly told Pete that he didn't wrap himself in the cross and that was why he lost--and, ruefully, he agreed.

True story--when campaigning in a place called Clear Lake, Iowa, I went into a local restaurant and ordered clam chowder. What happened next is the stuff of legend--the fools brought me clam chowder with corn in it. I thought I was going to have a coronary right then and there. I flung the clam chowder to the floor and called for the management to appear before me. I summarily explained to them that one does not serve a Princeton man clam chowder with corn in it--not unless they wish to see a riot break out.

The moderators frown on this, but I don't care. Here is how you make clam chowder.

The Cliff House Clam Chowder has been on the menu since 1872. From The Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine. Reprinted with permission.
Serves six.

Ingredients:
1 slice hickory-smoked bacon, minced
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 cup onion, minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon The Cliff House Spice Blend (see below)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 can clams (6-1/2 ounces)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1-1/2 cups Half and Half
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced

Don't put corn in there. Don't. It's wrong. Wrong as the day is long.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

I counted a lot of counties in Iowa. Most are sparsely populated. Each county has a political party committee and the people on those committees have much more peer, social and economic power than other party members. Cross these people and there could be, will probably be, consequences. This is probably why party elites want Iowa to be the first 'primary', so that non-establishment candidates can be shown to be nonviable. The non-establishment candidates cannot win over the party bosses in the small districts and the open caucus prevents others from crossing the party bosses, who have considerable social and economic power to punish those who do not stay in line.

The caucus system is not ideal because it does not allow for so many to vote, but it is perverted because of the intimidation and consequences that voters have to suffer from their party officials for the choices they make.

Posted by: Brojo on January 2, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Michael: "Umm...why, exactly, do some people want high barriers of entry into the Democratic party again?"

I don't think it's exactly a "high barrier" to ask people who wish to participate in a political party's caucus, or even a party's state primary, to register as party members or affiliated voters prior to the event. What's more, it discourages active meddling by members of the opposition party in what is supposed to be an internal process of choosing the party's slate of candidates.

Consider the lamentable example of what happened in the 2002 California GOP gubernatorial primary. While former L.A. Mayor Dick Reardon was clearly the choice of registered rank-and-file Republicans, that state's open primary then allowed for cross-over voting by office category rather than by entire ballot, a practice since ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The campaign of then-incumbent Gov. Gray Davis -- who had an uncontested primary that year but trailed Reardon significantly in public opinion polls -- encouraged a massive one-time cross-over by state Democrats to vote in the GOP gubernatorial primary for Reardon's primary opponent, the thoroughly disagreeable Bill Simon.

Thus, Reardon was denied his own party's nomination, not by his fellow Republicans, but by Democrats who had absolutely no intention of voting for Simon in the general election, but merely crossed over in order to offer up to Gov. Davis a true right-wing lunatic, and California voters in the general election later that year were therefore denied a real choice.

Now, you please explain to me how that's fair to a political party, that members of the opposition party are allowed the means to pick and choose the formers' candidate.

Political parties and their members have an absolute right to choose their own slate of candidates. And so long as membership in a political party is easily accessible and obtainable by citizens, I don't consider it too terribly onerous to request that those who wish to support or vote for a particular Republican, Democrat, Green, etc. in a primary or caucus also register as bona fide members of that respective party prior to the event.

If we don't like it, then we should advocate for the abolition of party affiliations during elections, and move to entirely non-partisan balloting, as is currently the practice in many local municipal elections across the country.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 2, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Worse than the caucuses is the propensity of Iowans to plant corn on every free inch of their precious soil; and then want subsidies for it their wasteful fuel.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on January 2, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps if we stuffed the ballots into a large wooden badger?

Posted by: Sir Cazart on January 2, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK


Upthread, someone noted that a secret ballot is necessary to prevent vote-buying. True. But consider how many problems might be solved if we legalized vote-buying.

If it were legal, I would gladly sell my vote to Rudy Giuliani for, oh, $50K or so. That's about what I figure a Rudy presidency would cost me personally. The $50K is my "indifference price". Where would Rudy get the money to buy my vote? Well, there are people who would personally profit from a Rudy presidency. Paris Hilton, for instance, probably stands to save millions in inheritance taxes if Rudy wins. She might be willing to part with a small bit of her prospective savings to buy my vote for Rudy.

On the flip side, my price to vote for, say, Edwards, would be not merely low, but even negative: I'd be willing to pay someone else to vote for him. I bet I could find 1000 people willing to vote for Edwards for $50 or so. In that case, I'd sell my 1 vote to Rudy and use the money to buy 1000 votes for Edwards.

Generalizing, millions of people stand to gain something if candidate X wins, and millions of people stand to lose something. Let the prospective winners bid for the votes of the prospective losers, and (if you have faith in basic economics) the free market will set the right price on votes for X: low enough that his supporters are willing to pay it, and high enough that his opponents are willing to accept it. At the end of the day, we would still count the VOTES, not the dollars, to elect the president. Vote-buying would boil down to a practical implementation of Pareto-optimality: the winners would be (at least partially) compensating the losers.

Back in 2000, Dubya's supporters invested ... er, contributed about $160 million to his campaign and got rewarded with $1.6 trillion in tax cuts. That was a 1,000,000% Return On Investment for them. Letting them pay that money (or, I claim, much more) directly to voters would have offset (at least partially) the net cost Dubya's presidency has imposed on most of us.

Lest anyone object that this kind of musing is practically blasphemous, let us remember that it is more or less taken for granted these days that campaign money does buy votes -- albeit indirectly, through TV ads and such. Why not cut out the middlemen, and pay the voters directly?

-- TP

Posted by: Tony P. on January 2, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

While I do not approve of some of the issues you bring to light, this is the selection process of the parties.

I think we have started to view this selection process as an election rather than as a party selction process.

Posted by: George on January 2, 2008 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo:

I'm genuinely curious -- what kind of "intimidation" has happened as a result of caucus procedures that would have been avoided with secret ballot? We're talking about a group that's all Democrats to begin with. It's kind of hard for me to imagine that in '84, the Mondale campaign subsequently whacked Hart supporters or any such thing.

Posted by: alkali on January 2, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

First of all Norman, Iowans put corn in everything, best of all in gas tanks.

Secondly Brojo and others, Stensvaag made an excellent description of how the caucuses really work. They're fun. If somone's trying to be a jerk, and do some--out of line--arm twisting, they would be exposed. We're Iowans, we are extremely polite (in public). Plus, we're not from different parties. You know what's not democratic? The electoral vote system. Or a primary system in which, if my vote isn't going to count because my candidate doesn't have enough for a delegate, it just is ignored. At least here, you get a second chance to make it count.

C. The people who come take it seriously. How many times have we seen a general election decided by the segment of people who don't tune in until the final few days. In a caucus, someone who doesn't know much about the candidates can be swayed by someone who feels strongly and has some facts with them. That could be abused. But it might be a pretty good thing.

Fouthly--dammit my numbers are all screwed up-- Bennen makes his point without all the profanity that Kos injected into the same discussion this afternoon. Jeez people, there is no reason that we have to be first in Iowa, but the money people have already gotten to decide who is viable. That would be magnified in a regional primary.

Finally, this criticism doesn't bother me a great deal, because I know that all the very same people are very concerned about the outsized influence that California has on pop culture, that New York has in business, that Washington has on media, that Seattle has on coffee, that Phoenix has on crazy Sheriffs, that Kansas City has on crappy baseball. You ignor us the rest of the time. So whaa, whaa, whaa.

Posted by: Henry from Iowa on January 2, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

I am relatively new to Iowa so this will be only my second caucus. While I can agree with many of the objections that have been raised, it seems to me a reasonably fair way to make what is essential a political decision -- who will lead the party's ticket. That the vote is open might be considered an advantage since the caucus goers are the one who will go out and support the candidate in the general election.

As to why two small states, Iowa and New Hampshire, should have such a disproportionate say in who will be the nominee? The answer is simple: cost. The candidates get a chance to show haw they actually fare with the electorate without spending the fortune it would take in a large state. Doing well in either state leads to more donations. This gives outsiders a chance to at least influence the discussion if not outright win.

If the primary started with large states or a single national primary then only very wealthy candidates or those with party backing would stand a chance. Welcome back smoke-filled rooms. If you don't believe me, consider California's special election where Arnold won.

I'm not saying that Iowa and New Hampshire should always be first. Just that it makes sense to have an out-of-town tryout and make adjustments before you bring the show to Broadway.

Posted by: thebears on January 2, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I don't mind if any state selects its delegates in any form or fashion it choses. What I do insist upon is:

1 - Non-electronic voting mechanicsms (I favor old-fashioned paper ballots that are HAND counted precinct by precinct, thanks very much)

2 - A same-day "event" nationwide (be it primary, caucus, or whack-a-mole

3 - A press that focuses on issues, not the horse-race aspects of it.

4 - No money for television ads. Period. Paying for TV amounts to a bi-annual payoff to the television industry to be "taken seriously" (i.e., "we don't take you seriously if you don't pay us some big green")

Posted by: Robustus on January 2, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

What you don't like, Steve, are caucuses - because this is how they work. You prefer primaries. That's fine I guess, but my state has caucuses too, and there is something to be said for people who are willing to get a babysitter and show up, rather than mailing in a ballot.

Posted by: Emma Anne on January 2, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

The party bosses in the counties have many ways to impose their dissatisfaction with locals who voted against the bosses' preference. Peer pressure could mean losing a seat on the church choir or being left out of a card game. Social pressure could mean being called anti-American for voting for an anti-war candidate at the local diner. Economic pressure could mean losing a job or paying more for seed. This kind of intimidation is local and done after the caucuses. Since this type of intimidation is done in small rural jurisdictions between individuals it is rarely publicized. Voter intimidation may not exist in every Iowa jurisdiction, but it probably exists in many, which is another reason participation is so low.

There are assholes in every jurisdiction, and even if they are not party bosses, they can use intimidation to make people regret making a public stance on any political issue. This is why the secret ballot is important to democracy.

Posted by: Brojo on January 2, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Phoenix has crazy sheriffs? Who knew?

And all this time, I thought the inmates in Maricopa County slept in tents because they liked the great outdoors.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 2, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo: I agree with you about pressure put on people to not participate in a caucus. There has been so much VICIOUS name-calling directed towards Hillary during this campaign--even calling her a lesbian--that it might be difficult for some women to show public support. They might find themselves receiving the same attacks. For them, it might be just safer to stay home and wait to vote in secret in the general election.

Posted by: emmarose on January 2, 2008 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Michael: "And Obama does poll quite well with the rank-and-file Dems, mind you."

Perhaps due to his advertisements on The Drudge Report?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 2, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK
True story--when campaigning in a place called Clear Lake, Iowa, I went into a local restaurant and ordered clam chowder. What happened next is the stuff of legend--the fools brought me clam chowder with corn in it. I thought I was going to have a coronary right then and there. I flung the clam chowder to the floor and called for the management to appear before me. I summarily explained to them that one does not serve a Princeton man clam chowder with corn in it--not unless they wish to see a riot break out.

The moderators frown on this, but I don't care. Here is how you make clam chowder.

[snip]

Don't put corn in there. Don't. It's wrong. Wrong as the day is long.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

_____________

True story--I daresay, the stuff of legend.

I were mindin' my own bidness 'n eatin' me some clam chowder inna diner during the Iowa caucus season once, and this guy ups 'n starts sputtering 'bout how he didn't like no corn in his chowder. 'Bout how it warn't right. 'Bout how don't nobody but fools eat their clam chowder w/corn innit, sez he.

Now, Iowans is knowed far 'n wide for bein' polite almost to a fault, but ever'body's got their limit. Thinks I, this guy's fixin' to get his ass beat. So I kinda slows eatin', so as to savor the moment.

So this guy starts to hissing like a plucked Christmas goose that ain't had its head chopped off yet, and then he threatens to fling the corned chowder onto the floor like it's some kinda toxic waste or sumpin'.

But that was one too many. Even this guy, unselfaware as he was, seemed to know he went too far w/that'n.

Ever'body in the diner knew he'd get his ass righteously beat to twenty shades a purple if he done that, so he didn't. Instead, he starts to squealin' like a stuck pig for the management, like somethin's dire wrong.

Now, Iowans is purty meek and mild, take it all around. That is, till some snobbish fop goes offa his nut 'bout corn in his chowder like its their fucking fault he's a conceited asshole who can't brook no corn in his chowder, like it's a moral failin' to sez nothin' of an aesthetic disaster.

This guy is in Iowa, fer chrissakes, thinks I. If he was half as smart 'n discernin' as he thought he was, a true clam-chowder fuss-budget wouldn't a never ordered no Iowa clam chowder in the first place, now would he? But, I reckon somes just likes to provoke themselves so's they can indulge in the warm glow a righteous indignation 'n grandstanding, and he warn't no differnt.

So the owner of the diner comes out 'n inna fit of exasperable pique, this chowder-snob hilariously calls himself "a Princeton man", like that 50-year-old anachronism means sumpin' to anyone but him, and allows as how only fools don't know no better'n to put corn in their chowder.

So the owner of the diner he don't fancy bein' insulted like that, so he rejoins 'n sez, "Well, you appears not to have sense enough to wipe after you shit, buddy, so I reckon there's more'n corn you oughtta be worried about in that there chowder."

And you shoulda heard the whole joint break out in riotous laughter. It put a cork in him.

(True story--the stuff of legend.)

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

And all this time, I thought the inmates in Maricopa County slept in tents because they liked the great outdoors.

Don't forget their love of corn dogs at 1.5 cents per. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Posted by: shortstop on January 2, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

there is something to be said for people who are willing to get a babysitter and show up, rather than mailing in a ballot.

Yes, and that something is, "they have higher disposable income." If you don't have the extra 40-50 bucks lying around to pay a babysitter for the night, I guess you don't count.

I could certainly understand the GOP taking that approach, but that shouldn't be the Dem way.

Posted by: Glenn on January 2, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

dr, one minds that your tin ear got every bit of the regional accent, vocabulary and century so spectacularly wrong, but do you have to be so humiliatingly unfunny while you do it?

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

that should be no one minds

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

dr, [no] one minds that your tin ear got every bit of the regional accent, vocabulary and century so spectacularly wrong, but do you have to be so humiliatingly unfunny while you do it?

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

_____________

I delight in how your "no one minds" speaks in the collective "we".

Aware of the unlikelihood that you descend from royalty, I will presume instead that you have a tapeworm.

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't condescendingly laughing about the comically uneducated and ungrammatical Iowa farmers having tapeworm (and hoof and mouth disease, ringworm and pellagra, haw, haw) be more your style? Damn, you funny. Don't worry about all those people suddenly discovering an urgent need to pee or make a phone call when you start your stories. They just jealous of you oratory skills, pal.

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK
Wouldn't condescendingly laughing about the comically uneducated and ungrammatical Iowa farmers having tapeworm (and hoof and mouth disease, ringworm and pellagra, haw, haw) be more your style? Damn, you funny. Don't worry about all those people suddenly discovering an urgent need to pee or make a phone call when you start your stories. They just jealous of you oratory skills, pal.

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

___________________

Not being condescending to Iowans. At all. Wasn't laughing at Iowans. At all.

To be blunt: Was laughing at and mocking Norman Rogers' conceited and unselfaware pretension.

Also, was suggesting only that you (not Iowa farmers, please note) must have a tapeworm b/c your wounded vanity speaks w/a dubious "we". (Methinks the sockpuppet doth protest too much.)

And you act like being ungrammatical is somehow a bad thing. (Takes a purty poor imagination to only think a one way to spell a word or slap together a sentence.)

Or, to eat clam-chowder, for that matter.

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Sssssssss, I don't think minstrel and Wild West Indian shows were intended to be condescending either. But you know...

"Wounded vanity"...snort. I'm not much closer to Iowa than you are. Just a lot better at distinguishing among various American farming zones, accents, and regionalisms, and between common expressions and average levels of education 100 years ago vs. today.

But I will wait for the Iowans to check in. If they find your story verbally accurate and emblematic of quality comedy I shall tender my apology.

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think Iowa takes an unfair hit based on how boring Des Moines is. You should check out the fleshpots of Council Bluffs for a better indication of the true Iowa spirit.

OK, so I was kidding, but to take on another point, nobody ever decided to make New Hampshire first except New Hampshire. They just took it. The only reason they are allowed to keep it even now (plenty of people have protested) is that New Hampshire voters punish any candidate willing to admit that the New Hampshire advantage is undeserved. Instead, candidates open offices there two years in advance and (indirectly) sell a lot of hotel rooms.

I blame the Democratic National Committee for this record of cowardice. I do predict that the Democratic Convention will somehow manage to seat those Michigan and Florida delegations, thereby reducing the DNC's already limited credibility to pavement level.

And one last item that another poster said very well: The national parties treat these events as their private property, whereas the rest of us view them as the beginnings of a national election. We ought to be thinking that leaving these major choices to a few dozen DNC members and the whitebread of New Hampshire is not the way a great nation ought to conduct its affairs.

Posted by: Bob G on January 2, 2008 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Sssssssss, I don't think minstrel and Wild West Indian shows were intended to be condescending either. But you know...

"Wounded vanity"...snort. I'm not much closer to Iowa than you are. Just a lot better at distinguishing among various American farming zones, accents, and regionalisms, and between common expressions and average levels of education 100 years ago vs. today.

But I will wait for the Iowans to check in. If they find your story verbally accurate and emblematic of quality comedy I shall tender my apology.

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

_______________

You appear to be unaware (but indignant anyway!) that the object of the exercise was not to render Iowans' dialect accurately, but to ridicule your foppish pretension, Norman.

Don't much care that you don't find my lampoon funny, Norm, but it is sorta inherently comical that you can't distinguish betwixt who's bein' made fun of.

Or note that the lampoon was told in first-person, i.e. in my voice, not that of an Iowan, meanin' it ain't an attempt to say much 'bout Iowans, but more a salvo to say sumpin' 'bout you.

Course, if I was flayed like you was flayed, I expect I'd be tryin' to change the subject, too.

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Dear I've been everywhere,
Thanks for defending our honor, but dr's parody was so over-the-top that we didn't mistake it for anything serious--and infact was clearly a shot at Norman Rogers ("I hate that guy"~grimmace)

I took the same approach with Norman last spring when I claimed to be the one who stole his chicken head and kicked it down the street. While dr didn't quite get the tone correct, I appreciated the 'tape worm' comment. But I'm a sucker for tape worm humor.

Posted by: Henry on January 2, 2008 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Here's why none of this was funny, and I ignored it, til now.

But that was one too many. Even this guy, unselfaware as he was, seemed to know he went too far w/that'n.

You cannot use a word like "unselfaware" and find any kind of familiarity with a reader. That word trips up polite reading and leaves a person stone cold disinterested. Your style is needlessly wordy, runs into obscure words too often, and everything falls flat. On its side. With no impact. And lays there. Ugh.

Now, Iowans is purty meek and mild, take it all around. That is, till some snobbish fop goes offa his nut 'bout corn in his chowder like its their fucking fault he's a conceited asshole who can't brook no corn in his chowder, like it's a moral failin' to sez nothin' of an aesthetic disaster.

Iowans are sophisticated and well-read, to be honest with you, sir. They don't use words like "fucking" or "asshole" and they don't use words like "purty" or "brook" or "fop" because those words have little or no cache with them. They are straight talking people who know when someone is putting on airs. This is why my friend Pete DuPont rues the thousands of dollars he spent trying to catch fire in that state. He would have been better off staying in Delaware.

So the owner of the diner he don't fancy bein' insulted like that, so he rejoins 'n sez, "Well, you appears not to have sense enough to wipe after you shit, buddy, so I reckon there's more'n corn you oughtta be worried about in that there chowder."

Sounds like something that would happen in a Mississippi whorehouse on a cold Tuesday night. It doesn't sound like Iowa, doesn't resemble anything in particular, other than your own ignorant attempt at being funny, and it falls flat. Flat as a pancake. That guy, who runs the place? He'd throw a pancake at me. In fact, he threw a wet rag at me and demanded that I clean up my mess. I complied. We shook hands. I did not pay him for the meal, but I gave him twenty dollars and we separated amicably.

When you can write, give us a call. We won't answer, but you can make another feeble attempt at your leisure. It's a free country, and I do love it so.

Otherwise, you suck.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

[straw mens is set up by Stormin' Norman, straw mens is knocked over, Norm declares: "My, what a clever boy am I!", then concludes thus:]

When you can write, give us a call. We won't answer, but you can make another feeble attempt at your leisure. It's a free country, and I do love it so.

Otherwise, you suck.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

_____________

Look, Norm.

You came off in yer original post as a pompous horse's-ass. Nothing you've written since then has changed that impression you created.

(Did you really "fling" yer chowder on the floor, Norm? Isn't that behavior representative of a petulant child? Did you really "summarily" explain to the "fools" who served you chowder w/corn innit that that warn't the way "a Princeton man" eats it, like they fucking cared?)

Considering you've assiduously (or stupidly; never underestimate the power of human stupidity, sez I) ignored that the lampoon I wrote is delivered in first-person narration (i.e. mine), and that it makes no claims to being a depiction of an Iowan, it's hardly surprising you wanna change the subject.

Point being: You were ridiculed for being a pompous ass, Norm, and you really can't saying anything substantively in response to that. So instead, you say my writing sucks.

Fair enough.

Think I'd rather be thought a poor writer by a pompous ass than not. Seems like kind'uva badge of honor.

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

(Did you really...Did you really?)

Did you really fail to notice that you're sitting there arguing with a bleeding obvious parody? Christ, but you're a prime horse's ass. Different day, different state, same idiot. Feel the embarrassment, yum, feel it.

Considering you've assiduously (or stupidly; never underestimate the power of human stupidity, sez I) ignored that the lampoon I wrote is delivered in first-person narration (i.e. mine), and that it makes no claims to being a depiction of an Iowan

He's probably ignored it because it's a lame defense that took you hours to come up with. By all means keep flogging it now though. I mean it's not like you have anything else ... writing ability, wit, analysis, listening skills...

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Think I'd rather be thought a poor writer by a pompous ass than not. Seems like kind'uva badge of honor.

Accepting your disability is the first step towards realizing that you're never going to make it in the real world. Good for you, sir.

I think I misued the word "cache" above when Gilmore Girls came on. I believe I should have said "cachet" and I apologize for my error. I meant to use the version that is defined as:

: a characteristic feature or quality conferring prestige b: prestige

Other than that, you still suck. And you do it in public. Which is quite sad. Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to see how Rory is going to pay for Yale.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

If you're going to criticize Iowa for its disproportional presence, you better criticize New Hampshire, too. Or does the latter get a free pass because it's in New England and is thus part of the "cultured" Northeast, and is not the "flyover" country the chattering class isn't familiar with?

I participated in the '84 Iowa caucus (backing McGovern) when I was in grad school at Iowa State. It was a fascinating process.

Posted by: Vincent on January 2, 2008 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK
Now, Iowans is purty meek and mild, take it all around. That is, till some snobbish fop goes offa his nut 'bout corn in his chowder like its their fucking fault he's a conceited asshole who can't brook no corn in his chowder, like it's a moral failin' to sez nothin' of an aesthetic disaster.

Iowans are sophisticated and well-read, to be honest with you, sir. They don't use words like "fucking" or "asshole" and they don't use words like "purty" or "brook" or "fop" because those words have little or no cache[t?] with them. They are straight talking people who know when someone is putting on airs. This is why my friend Pete DuPont rues the thousands of dollars he spent trying to catch fire in that state. He would have been better off staying in Delaware.

_____________

Actually, Norm, Iowans, like English-speakin' peoples the world over, do in fact use words like "fucking" and "asshole". Shocking revelation for the tender sensibilities of "a Princeton man", I know, but true nonetheless.

The salty use of profanity is not mutually exclusive from one's sophistication nor does it indicate how well-read people are or aren't. In short, it proves nothing. Using profanity cuts across all lines and gradations of education and intelligence. It is also noteworthy that I never claimed nor intimated that Iowans were deficient in sophistication or in being well-read. You did, Norm. On my behalf.

Which is all a figment of yer straw-man imagination.

Also, it strikes me as absurdly hilarious that you wanna call me out for using words that ain't part of the common man's tongue and then you use a word like "cachet" to make yer point.

But what really wraps it all up and puts a bow onnit is how you sez Iowans is straight-talkin' peoples "who know when someone is putting on airs." You follow this up immediately by sayin', "This is why my friend Pete DuPont rues the thousands of dollars he spent trying to catch fire in that state."

Is that an unintentionally hilarious slip, Norm? B/c it sure sounds like yer good bud Pete didn't do so hot in Iowa b/c "straight-talkin' Iowans" saw right thru a coupla insincere phonies like you two. Phonies who put on airs. Like a real solipsistic chowderhead goin' off on the salt o' the earth durin' his stint flailin' about in retail politics.

See how that works, Norm?

----------------

So the owner of the diner he don't fancy bein' insulted like that, so he rejoins 'n sez, "Well, you appears not to have sense enough to wipe after you shit, buddy, so I reckon there's more'n corn you oughtta be worried about in that there chowder."

Sounds like something that would happen in a Mississippi whorehouse on a cold Tuesday night. It doesn't sound like Iowa, doesn't resemble anything in particular, other than your own ignorant attempt at being funny, and it falls flat. Flat as a pancake. That guy, who runs the place? He'd throw a pancake at me. In fact, he threw a wet rag at me and demanded that I clean up my mess. I complied. We shook hands. I did not pay him for the meal, but I gave him twenty dollars and we separated amicably.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Again, Norm, either you can't read or I can't write. (Biased tho' I am, I'ma goin' w/the former.)

Never claimed to be makin' a portrait of Iowans. That's yer slender reed you been hidin' behind so's you ain't gotta acknowledge that the true intent of my lampoon is just to ridicule you for being a pompous ass.

When you gotta case, pound the facts. When you ain't gotta case, pound the table. (Yer poundin' the table, Norm.)

Now, as regards the wet-rag "flung"-chowder incident, this just smells of implausibility, Norm.

Do. Not. Believe. You.

Did the guy hand you the wet rag before or after you "summarily" explained to the "fool" how "a Princeton man" eats his chowder? I read yer self-serving tripe, Norm, and I can almost hear yer mind's gears grindin' away tryin' to come up w/a narrative that makes sense under scrutiny, repairs the buffoonish persona you've already projected, and makes it seem like yer not just makin' shit up as you go once you been caught out.

So let me put it bluntly, Norm: Think yer whole flingin' chowderhead story is got up outta yer own chowderhead.

Which'd be fine -- great, really -- if you didn't come off like such a pompous asshole.

But, to thine own self be true, Norm.

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

He's probably ignored it because it's a lame defense that took you hours to come up with. By all means keep flogging it now though. I mean it's not like you have anything else ... writing ability, wit, analysis, listening skills...

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 2, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

_________________

I find yer intensity of involvement worthy of the pathetic history of sockpuppetry.

Yer not exactly a sphinx, Norm.

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's sickening to see bloggers who for weeks now have been pushing the Edwards meme that we need to...fight, fight, fight,...give no quarter,... Republican blood and guts and veins between my teeth,...scorch that earth,...rah, rah, rah!...all of a sudden decide that when push comes to shove a day for before the Iowa caucus that standing up in front of fellow DEMOCRATS and declaring which candidate you support so unfair and teh scariest thing evah! Pardon me but fuck that.


a

Posted by: markg8 on January 2, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Donald: read to achieve. Iowa does require people register sameday as Democrats, which I noted, and which is what we're discussing here. In fact, the main point of my post was that Democrats should be thankful, not scornful, if Obama really can get so many people to regsiter as Dems. The post I was responding to objected to that notion.

Get a clue

Of course, I see in your later comment about Drudge that you're not actually interested, at all, in an honest debate, but instead in using strawmen arguments. In case you're curious, the Obama campaign lists Drudge as a forbidden site and says the ad appearing on his site was an error. I expect rank and file Dems like him because of his progressive platform, appealing rhetoric, ability to sell his leftists policies to centrists and moderate GOPers, and lastly his intelligence and integrity.

Those last two qualities are, I'm sure, things with which you're wholly unfamiliar

Posted by: Michael on January 2, 2008 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

I've read everything that "dr" had to say, in her "way too familiar" and "far too many colloquialisms" way of writing, and all I can say is, is that she must have the unique ability to bitch at a man to the point where he swallows the business end of a revolver.

More importantly, Rory will go to Yale. She will have a bright future when she graduates. THIS is how America is supposed to work, people.

You could learn a lot from watching Gilmore Girls, that's for certain.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

I've read everything that "dr" had to say, in her "way too familiar" and "far too many colloquialisms" way of writing, and all I can say is, is that she must have the unique ability to bitch at a man to the point where he swallows the business end of a revolver.

More importantly, Rory will go to Yale. She will have a bright future when she graduates. THIS is how America is supposed to work, people.

You could learn a lot from watching Gilmore Girls, that's for certain.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

_________________

You must be a real piece of work, Norman.

Yer scarcely concealed misogyny is even more unflattering than yer propensity for assuming you know things you actually don't.

Not that it matters, but tain't a woman and ain't just sure how you came to decide I was, but yer reaction to this assumption is telling and don't reflect none too favorable on you.

And whether you suck onna Glock 'n spiel alla yer limited brains out is of course yer decision, Norm, but if yer gonna stick around for a spell, you'd do well to not pawn yer own failures in communication off on others.

Or to reflexively blame them on women.

Posted by: dr on January 2, 2008 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Even critics' irrationality goes haywire on thei topic. AT best, they default to sour grapes:

If not Iowa, then which other state would critics put first? It would only re-create the same alleged "disproportionate influence."

Which is what other states are jonesing for. There is no outsized impact--other states are free to vote for whomever, and do. They have their equal chance now.

Course, lacking the sound judgment Iowans routinely display, these other states would actively inflict damage. Perhaps Benen would prefer Florida, where they can't count ballots?

Or South Carolina, where ugly whispers substitute for American values. Or the corruption of Boston, New York, Louisiana--or Texas, where the Legislature hies itself across the border every so often?

Iowa is not the problem. The "Democratic" Party has long had a big problem accurately translating votes earned into convention delegates when Jesse Jackson competed and in some cases bested Al Gore.

We're using hackable electronic "voting" machines across the country--with no way to verify or recount votes.

Yet Benen breaking news is Iowa's electoral process? While the rest of the country still has egg on its face?

Spare me the false pleas for an authentic grassroots "democracy." At best, your implicit message is, "Iowa's votes don't count."

The alternative is far worse, so keep in mind, and when peddling stories in the Midwest, the manure's gotta measure up.

Posted by: sombrerofallout on January 2, 2008 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

You must be a real piece of work, Norman. Yer scarcely concealed misogyny is even more unflattering than yer propensity for assuming you know things you actually don't. Not that it matters, but tain't a woman and ain't just sure how you came to decide I was, but yer reaction to this assumption is telling and don't reflect none too favorable on you.

Now, one trips over that word "propensity" and nothing is acheived. That sticks the reader with more unfamiliar territory, and this indicates you simply cannot communicate.

You're not a woman? I refuse to believe it. You have the obsessive need to respond, therefore I took you for a woman. It's not that this is specific to a gender. This is specific to a certain pair of ex-wives that I happen to be paying alimony to and that's where I guessed at your gender. Obviously, you're one of those people who can behave with male and female characteristics, and I commend you for recognizing your special gifts. I'd rather you kept them to yourself, but it's a free country. You can keep sucking at this all night long, apparently. I'm bored and I'll be going to sleep soon. I can actually have a day and then stop that day. I don't need to fill a vast hole in my psyche. I just have my say and that's that. Plus, my shows are over, my day is complete, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

And whether you suck onna Glock 'n spiel alla yer limited brains out is of course yer decision, Norm, but if yer gonna stick around for a spell, you'd do well to not pawn yer own failures in communication off on others.

You have no talent whatsoever. I sit here and say to myself, wow. This public or private school system produced you and that's how you express yourself?

Or to reflexively blame them on women.

Where did you get that idea? You bitch like a crazy person. I thought you were a woman. Turns out you're not. Am I supposed to be Burt Reynolds or some other overly macho male sexist pig? It's not 1974, but intellectually, you appear frozen in that era. Too bad. Just when you might have had the chance to come out of your coma and say something interesting, you blew it.

Probably not for the first time, either.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK
Now, one trips over that word "propensity" and nothing is ach[ie]ved. That sticks the reader with more unfamiliar territory, and this indicates you simply cannot communicate.

Yer thinnest reed yet, Norm. Well done. Didn't think you could sink lower, but I fancy it's the desperation talkin'.

Could I not make the same asinine argument re: yer use of the word "cachet"? (That you typoed into "cache", a-course.) When the comic irony finally seeps in and tickles yer reflexively bitchy ganglia, let me know.

--------------------

You're not a woman? I refuse to believe it. You have the obsessive need to respond, therefore I took you for a woman. It's not that this is specific to a gender. This is specific to a certain pair of ex-wives that I happen to be paying alimony to and that's where I guessed at your gender.

Wow. You mean Norm's got hisself not one but two ex-wives and he's a bitter old misogynistic prune creeping into his dotage?

Noooo. Really? I'm shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that, Norm.

And here you been just the sweetheart of the rodeo up to this point, too.

---------

Obviously, you're one of those people who can behave with male and female characteristics, and I commend you for recognizing your special gifts. I'd rather you kept them to yourself, but it's a free country. You can keep sucking at this all night long, apparently. I'm bored and I'll be going to sleep soon. I can actually have a day and then stop that day. I don't need to fill a vast hole in my psyche. I just have my say and that's that.

No, that's yer fairy-tale version of it, Norm. What you do do is offer up yer deceitful mischaracterization of anyone you disagree with, then whinny 'n piss 'n moan like a whinging diarrhetic mule when anyone contradicts your windy pronouncements.

When someone's full of shit, like you, Norm, it may astonish you to learn that not only do they keep on spinning bullshit, but they get mad and bitchy when their bullshit is contradicted.

----------

And whether you suck onna Glock 'n spiel alla yer limited brains out is of course yer decision, Norm, but if yer gonna stick around for a spell, you'd do well to not pawn yer own failures in communication off on others.

You have no talent whatsoever. I sit here and say to myself, wow. This public or private school system produced you and that's how you express yourself?

Lame, Norm. Very, very lame. Yer argument-by-assertion is as pathetic and tiresome as GeeDub's, just not so catastrophic, thankfully.

------------

Or to reflexively blame them on women.

Where did you get that idea? You bitch like a crazy person. I thought you were a woman. Turns out you're not. Am I supposed to be Burt Reynolds or some other overly macho male sexist pig? It's not 1974, but intellectually, you appear frozen in that era. Too bad. Just when you might have had the chance to come out of your coma and say something interesting, you blew it.

Probably not for the first time, either.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 2, 2008 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK


_________________

Yer frozen-in-amber assumptions are comical, tho' yer misogyny really don't reflect well on you.

But it's all of a piece, I spose.

Look, Norm. Don't b'lieve my talent (or lack thereof) is what's in dispute here. In truth, it seems an odd point for you to keep belaboring.

I am prepared to accept that you think my writing stinks (so what?), but yer repeated insistence on beating that dead horse smells an awful lot like the insecurity of projection talkin', Norm.

(fwiw, was just barely alive in '74, but nice try at manufacturing another reed-thin straw-man to knock down. But, when you have been shown to be a pompous ass and a reactionary fool, I spose you gotta make this about me. What other option do you have?)

Good Lord, sucks to be you.

Posted by: dr on January 3, 2008 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

I find yer intensity of involvement worthy of the pathetic history of sockpuppetry.

Yer not exactly a sphinx, Norm.

Damn! Can't fool you!

Posted by: I've been everywhere, yeah on January 3, 2008 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Iowa has caucus because it cannot go first without caucus. New Hampsihire insists IT will be the first primary. So that's why Iowa caucuses, it cannot go first unless it does so.

Many states have caucuses and have just as absurd procedures. Iowa gets more attention because it is first and because it the most attended caucus compared to the rest. If you think Iowa is bad, go out to Wyoming on Saturday where only 1,200 Republicans in entire state get to chose the state's delegation to the GOP national conventions. No, I don't think anyone's going out to Wyoming.

If you think these complaints about Iowa are new, they are not. They happen every four years. Thus, it seems to me, the powers that be has two choices: they can completly ignore what happens here and dimish its importance and wait for the first big state primary like Michigan or cover the caucuses like they would the Super Bowl and they have chosen to do the latter every four years.

Did we not say the frontloaded primary calendar would make Iowa and New Hampshire more important not less? If you want to see the sytem change, you'd better root for Rudy's Super Tuesday strategy.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on January 3, 2008 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Norman, take your medicine!

(dr, I for one appreciated your tale. Had more a'tha ring a'truth to it.)

Posted by: prinstun man on January 3, 2008 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK

I grew up in Maine (which like Iowa has caucuses), but then moved away, and attended my one and only caucus at the age of 18, when I caucused for Jesse Jackson in 1988. I have never had an "official" political experience that felt as exciting and participatory since then. I talked politics -- actual issues -- with strangers (and a few acquaintances). We all tried to persuade the lone Gore guy to come over to our camp. It's true that this process depends on an antiquated, early-American notion of democratic process in which you are mature enough not to hold people's votes against them when you leave the room. (Not a notion that has much currency here in Chicago, hence the thugs posted outside all the polling places in certain precincts...)

I realize the process excludes some people. But so do Tuesdays - many more people overall. I wish Steve would use as much energy on getting us to switch national voting day to Saturday as he just did on caucuses.

Posted by: rabbit on January 3, 2008 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Taragon and dry sherry wine are the ingredients to make clam chowder savory.

Posted by: Brojo on January 3, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK
….I thought you were a woman….Ab-Norman Rogers at 11:43 PM
But normie, you're the one famous for wearing her undies outside in and becoming so overstimulated you forget where your finger has been. Posted by: Mike on January 3, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Some of youse guys are paying way WAY too much attention to a male GILMORE GIRLS fan.

Posted by: Doc Nebula on January 3, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Holy shit, this thread smells awful. Norman been eatin' corn again, I see.

Posted by: Aaron on January 3, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

The Iowa Caucus is structured that way for a specific reason, secret ballots would not work. Caucusgoers move into groups for each candidate. If that candidate does not gather enough voters to apportion a single delegate, those voters must redeclare for a "viable candidate." For example, in last year's Caucus, Kucinich didn't get enough caucusgoers in my precinct for a delegate, so they had a deal worked out in advance to switch to Kerry

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Posted by: Oppog on October 13, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Oppog on October 13, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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