caucuses in iowa aren’t the problem: you are

An old friend commended a recent Jeff Greenfield editorial decrying the broken primary process. I bit. Greenfield blames Iowa for the usual reasons: too white, too educated, too different than America. It was a worthwhile read even while completely missing the actual dysfunction.

Now, if Greenfield wants to change the primary process, I can get behind that cause in the same way I’m in favor of express lanes at the grocery: little improvements are nice. But if one believes changing up some primary dates and tweaking the processes of the big parties is crucial to democracy, I question their grasp of what ails our republic.

The primary debacle only seems huge because of the two party miasma.

I learned about all of this at a young age when my 7th grade civics teacher told me we had a two party system. I regurgitated that on the exam, no doubt, just like you. They key word here is “system”. It took a few years for me (I know—I’m slow) to figure out that this state of affairs was not designed, but rather happenstance.

A political party, by definition, is not designed. People of common interests get together and decide to pool their clout to influence government and field candidates that support shared ideals. It is unsurprising that parties might develop different processes for picking candidates and building platforms. In a true multi-party world, this might even be a good thing.

But Greenfield is right as far as he goes: Iowa does end up with inappropriate influence on what candidates end up on our ballot. But it is just plain wrong that Iowa hijacked anything: years of anti-competitive legislation from Two-party Hall hijacked our political process.

Ballot access restriction inflates the importance of the Iowa Caucuses.

Our elections would have a radically different timbre if instead of two parties choosing candidates it were ten. One weird Iowa caucus or New Hampshire straw poll would have far less significance. Perhaps in a multi-lateral world we would choose to do this all the same day. But maybe not.

It is harsh blaming you for the problem, I know. But experience tells me that there are very few of you who will not vote Democrat or Republican.

If you do, you are enabling this mess.

If they are going to get your vote…and you know they will get your vote…why should the party elite change? The pattern has long been the same: in primaries, run to the right (or left), and in the general election move to the center. This is how they bait you in, and the convention sets the hook.

You MUST vote for your candidate: That other party can’t be trusted with America’s future.

Go ahead and do what you must. Go ahead and complain about how it would all be just great except for THEM. And Iowa.

Go ahead. You know you will.


13 thoughts on “caucuses in iowa aren’t the problem: you are”

  1. “These issues are not matters of education, and not positions they have been fooled into by politicians.”

    Well, I fundamentally disagree with you this. I think critical thinking skills are almost non-existent. It’s not a trick so much as lazy thinking: People respond powerfully to sound-bites. The 60% that are easily swayed lack the ability to examine a source and make critical assessments or formulate a nuanced position that may not track perfectly with the sound bites.

    The reality is we have broad areas of agreement that go unaddressed because of this false dichotomy the two-party “system” foists upon us. The Bern articulated this extremely well on The Axe Files Podcast. I can’t link to an individual episode apparently, but the Bern was on Episode 1…well worth a listen.


    1. “The reality is we have broad areas of agreement ”

      List some.

      What is the critical thinker position on universal healthcare?

      Do all critical thinkers end up with the same conclusions and positions? If not, don’t you just have better educated people disagreeing with each other, instead of less educated people disagreeing with each other. Does the line of disagreements move after this generational education… i.e. do we all agree on universal healthcare, but disagree on design.


  2. Your use of your old friend here reminds me of a morning ritual of mine. Every morning I have to give my female Westie dry eye drops. Every morning, right when she is vulnerable, dog #2, the rescue Chihuahua walks behind her and buries his nose where it should not go. You did the exact same thing… “took advantage of a small opening”.

    No need to debate whether or not Iowa (or any state for that matter) going first in a REPRESENTATIVE democracy is a lame idea… it is. But you made the argument as: “well, it might be a problem, but so small in CONTEXT that it’s not worth discussing”. Your context is:

    “If you elect the right people in the right way without the control of the two parties, breaking the binary choice, quality government policy and delivery will flow to the deserving population, yada yada yada.” Something like that…

    This reminds me of what Thomas Friedman wrote in one of his OP-EDs right before the Iraq war:

    “Is Iraq the way it is today because Saddam Hussein is the way he is? Or is Saddam Hussein the way he is because Iraq is the way it is? ”

    Do we have an “elected” problem, do we have a “voter population” problem, or both?

    Let me use your method… raise a higher context which makes your premise here look minor in comparison. More government policy debate, compromise and delivery only matters if it comes close to matching the reality of our economy and lives. There is a constant debate between conservative and progressive ideology. This is useful when the battle lines are close to reality. But what happens when that line (or one side of the argument) is so far off from reality (or near future reality) that it becomes too late to recover. Regardless of one’s ideology, go watch this short 15 minute video. See if it challenges some of your core beliefs about “what government has to provide”, or perhaps better said… “what we all need to be preparing for”.

    No apparent preview button, so don’t know if links worked. If not, cut and paste.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, Old Friend. That handle made my day.

      Let me give the short answer here: we have both an institutional problem, and a citizen problem. As you implicitly suggest, it is somewhat recursive. This is why almost everything comes back to education for me.

      That said, I think the institutional problems are easier to fix…education takes a generation.


      1. No, you missed my “implication”. I actually think politicians just provide the product their designated voters (customers) want. Bernie voters do want healthcare to be a right, and Cruz voters do not. Bernie voters are for publicly funded elections where sitting senators don’t spend their time dialing for $. Cruz voters think publicly funded elections is a slippery slope to tyranny. These issues are not matters of education, and not positions they have been fooled into by politicians. Theses are matters of belief, heart and conscience…. i.e. real differences…and they will exist with two parties or ten parties. Our pathetic presidential debates are performance art because we have never got beyond 1) government should do nothing … or 2) government should do something. We are deadlocked into no real debate because there is no negotiating with “nothing”.

        That was the point of the video. That future challenges much of the conservative beliefs:

        – work ethic
        – dependency
        – trickle down
        – employment for healthcare

        Write a blog about that video, and how we get from here to there…that is the core problem.


    2. Hello person named old friend.

      I hope I am not out of line taking an opportunity of steel sharpening steel, i.e. being critical of the video above.

      “Regardless of one’s ideology, go watch this short 15 minute video. See if it challenges some of your core beliefs about “what government has to provide”, or perhaps better said… “what we all need to be preparing for”.”

      I have two criticisms of the video. First is at approximately the 4:20 mark when the “horse” word was crossed out and replaced by “human”. These are not interchangeable terms. The work is being done for the human and the horse is a tool. To replace horse with human presupposes that employment of a horse IS the objective, rather than the work/job/task that the human is trying to accomplish. A horse being replaced by a car is the equivalent of a manual drill being replaced by an electric drill. A less efficient tool for a more efficient tool. Hopefully this is obvious enough that I need not labor any more on this point.

      My second objection is the over all message seems to embrace the Luddite fallacy that technology leads to permanent unemployment. Any new equipment or technology will only replace the old equipment or technology if there is an improvement or savings worth the change. The cost savings means that consumers will pay less and thus have greater disposable resources for other goods and services. To create, implement, and maintain this new equipment, technology, or “bots” will create a demand on the supply of labor at precisely the same time as old inefficiently allocated labor is no longer needed. The great work of man is not to produce a thing or to produce it in one way, but to provide a product or service that is in demand, in the most profitable way possible. That is not possible with horses and buggy whips, manual looms, or an abacus. As a worker, employee, craftsman, or professional, it pays to not marry old technology at the expense of profitability and meeting the customers needs.

      Traditionally, governmental interference in this area has been to subsidize outdated technology so that true demand is distorted and the pain of conversion is lengthy. The free market provides the incentive for the timely adoption of improvements, which elevates the happiness and standard of living of man.



      1. No worries about my feelings….bring on your rusty 🙂 steel.

        One correction in my post: I said the point of the video was challenging traditional conservative positions. That is not what I meant to type … meant to type “that is the reason I posted the video”…i.e. I think it challenges those principles, not the author. I did not take his video as political. Hard to know, read the wiki and guy remained anonymous for a long time.

        I think the video makes a simple statement….economic (employment) rules are always the same until they are not, and we have arrived where they are not. Full employment in our society is unemployment of 5% until it’s 25+%. You either buy that premise of the video or you do not. If not, further discussion about horses will not be productive, but still might be entertaining. 🙂

        He had me at driverless cars (autos)…and the number of jobs involved. The old economic golden oldie is such productivity improvement will free up such labor to get better jobs…say white colla jobs (they aren’t all better btw). But what happens when white collar knowledge jobs (those Plank high-learnin jobs) become the prey. Uh Oh.. what’s next is leisure time and government or Trump stipends. Plank can speak to that future, he is the one who sent me the video.

        I think the first wave of this was globalization. I think our middle class 30+ year downturn and the obscene wealth inequality was more about globalization than tax rates, regulation, politicians, ideology, education. The rest of the world just showed up wanting theirs. At least with globalization, you could hope over time countries and trade would level out and the downturn would stop. This technology thing seems like a different animal to me…game changer on everything…economics, role of government, etc. We just had, and are currently having a civil war over the Affordable Care Act, which Isn’t even universal coverage. The entire “limited government” statement will be ludicrous if that is the world we are moving to. Time will tell.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I tend to agree with old friend on this one, but I don’t ignore the Luddite fallacy. To me it is about the pace of the transition. It doesn’t have to be permanent in order to cause serious social disruption. That said, I do think our permanent employment is rising, but that has many contributing factors with new technology being only one. In the case of automated transportantion, we are talking about throwing a significant portion of our workforce, with relatively low general skill levels, into the unemployment line over a very short period of time. Redeploying those workers to other productive work will not be quick or easy.


      3. Tried to avoid commenting on horse not equal to human, but am about to fail on that. 🙂

        Seems like the horse, human worker, software, bot all serve the function of creating products and services for humans. You said the goal was not to produce employment for the horse. Isn’t that the same for the human labor, his/her job is a result of the goal of producing, not the result of trying to create a job for that human worker.

        Seems the same to me, and pretty sure a company will send the worker packing just as fast as a horse if it means more $.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. old friend: “You said the goal was not to produce employment for the horse. Isn’t that the same for the human labor, his/her job is a result of the goal of producing, not the result of trying to create a job for that human worker.”

        The first goal is to make a profit. Don’t give me any of this “Common Good” 🙂 or betterment of man nonsense. You show up for work or start a business for the dollars.

        So the whole idea is to deliver the product. Not be married to a process. Does the occasional product or industry become outdated? Probably. But even the leather buggy whip company can make other leather tac, holsters, personal items, & sheaths. How sad it would be if a computer manufacturer said the would only make XTs with 640k RAM. This is a dynamic and fast paced world. Dynamic and flexible employees and entrepreneurs will be rewarded, whereas those not willing to innovate and change will receive not so peculiar financial indicators that inflexibility may not be the path to bumping Bill Gates off the hill.

        I have great doubts in the thoroughness of bots usurping all human activity, but capital has always been man’s best friend. Is not the bucket and canteen better than just cupping your hand under the water? Isn’t a pipeline that carries water (un-employing untold numbers of water carriers (and I don’t mean MSNBC & CNN)) better than not?

        Employing greater capital creates a multiplier of each person’s labor. It does not displace labor, it frees labor to be used in a more valuable way. Imagine those huge deep iron ore and copper mines having to be dug with a shovel. Thus if we ever are able to have vast portions of our workload automated, then it frees us for greater things.

        Yes, some day each of us individually may have to take a totally different path because technology or, more likely, government dictate renders our position or industry null and void. Now’s not the time to get into coal mining, if you catch my drift.


      5. The reply buttons don’t seem to be after all posts, so just picking this one.

        You said: “if you catch my drift.”
        I have enjoyed your drifts in the past… but then again, my favorite TV series of all times is Breaking Bad. I’m afraid you are “Drifting Bad”. 🙂

        My point of posting the video was to “out context” Plank, which is karma since he is the one who sent it to me. Plank is trying to sell his old stand by… “we have a two party problem, and if you break them, flowers and perfume will flow out of our *****”. For a change, I was trying to coax him into coming up with the right conclusion on his own (stated at the bottom of this post), rather than repeat stale old arguments. I would have never attempted that in the past, but if you notice Curmudgeon is now linking Bernie Podcasts. Let that soak in…. sucker has moved a long ways towards me since we all last sparred.

        Here is the problem, we have a “one party problem”, not a two party problem. Curm should come to the same conclusion based on his Bernie post. He claims “we agree on a broad range of issues”, and then links the Bernie / Axelrod podcast as examples of what we all broadly agree on. He never replied to “list some of them”, so I listened to the podcast. Here were some Bernie claims the public largely agrees with (raising minimum wage, college paid for, daycare for the tots, taxing rich people more, universal healthcare…).

        Read that list again. I’ve tried this in vain with Curm… very unsatisfying experience. He has so much more bandwidth than me, I think the logic path from A to B is more challenging. I think with my reduced clutter, I map to the logic better than he does. Said another way, he has a much higher IQ, but I am much smarter. 🙂

        So having read that list, now pick one item from it the Dems in Congress, and Obama isn’t for. You can’t, they would pass all of it tomorrow. Now ask the same question, any of the Republicans in the House or Senate for any of them. Absolutely not. So it can’t be a two party problem of enacting “that broad agreement list”, it is a one party problem… the GOP. Now, fair enough if you make the argument that the public does NOT widely agree on that list, but that is the one Curm pointed us to.

        So far that list, we have a one party problem, you don’t have to replace any Dems to get it, you just need more of them. Instead of his false equivalency, he needs to simply say “vote for Dems instead of Republicans”. You would get that entire list in a heartbeat. Perhaps you can pull it out of him why you need to replace elected that will vote today on what you want…. because I have found the inquiry quite painful. 🙂


  3. “But experience tells me that there are very few of you who will not vote Democrat or Republican.”

    That experience is known widespread. Therefore, many who would be independents might run in either of the two parties, purely because of the greater likelihood of being taken more seriously.

    Bernie Sanders, a “Democratic Socialist” is running as just a Democrat, even though there is not two wits difference in them. Ron Paul, formerly ran in the Libertarian party, learned quickly to run and homestead the Republican Party. The two party system is a self sustaining system. It even has math on it’s side.

    If you have Party A, B, & C and A & C are established parties and B comes along, which ever party B is more closely aligned with B will draw more converts from that party, thus guaranteeing the least similar party will win the election. Such was the case when Ross Perot guaranteed a less than 50% vote Bill Clinton in 1992.

    I don’t have an answer, but I too can blame the bots that vote for the letter following the name just because it’s their team.


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