Do Iowans Care More about Family and Christmas than GOP Primary Reality Show?

Today is the day of the year when a bunch of Big 10.2 teams get thumped in bowl games. As such, it is a key part of the holiday season for college football fans, including those who live in the Midwest.

Tomorrow is the day of the Presidential electoral season where a few hundred thousand Iowans go to caucuses and exercise a unwarranted amount of control over who our next President will be.

Mind you, last Friday was the day when both Iowa and Iowa State got thumped in bowl games, but if these Iowans are Sugar Bowl fans, tomorrow is also the day when people stay home to watch the game rather than get herded around a crowded room for several hours. (The caucus was just one day later, on January 4, in 2008, though bowl games were skewed earlier because of the calendar.)

The juxtaposition of the heart of bowl season with the IA caucuses shows that we’ve arrived at that state invoked so often by those raising concerns about the logical outcome of the Mutually Assured Destruction on primary timing of the last decade or so: when the holiday season basically became campaigning season (though some raise the specter of pre-Christmas votes, too).

Isn’t it about time that some of the bajillions of reporters on the ground in Iowa do some reporting on whether or not this is good for democracy? Rather than tracking granular differences in polling numbers or thinking of different ways to say “Santorum Surge,” couldn’t some of these reporters interview Iowans–those caucusing as well as the majority who won’t caucus–to find out whether they paid more attention to their family’s regular Christmas celebration or the political circus being staged around them?

I don’t doubt that the volatility in polls this year stems, in significant part, from the terrible candidates in the GOP field; none of them, it seems, can survive the scrutiny of a few weeks. But I also wonder whether the timing plays a part. That is, it’s likely that a goodly number of likely caucus goers haven’t been concentrating all that much on whether Newt will force their grand kids to quit school and instead take a unionized janitor’s job, whether Mitt will outsource their jobs, and which of them are promising to start a war with Iran. The Des Moines Register’s highly respected poll says 41% of those polled may change their mind. Isn’t it possible that these citizens who have been entrusted with such power over our political system simply have been doing what the rest of us have been, enjoying one of the only weeks of the year when we get to spend extended time with our families?

Maybe it’s time we actually figured out whether waging an electoral campaign as if it were background Christmas Muzak is good for democracy.

17 replies
  1. Bob Schacht says:

    Happy New Year! You wrote,

    Maybe it’s time we actually figured out whether waging an electoral campaign as if it were background Christmas Muzak is good for democracy.

    I take your point, but quibble with the metaphor. If we treated the electoral campaign as if it were background Christmas Muzak, nobody would be paying any attention to it. If your point is that we citizens treat the electoral campaign as if it were background Christmas Muzak, but the Press goes into a hyperactive frenzy, then maybe the media are, for once, taking their responsibility seriously?

    Bob in AZ

  2. quake says:

    The earlier the campaign starts the more advertising revenue is earned by TV and the print media so they aren’t exactly incentivized to rail against this ridiculous schedule.

  3. emptywheel says:

    @Bob Schacht: Fair point. I guess I see some value in telling the campaign industry to feck off for another 3 weeks or so, so people can treat it seriously at a more appropriate time.

  4. PeasantParty says:

    The media has completely gone. They have focused so much on the campaigns that they fail to tell the country what is going on within and around the world.

    Oh! I forgot. That is no longer their objective. Nevermind.

    Also, I think if the people of this country actually placed those candidates as the ones they wanted to run people would be more interested. As we all know, none of the candidates actually were placed on the list by real American citizens. They were placed there by money and special interests. So, until Farmer John from my community, or Teacher Jane can get on the ballots it is not representation.

  5. Jerry says:

    Iowa Republicans have NO power over the nomination. This is a damn straw poll, just like the August straw poll in Ames. The impact comes from inattentive voters in other states who let Iowa straw polls influence their own votes later in state primaries that actually affect the convention next summer. So don’t blame Iowans for participating or not participating. Blame the media hype and the sheep who follow it.

  6. emptywheel says:

    @Jerry: I’m not blaming Iowans for taking the one week a year a lot of them have to spend time with family. But I am saying that if we’re going to continue the kind of selection process we’ve got, we ought not require that the first in the nation split their attention between important matters (their family) and important matters (their democracy) like we do.

  7. Peterr says:


    The Iowa caucuses do make a difference when it comes to getting contributions. Candidates who do not do well — especially if they were expected to make a good showing — find it harder to fundraise and generally end up dropping out. Thus, Iowas *do* have power over the nominating process.

    Maybe they don’t have the power to anoint a nominee, but they certainly have the power to push candidates out of the race.

  8. JTMinIA says:

    Well, since my Big 10.2 team already got its butt kicked, I’m mostly playing Skyrim with my son, instead of watching football, interrupted and punctuated by the hourly calls from various pollsters and computers asking me whether I’m going to the caucuses. A few times I’ve played stupid and answered as if they wanted to know if I were going to some mountain range in Eurasia (no-one has gotten it yet); other times I’ve said anything from “please call back later, I was just rinsing some Santorum off my legs” to “I’m not going because I know that Obama will have spies in the parking lot, writing down license plates.” In truth, I’ll probably go grocery shopping.

  9. Eureka Springs says:

    We need to push the entire primary/caucus game into May or June. Lump all states into four or five primary regions with a four or five week vote, one region each week. Rotate which region comes first each election cycle.

    We simply need sweeping political and electoral reforms on State and Federal constitutional and statutory levels.. Even when I read posts on small points I agree with I always cringe in the awareness so much is not considered in a time of obvious systemic fail. This is especially true for me when I read or hear myopic discussions of just ending Cit U these days. For we are not represented and the end of Cit U alone would do little if anything to improve upon that.

    As for the media… yes we need to watch and berate the paid shill poll dancers on occasion, but frankly I only need to turn on the box for a few minutes every few weeks or months to quickly realize why I pay them no never-mind anymore. Without watching the tele or listening to the radio, one can easily tell when a conversation is being led by nothing more than prefabricated talking points.. bless their hearts. For pete sakes, step away from the television. Suggest everyone else do the same. Why give them power with our remotes when we know better than to give the trappings of this particular punditry (found in all blue and red quarters) so much as a blog click? I have to say when I stepped away from daily work in the blogos, the escape from these particular trappings could not have been more liberating.

Comments are closed.