Caucuses, New Years: Hoping for the best but not expecting very much

Given my demonstrated interest in Media and Politics, which is my course of study and the basis for most of my gnovis articles, one might expect that I would have already written about the huge deal that is this year’s Iowa caucuses.

As I’m sure you all couldn’t have missed, nanoseconds after Obama’s win was projected, the blogs and print publications began bubbling with reams of opinion, editorialism, and near fanaticism on the matter. Well I really have an issue with this situation. You can call me cynical but frankly, I think the Iowa caucuses big-to-do is mostly meaningless.

This isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea either.

Side note: I do have to say that the caucuses have made for some of the funniest jokes I’ve heard in all of 2008, and tops most election humor from 2007 as well.

As some of you may know, I support Barack Obama more than the other Democratic candidates. I’m actually a registered Independent, but I haven’t seen a decent Republican or Independent candidate since Ross Perot, never mind that I wasn’t even close to voting age when he last ran.

Clearly Obama’s victory, and I use that word tentatively, is critically important and groundbreaking in historical terms. His speech was also electrifying, and impressively presidential, despite the frequent references to Hope, Change, and Them, the Cynics (we get such a bad rap), words which are growing quite tiring far too early in this process.

In addition, the massive turnout for an "election" that doesn’t even count in any official sense, is certainly significant. And yes, the American people are clearly desperate, we’re thirsting, we’re writhing for CHANGE, as nearly everyone says is evidenced by the surprising results for both parties.

I suppose I’d have to agree– not even I am so jaded to think that Huckabee’s huge margin in Iowa is due solely to the large population of evangelical Christians in Iowa and a savvy campaign media consultant. I also would be quick to argue against the notion that Obama’s support comes solely from a well execute marketing campaign targetting young voters.

But honestly, what country wouldn’t be desperate for something completely different after two terms of one of those most questionable, I venture to say horribly unfit presidents in modern history?

And that’s about all that I feel could be interpreted as truly meaningful from the entire fire storm of activity that emerged from Iowa. The rest of the press
shenanigans and rallying around the dog and pony show are superfluous and I believe they’re actually condemnable.

This behavior, which is so typical of the American media, is actually distracting from the real political process, which goes on in our very hometowns, all year, every year.

The Iowa caucuses aren’t even very democratic. This
is particularly the case for the Democrats who use a fairly conspicuous manner of voting rounds, and yet a very non-transparent method
of reporting. I really feel that if this event is going to be given such Lose Weight Exercise, the standards for voting integrity should be raised.

A secret ballot in which many voters from a
representative pool cast a single, truly anonymous vote, which is then reflected in the final numbers in a one-to-one manner is the only
method that could be seen as a meaningful gauge of public opinion– one that wouldn’t be so
easily influenced by the provision of sandwiches, or a particular candidate’s culinary choices, or simply by
how the Joneses are voting.

Then again, we have the electoral college. So I guess I shouldn’t really gripe about less meaningful archaic, arbitrarily established
voting holdovers.

But in any case, simply because it IS, doesn’t mean that it Should Be. I think it’s shameful that such a silly method can have such undue influence in who is elected President in a country
extolled for its rich democratic tradition. *cough*…

My only hope (yes, HOPE- this is tough for me) is that the visibility of the caucuses and other primaries might engage citizens. I hope that the constructed, palatable narratives of competition and triumph, bad and good gals, inevitability and cinderella stories, might spark more widespread interest in something that’s at least billed as a political event. I mean any involvement of Chuck Norris is likely to draw new entrants into the political discourse, right?

But forgive me if I don’t really expect that the youngsters coming out in droves to support Obama will regulalry flip on C-Span, or suddenly begin attending local city council meetings, even if he is elected President. I’d be surprised if a truly sizeable portion of us 18-34 year olds were to show up at the polls on election day.

I suppose it’s possible that Obama might finally be the candidate who truly transcends age and taps into the minds of young Americans. That certainly seems to be his Hope. But (ironically enough) this narrative sounds a lot like 1992. Obama, and his youthful celebrity charm, have an undeniable gravitational pull for the young. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this story finishes…

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As much as I distrust the Iowa caucuses and most aspects of the media driven political process, I dislike the new years post holiday period much more– It occurs much more frequently, it’s far more pervasive, and it’s even more artificial.

Disclaimer: these views are not necessarily held by the rest of the
gnovis staff. We’re actually quite a festive
bunch, which is not code for the fact that we enjoy imbibing Tombs Ale
in each other’s company, which may or may not be true.

Most bloggers and writers in general give an official nod of acknowledgement to the turning of a new year. I actively avoided doing so. But I figure that I could discuss the issue along with my opinions about the Iowa caucuses with some level of thematic consistency: incredulity.

The turn of the new year talk of reexamination, of turning a new leaf, of finally doing all the things I never got around to accomplishing the last 26 years of my life, but will somehow manage in the next 365 days, makes my eyes reflexively roll.

It’s the passing of another year in the Gregorian calendar– a calendar followed by relatively few people throughout history, yet is imposed on most of the world. The turning of the new year is something we take far too seriously considering how arbitrary the beginning and end of each calendar year has been determined.

So I simply don’t bother establishing a laundry list of personal "improvements" that will fall flat by February. That’s not to say I don’t think evaluating one’s progress, in whatever realm, isn’t important. But I think it’s far more useful to use personal milestones that are meaningful to me as an individual. This seems more reasonable than utilizing the 12 glossy posters of cats hanging on my wall with attached pages of numbered blocks that pass without any effort of my own.

Instances like the passing of a semester, or the upcoming spectre of graduating and having to finally get a real job, are very effective inspirational moments to reflect on my elapsed path to attaining my goals. Nothing will make you reexamine your life like reviewing your resume and hunting for a job.

Getting rock hard abs (will never happen), balancing the check book rather than relying on the inherently unreliable internet banking transaction history (slightly more likely), or keeping a more organized house (certainly possible), are matters that should really be reviewed more regularly than once a year anyhow. /end rant

But in closing, Happy New Year to all of our readers. I truly hope that all our hopes and wishes are exceeded in this 366 (leap year) day period of 2008, however we choose to think of them.