I am a tremendous, shameless election junkie. The kind with an Intrade account. The kind who woke up a bit too early this morning, as though it were Christmas (or Beer Bike).
I love the absurdity of putting Iowa – Iowa! – first, and the resulting frenzy in the heartland. There is a media circus, but it’s separate from the action and shunned by the participants, who value handshakes over media buys – allowing candidates who wouldn’t see the light of day elsewhere to make a grab at the spotlight. There’s the obscene, absolutely nonsensical degree of pandering: ethanol subsidies in the 90s and 2000s, thankfully done away with as of Saturday, were the best excuse for wide-angle shots of corn fields this country has ever seen. There’s the sadistic joy obtained from forcing beltway suits to down corndogs at county fairs. There’s the pressure to roll up your sleeves and lose the jacket. Maybe it’s growing up somewhat outside the center of influence, maybe it’s the threadbare childhood, maybe it’s having farmers for grandparents – but there’s a strange, uncomfortable populist streak in me unsuppressed by years of meritocracy and only satiated by such elevating spectacles.
Caucuses are an exemplary idea: frenetical masses crowd into classrooms, forced to listen to their compatriots campaign informally before casting secret ballots. They make buttons!
Mostly, though, today is an excuse for me to re-watch the absolutely stellar two-part West Wing episode “Twenty Hours in America.” Which takes place in Indiana, not Iowa, but that’s beside the point. It embodies the process of the thing: presidential advisors fail to notice a skip in time zones, miss a flight, and learn to refrain from introducing themselves as people who work in the White House if they want to effectively land a hitch in the back of a pickup.
Oh, and this bro: