Here’s what I know so far about Iowa: corn and Field of Dreams, which is pretty much about mowing down a corn field and making a baseball diamond for ghosts. But this past weekend, I found myself caring about this random midwest state with a population of 3.1 million (90% of which is pure white) thanks to the Iowa Caucus.
Prior to Monday’s Caucus watch, I really didn’t know much about this 224 year tradition. To be fair, I’m sure I learned about it in my American history classes but then promptly forgot about it because it sounded archaic and insane. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. This past Monday, “Iowa Caucus” was the trending topic with over ten million searches on inquires such as “What is the Iowa Caucus,” “What is caucus,” and the who-has-time-for-that-capitalizaiton-bullshit “how does the iowa caucus work.”
If you’re still wondering how this
dysfunctional system works, here’s your brief refresher course.
By the time I went to write this post on the morning after, there was still no clear “winner” of the Iowa Caucus. Apparently the Iowa Democrats decided to “Okay, Boomer” this process and have results report directly to this app, which kept crashing throughout the night. On top of that, and my personal favorite, caucus goers were, as this woman reported to The Daily after casting her losing vote for Joe Biden, “I’m kinda old and tired and I wanna go home.” Whoever this woman is, she’s my spirit twin and I must find her.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, the results were finally tallied and left more questions than answers. Although Bernie Sanders’ won the popular vote, Pete Buttigieg was declared the winner with 26.9% of state delegate equivalents. Once again, way to celebrate the popular vote, America. It’s not like we have issues with low voter turn out (California alone reported less than 50% of voter turn out in the 2018 elections) and convincing people their voice matters. Oh…wait.
While the whole process is problematic, the entire caucus system does make us more self-aware about our democratic process and serves as mirror, making us examine our own reflection.
It’s Middle School All Over Again
It’s ironic that one of the caucuses from Monday night was held at a middle school gymnasium because it was total middle school rules, complete with raging hormones and 100% awkwardness.
You have your cliques – the cool kids, the smart kids, the different but in a non-threatening way kids, Tulsi Gabbard, the rebellious kids who just need an amazing school counselor to guide their way. All cliques have their own spot, their own Cool Table™️. Then school starts, drama happens, and those well-established “friendships” start to break down. Next thing you know, some of the smart kids are making their way over to the rebellious kids’ table; the cool kids have accepted with open arms the different kids but only if they play by their rules. Tulsi Gabbard has unenrolled from the school and really, that’s okay with the entire student and staff body.
Amid all this chaos, you’re just trying to find a seat and your people, only to end up in the library, researching how to make a time machine to jump forward into the final week of your high school senior year.
Our country loves traditions, no matter how outdated, uncomfortable, and baffling they are. We thrive on them, hold fast to them, even if they are to the detriment of our own democracy. Like the electoral college, the caucus system does not reflect who we are today. Why would we ever expect a system that was created in 1796 – a time when only a specific group had rights: white males who owned land – to work in the 21st century? Do the benefits outweigh the historical significance of these processes?
While we’ve made progress in our time, we still are hesitant to change even our most loathsome practices. It’s like that tradition where you’re forced to hold your sibling’s hand as your entire family makes a circle around the Christmas tree and sings “Silent Night,” all the while in between verses your mom warns you two to behave and you vow to never put your future children through this torture. Decades later, you find yourself giving the same warning to your kids in between verses of “Mary, Did You Know.” Sure, the intentions are sweet and supposed to create an atmosphere of love, but your blood pressure is up and your children both have to ice their hands from seeing who had the strongest death grip.
Caucuses and the electoral college are our awkward family traditions. Do we really want to pass them down to the next generation?
We’re Not All Certain…
In a December 2019 Marist Poll/NPR study, 76% of Democrats surveyed admitted that they had yet to decide on a candidate. Flash forward to Iowa on February 3rd and this interview on MSNBC:
First of all, choosing a candidate should have more weight than just “a little bit of attention.” Second, your neighbor is totally going to let his dog shit on your lawn.
I’m going to admit something that not even my closest friends know: I’m a “still deciding” democrat. Remember that Iowa middle school gym? I’d be standing in that center circle, evaluating which cool table to choose. Blame it on a wide breadth of candidates, each with something to share. Blame it on me – I’m a enneagram 9 who has to be reminded to “exert yourself.” Like Heidi pointed out earlier this week, there’s a great deal I have to check in myself before I can support a single candidate.
Don’t misunderstand me: being a “still deciding” democrat does not mean I’m going to be a statistic in another low voter turn out. I am not apathetic on the issues. I am not ignoring what is happening in our society. I will decide and cast my vote, and my vote will matter just as much as yours.
But there’s a freedom in that vacillation. I have no connection to anyone in the race right now. If a candidate drops out, that will not affect my vote because I will still vote for anyone except Donald J. Trump. I am not going to throw my vote away or give it to Trump because of anger towards the DNC or the fact that “my candidate” didn’t receive the nomination. That’s part of why we ended up in this mess.
Will I always be in a state of indecision? Absolutely not, but it will be on my terms and not by a middle school popularity contest.
Julie believes great books should be read more than once and prides herself on finding the "dirty part" in any romance novel under a minute. Loves red wine but loves it more when shared with friends. Has an (embarrassingly) extensive knowledge about all things Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl. Is currently curating the perfect playlists that ALWAYS include a song from one of the Twilight soundtracks.