Democracy is unwieldy, ugly even, if you try to give everyone a voice. It’s a lot easier to rely on several non-representative, pliant samples to ensure that freedom reigns supreme, at least probably and at least somewhere.
In a report conducted by CNN Polling Director Keating Holland and carried by several other news organizations around the nation, Iowa and New Hampshire rank 26th and 36th, respectively, in a comparison of how all 50 states differed from the overall socio-economic/political makeup of the country.
Through 12 key statistics – four measuring income and education, four illustrating race and ethnicity and four describing the “typical neighborhood” in each state –Wisconsin was crowned the most representative of the nation, while Mississippi pulled up the rear. California led the charge of the last 10 states at No. 40, a full 22 spots behind rough-and-tumble Alaska at No. 18. Of the states with early, essential primaries, Michigan is the highest on the list at No. 11.
We should have seen this coming, I suppose, in a country of 300 million, this massive populace split between intense apathy and obsessive, fundamentalist devotion to a single cause or candidate. Three hundred million is a lot of hands to shake and a lot of different opinions and questions to dodge and skirt.
What would be better than to pile up all of those pesky individuals, fold them onto each other and pound out discordant voices like beating a dusty rug and shoving it onto a campaign bus bound for states that rent out all of their hotels rooms only once every four years?
But at least Iowans, our children of the corn, of caucus tradition, come out in droves for this singular honor to start our nation on the path to electing a new Leader of the Free World (trademark pending). In a state of 2.9 million people, a whole 8 percent will likely participate in caucuses, and out of 1.9 million registered voters, a resounding 12 percent engage in the arcane process, according to Jose Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post.
And at least the Democratic Party caucus doesn’t devolve into a clique-ridden popularity contest fueled by “persuasion time” and cookie and cake bribery as frontrunners steal away those abandoned caucusers whose candidates come up “unviable” (under that magical 15 percent threshold for human validation). In doing so, Iowa vindicates Marie Antoinette’s infamous maxim – when people are starving, whether in their bellies or in the ballot box, give them cake.
So congratulations to Governor Huckabee and Senator Obama. Your people clearly excel at both organization and baking.
At this early point on the trail, your victory is a victory because it is not a defeat. To the also-rans, fear not: New Hampshire looms next, complete with its own narrow electorate who demand a similarly narrow pandering.
There are 300 million people and 50 states in this country with plenty of garages and church basements to caucus, and you can surely find agreement somewhere. By November 2012, I’m fully confident that we can have a candidate for 2008 who can give all 300 million a handshake, a pie and a promise, at approximately 4.75 handshakes-per-second for 12 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Let’s not rush to any kind of positive, progressive consensus when there’s so much arguing and eating to do.