When he’s right, he’s 100% correct. Christopher Hitchens, a true lightning rod for controversy, struck again in Slate.com as he put into scathing words and concrete concepts the vague unease we’ve always felt regarding Iowa’s caucuses.
Not only are the caucuses influential far out of proportion to the significance of its population (this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© put it this way the other day: “how do you feel about the reality of those tiny states with their tiny populations of single-issue largely rural [or in N.H.’s case, refugees from urban life] overwhelmingly homogenous Caucasians usurping your opportunity to influence the election process?”), but the process is, as Hitchens explains, flawed to the point of corruption:
The Iowa Scam
The undemocratic caucuses are a terrible way to choose a presidential candidate.
By Christopher Hitchens | Posted Monday, Dec. 31, 2007, at 12:02 PM ET
It is quite astonishing to see with what deadpan and neutral a tone our press and television report the open corruption—and the flagrantly anti-democratic character—of the Iowa caucuses. It’s not enough that we have to read of inducements openly offered to potential supporters—I almost said “voters”—even if these mini-bribes only take the form of “platters of sandwiches” and “novelty items” (I am quoting from Sunday’s New York Times). It’s also that campaign aides are showing up at Iowan homes “with DVD’s that [explain] how the caucuses work.” Nobody needs a DVD to understand one-person-one-vote, a level playing field, and a secret ballot. The DVD and the other gifts and goodies (Sen. Barack Obama is promising free baby-sitting on Thursday) are required precisely because none of those conditions applies in Iowa. In a genuine democratic process, these Tammany tactics would long ago have been declared illegal. But this is not a democratic process, and besides, as my old friend Michael Kinsley used to say about Washington, the scandal is never about what’s illegal. It’s about what’s legal.
As far as Hitchens is concerned, the caucuses have achieved the outlandish importance they maintain due to the connivance of the media (only a little tempted to use the MSM pejorative of some of my colleagues here in the ‘Sphere).
… the avalanche of tripe coverage that is provided by a mass media that (never forget) is the direct beneficiary of the huge outlays of money the candidates make…
The horrible result is that a tiny fraction of voters in this tiny state can provide a grotesquely outsize win to distinctly unqualified candidates, and has done so quite frequently.
[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]
And the result: by the time super-duper Tuesday February 5 rolls around, a huge segment of voters will once again, despite the amazingly early primary date, find themselves disenfranchised by Iowa and New Hampshire.
Hitchen’s conclusion bears repeating:
It is an absolutely terrible way in which to select candidates for the presidency, and it makes the United States look and feel like a banana republic both at home and overseas.
Thus the context with which the results from January 3’s tragic comedy should be understood.
It’s it for now. Thanks,
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