First off, I'm not sure I agree with the "First in the Nation" as a constant static thing. I've lived in a bunch of other states, and while I really do think Iowans are some of the most balanced, fair minded people I've met, I'm not sure it's beneficial for our nation to have the "First" be the same 2 states every year.
That said, our caucuses are pretty awesome. I participated last go 'round and really enjoyed it. Here's the run down on how it works, for those interested in such things.
First thing to know is that the caucuses are divided up into R and D. That was the first big downside as I saw it. I'm a registered Independent. Always have been. It is easy to change registration the night of the caucus though, you just show up to which ever side you wanted to caucus for, register that night for that side, then a few weeks later re-register as your preferred affiliation. Those that have read this blog at all can probably guess which side I registered for in '08. I went to the Democratic side. I can't for the life of me remember who all was running for the GOP nomination, (Wikipedia to the rescue, McCain, Huckabee and Romney were the 3 big players) I didn't care for any of them. I did like a couple of the Democratic runners though, Dodd and Gravel for anyone who really cares. Of course, neither of those candidates made it very far. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, we get info on where our precinct will be meeting, show up, register if needed, and in my case, go sit in the gymnasium of the local Jr High and watch the other 200 or so file in. After the doors are shut, the fun begins. Usually a district or precinct lead stands up and says a few words about the process and procedures. Then there is time for speeches. Anyone can stand to speak. A few words or a prepared speech, doesn't matter. I think there were some people who said a few words for Obama, and some for Clinton. I wasn't convinced, but it was interesting. After everyone spoke that wanted to, they taped up big signs all around the gym, one sign for each nominee, there were a lot too, they didn't leave out the little guys. Round 1 started, and everyone was invited to stand under the sign of the candidate that they most supported. I believe I was the only person under Gravel's sign, but I remember being proud to stand there and support him. Everyone was counted, and totals were tallied. A cut off point was decided, and everyone supporting a candidate with fewer than the required bodies was invited to go stand at their second choice. The non-viable candidates had their signs taken down, and Round 2 started. I shuffled down to join the Dodd supporters, swelling their numbers to a grand total of 4. At the end of Round 2, Dodd was no longer on the viable list. At this point we had Obama supporters and Clinton supporters talking with us almost one on one, asking what we liked about Dodd, and had we heard about this plan or that from their candidate? I don't remember being rushed at this point. There were people milling about, arguing, debating, and trying to wrangle every last body they could for the final Round 3. The speaker announced that we needed to wrap it up, and that the final round would consist of Clinton/Obama/Edwards and that if we wanted to throw our support behind one of those candidates, now was the time to do that. I walked over the Obama sign. The final round was tallied, and our district went to Obama. The caucus continued with Democratic party business, planks, platforms, delegate nomination, the whole shebang. I think I lasted through about 30 minutes of that before getting bored and leaving.
That's the gist of the process, rinse and repeat for all the districts in our 99 counties. One of the most democratic things I've ever seen here in our beloved Republic.
Fast forward, it's 2012. With Obama running for reelection, there won't be a Democratic caucus. There will be a GOP caucus though. As the fair minded Independent that I try to be, I have the caucus on my calendar and I've really made an effort to get to know the the candidates. I know you're interested in my take on them, so here they are, in no particular order.
Bachman - To be blunt here, she's an idiot. She's anti-science, and poorly educated in anything other than fundamentalist christian dogma. She doesn't support LGBT rights, her argument is just “OMG, people have sex in ways I don’t approve of. We must punish gay people.” Tamara Scott, co-chair of Bachmann’s Iowa campaign, was caught on tape saying if we don’t stop same-sex marriage it will lead down a slippery slope not only to polygamy but to women marrying inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower. Idiots.
Paul - I'll admit, I've been attracted to Paul in the past. He's consistent, which isn't a bad thing, and doesn't say as much stupid crap as some of the other nominees. I like his stance on ending the drug war. Sadly, that's about as far as I ever get with him. None of his other positions appeal to me. He's constantly re-iterated his preference to do away with Roe-v-Wade, and he would love to have blastocysts declared as people, with equal rights to the woman who happens to be carrying said lump of cells. I think that's ludicrous and I have no intention of supporting anyone who furthers that notion. He has also sought to amend the Clean Air Act, repeal the Soil and Water Conservation Act of 1977, and to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to “restrict the jurisdiction of the United States over the discharge of dredged or fill material to discharges into waters”. A direct quote from the HR7955 reads like a textbook on bigotry, “Prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds to any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style.” (links to various HR bills he's put forward) Needless to say, it's a bit too much to overlook, even if he could end the drug war.
The Newt. Again, those who read this blog probably already know my views on this guy. He can't seem to respect marriage vows. He left the Speaker of the House position shortly after being charged with eighty-four ethics violations. (After extensive investigation and negotiation by the House Ethics Committee, Gingrich was sanctioned US$300,000.) During 2010 and the hubbub about the mosque being built in downtown NYC, his jingoistic demagoguery made Sarah Palin seem calm and nuanced. Gingrich demanded government action to stop the building, saying "we should not tolerate" what the First Amendment requires us to tolerate. Further more, he has NO concept of geological realities, and encourages the "Drill baby drill" crowd with terrible untruths. In the Nov 23rd debate he stated that the United States could discover and produce enough oil in 2012 to cause a worldwide oil price collapse, if we were, "Serious." *facepalm*
The U.S. would have to increase field production by more than double current production to become oil independent by increasing domestic production to 14.8 Mbopd. Even peak production in 1970 of 10,000 bopd would only meet 68% of current crude oil consumption. To bring about a collapse in world oil prices, as Mr. Gingrich suggests, would mean increasing U.S. production by substantially more than this.
Maximum daily production from Prudhoe Bay Field, the largest in the United States, was 2.0 million bopd in 1988 (http://www.aspo-usa.com/archives/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&...). Mr. Gingrich suggests that we can find more than six additional Prudhoe Bay-sized fields in one year. Prudhoe Bay was discovered in 1968, did not begin production for 11 years, and did not reach peak production until 20 years after its discovery. But Mr. Gingrich thinks that there are many Prudhoe Bay fields waiting to be found that can be explored, developed and brought to peak production in one year. source
So, no, not someone I'm going to go out on a cold Jan night in support of.
Cain, his 9-9-9 plan would have raised my taxes significantly. I was willing to overlook that in favor of simplifying the tax code. It seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders. Makes no difference now, he's out of the race.
Romney - He wants to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act (obamacare), in spite of the fact that the Mass health care overhaul has been popular. Not wildly popular, but polling shows a majority in favor of it. I'm fine with making changes to it, no legislation is perfect, but scrapping it and starting over? Good grief, we'll never get anything done at that rate. And of course, like a broken record around here, he's not in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.
Perry - Again, an anti-science idiot. His mantra seems to be "Cut taxes and regulation." Like cutting banking regulation led to a good end, yea, they do a great job of self policing. I like clean air and clean water, I'm just not in favor of cutting regulations. He likes to brag about all the jobs he has in Texas. You know what else he has? He has the most children who are sick and obese and poorly educated. He has schools suing him for lack of funding, so low they are claiming it's unconstitutional. He insists that peace can only come through "strength" and would probably allow the Defense budget to remain bloated and obscenely large. And of course, he's not in favor of women's reproductive rights or gay and lesbian rights.
Did I miss anyone? I think that's most of the crop. Not a single one of them is worth my time on a cold Jan night. I will probably sit this caucus out.