Anyone who lives in Iowa knows why today is an important day. Heck probably a good chunk of the country knows what is going on today: The Iowa Caucus.
Iowa has enjoyed this tradition of being the people who get first cut for presidential candidates. Although we may not pick always pick the winners, Iowa residents (along with New Hampshire) get to weed out the weak ones. Critics of Iowa's and New Hampshire's position in the presidential election process claim that neither state is representative of the US. But then I wonder, what state is?
It is neat to actually see a possible future candidate actually have a rally where there are only 100 people. He or she is actually forced to talk to the people. You can see on their face whether they really believe their own rhetoric when the speaker is less than 20 feet away. Some of the off ball questions some of the people toss out also make the candidate react in a candid way. You just don't get that kind of interaction at the mega rallies later in the process.
All of this does come at some kind of cost. Political ads showed up early October and just get thicker the closer it got to today. I am surprised by how "clean" the ads are though. Usually I expected much more mudslinging with a race this close but the front runners seem to more than not stick to a positive "This is what I stand for, vote for me" ad play. Its definitely a nice change especially given during the primetime viewing hours, 3 out of 4 commercials are about someone wanting you to vote for them at your local caucus. In the population centers (read: big cities like Des Moines, Iowa and the eastern cities like Iowa City, Iowa and Cedar Rapids, Iowa) campaign signs and posters are in a lot of places. Although it is amusing to see candidates crisscross the state campaigning hard, the reality is that they are in places you hang out causing some disruption. For instance it is impossible to book any hotel rooms in Des Moines at this point due to the news companies booking them all!
As a final thought, I wandered across Beyond Vietnam by Martin Luther King Jr. which by strange coincidence his holiday is also today. Some of the thoughts first put forth by King about the wrongness of the Vietnam War still resonates today with the flimsy War on Terror. The Bush Administration squandered the international goodwill we had on 9/11. Instead of taking the chance to work with countries to fix fundamentalism that causes wars of religion, Bush started to Shock and Awe their way into hate. Why bother killing one terrorist when five of his friends who were borderline want revenge? Even sighted in the node:
It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.
It is with this in mind that I will take off from work early and get to my local caucus.