So it's 2008...
It's been over two weeks since my last post, a delay created mostly by the fact hat I moved into our new house, which is awesome, thanks for asking. (Sure, there's a bit of a leak in the kitchen sink, but we have a plumber.)
Since my last post, I realized a few things - I should never, ever make "best of" lists, or at least not make them on a whim without some serious thought. My TV list omitted every new show of the year, and Pushing Daises and Chuck deserve at least a mention somewhere. I also saw three films shortly after the list appeared, all of which would make the list - Juno, Once and No Country for Old Men, the latter of which is probably the best film I saw last year, and Once is close behind.
But it's primary season, so before I get fully back into the pop culture scene, I thought I'd share this great article from Slate about the debacle that is our Iowa caucuses. What's insane is that the GOP does it differently - shouldn't there be one format for both parties?
When you show up at a Democratic caucus, you and your fellow participants divide up into different corners of a room, based on who you are for. You don't submit a secret ballot; you stand up to be publicly counted. What if you're in a union and want to pick someone your union hasn't endorsed, and your shop steward is there, watching you from across the room? Or the person who holds your mortgage? Or your spouse? Tough.
More after the fold, but as usual, go read it yourself.
What this means, in effect, is that beyond a certain point, it doesn't matter if your candidate can turn out 200 or 10,000 participants in a particular precinct, because that precinct has only so much delegate-purchasing power. It matters not just how many participants a candidate can turn out, but whether he can turn them out all over the place. A candidate who won a lot of the precincts narrowly would wind up winning a bigger portion of the delegates than a rival who piled up votes in one corner of Iowa—even if that corner yielded a higher overall number of supporters. It's all the disproportional representation of the Electoral College, in miniature. And that was the price for forming the Union, not a guide for running elections.
This is especially true because in most precinct caucuses, a Democratic candidate who does not get 15 percent support from the participants is deemed "nonviable." Supporters of these candidates can go home, or they can join another candidate who has made it over the 15 percent bar. (One reason why the Edwards campaign is optimistic is that they believe they are the favorite "second choice.") In the moment, this makes for a great show, as rival candidates importune the "nonviables" to join with them. Over the course of the evening, the appeals range from high-minded to horse-trading: ("Come with us and you can be one of our delegates to the county convention").
But the drama doesn't answer one basic question: Why can't the public learn how many of the participants actually voted for the different candidates? The Democratic Party has these voter-preference numbers—but will not release them to the public, as this New York Times op-ed pointed out. Instead, the percentages reported on election night reflect only the share of state delegates each candidate has won. Why? No one seems exactly sure. But it means that a candidate who turned out more total supporters than anyone else, across the state, could wind up in second or third place—and no one will know.