I'm writing this just hours before Iowans head to the caucuses to pick their party's nominee. The day before the caucuses, Hillary Clinton proclaimed the "eyes of the world" were on Iowa. This is something of an overstatement, of course. Something tells me very few of the women around the village well in some shanty outside Lahore are, at this moment, debating whether Joe Biden will have enough drivers to get his people to the Martin Memorial Library, at 406 Packwaukee St., in New Hartford on caucus night. And the cafes in Saigon are hardly abuzz with the question of whether Mike Huckabee nailed his closing argument to the guests of the Council Bluffs Cracker Barrel.
Still, the Iowa caucuses are important, enormously, absurdly, outlandishly - scandalously! - important. And here's the thing: If we are going to drive a stake through the Iowa caucuses, now is the moment to do it. Regardless of Thursday's results, come Monday of next week some other twisted soul is going to start scouting Des Moines locations for his 2012 campaign office. And not long after that, a whole passel of politicians will find it in their interest to protect the Iowa caucuses in a craven attempt to win sympathy from the Hawkeye State political machine.
Don't get me wrong. I like Iowa. I've been there many times. I would argue that one of the three best steakhouses in the world is Rube's in humble Montour. Iowans are as nice as the land is flat. Given a choice between having the first-in-the-nation caucus thingamajig in Iowa every four years and having it in some other state, I think Iowa wins pretty handily.
But that's the thing. No state should have this much power every four years. (Sorry, that goes for New Hampshire, too.)
Before we get to that, let us also note for the record how stupid the process of "caucusing" is compared with this other ancient custom known as "voting." The system, particularly on the Democratic side, is a mix of Chinese fire drill, Politburo theatrics and Roman priestly ceremony. Caucusers get no secret ballot, but must instead vote with their feet. Democrats actually have to stand in a corner. The caucuses (cauci?), in the words of the Wall Street Journal's John Fund, "were designed as an insiders' game to attract party activists, donors and political junkies and give them a disproportionate influence in the process. In other words, they are designed not to be overly democratic."