For those who have never had the pleasure of visiting Iowa - either in the run-up to the caucuses or during the 1,400 days when the state isn't overrun with desperate candidates, deranged commercials and "mainstream" journalists looking to milk every conceivable angle for a few minutes of TV time or a few inches of ink - I recommend it highly. I had the good fortune to spend several days in the campaign van with Dennis Kucinich and his band of staffers driving from hoot to holler and back to hoot again during his 2004 presidential run through the state, and along the way I discovered that Iowa is a special place. A friend of mine who has been in politics since God wore short pants describes Iowa as a New England state transplanted to the Midwest, and as this friend is an esteemed member of the New England tribe, his statement should be taken as a compliment.
Funny story: the Kucinich campaign agreed to tolerate me in their van before the Iowa caucus so I could write about it all for Truthout, and when the driving was done, they were kind enough to put me up in a sumptuous hotel in Des Moines the night before my flight home...but the hotel was closed and almost completely abandoned; the owner, who had sold the place to a condominium developer, allowed Kucinich's staff to bunk on the abandoned third floor of the hotel free of charge. That third floor was the only occupied portion of the building, so I was a trifle surprised when they put me in a huge fifth-floor suite. Grand bed, deep-pile carpeting, a nice view, all topped off with a paranormal mint left on my pillow. The phones didn't work, half the bulbs in the hallways were out, and all the other tremendously unoccupied rooms had furniture piled to the ceiling. After an hour spent coming to a full understanding of how Danny Torrance felt when he met those dead twin girls in the hallway of the Overlook Hotel, I fled the place for the sanctuary of a pub around the corner, where I drank myself into a state of near-absolute incoherence so as to coexist with the ghosts I'd be bedding down with on that fifth floor.
It's funny now, you see. Not so much then.
When all was said and done, I had this to say about Iowa: "It was a bit like going back in time. The red van hummed and bounced down the highway from Des Moines to Dubuque on a morning when the sun never showed its face. A white fog hung low over the rolling hills, and whitewashed barns and farmhouses loomed out of the mist like an echo of an agrarian wonderland. The fields of corn and soy had been reaped, and the black soil waited like a postcard for spring and seeds and sunlight."
It is a beautiful place, filled with excellent people who take their first-shot responsibilities during an election year very seriously...so from here on out, my Iowan brethren, please don't take any of this personally. I am a great fan of your state, your agriculture, and your hospitality. This has all been an admittedly long-winded way of apologizing in advance for any perceived slights you may feel lay in the words to come.
Because Jesus H. Baldheaded Christ on a crutch, please don't expect me to take the 2012 GOP Iowa caucus seriously.
It ain't going to happen.
Sorry. I really am, but I feel like I could have spent the last three months learning how to braid the hair on my hindquarters, and it would have been time better spent. None of this, my Iowan brethren, is your fault, but as I work in this particular industry, I have spent the last three months being beaten about the head and shoulders by the "mainstream" news media with the planet-encompassing importance of this first step in the GOP presidential race. Every day, every hour, I have been required to endure and absorb long tons of gibberish and gobbledygook from political writers and TV people who should know better - and often do, which makes their performance lo these many weeks all the more humiliating - painting this initial contest as the most important event since the discovery of the electron.
It wasn't, and I will tell you why. Rick Perry garnered a meager 10% of the vote...by way of 12,604 votes, which means that 100% of the vote total was just slightly more than 130,000 votes. Mull on that for a second. Michele Bachmann, my favorite maniac, decided to drop out on Wednesday because she missed Perry's total by 6,000 votes...which means, thanks to the hype surrounding the Iowa caucus, that a presidential candidate who could have potentially made some noise in the Southern primaries decided to hang it up because the population of one-tenth of your average NFL football stadium didn't vote her way.
My favorite part? Mitt Romney, who in a normal, non-Tea-Party-dominated universe (read: 20 years ago) would be the runaway victor in this primary season, only managed to defeat the incredibly absurd Rick Santorum by exactly eight votes (a victory margin, by the by, of 0.0006%). Eight...and Mitt paid upwards of $160 for each of the 30,015 votes he got in the end. Thanks to Iowa Republicans, Rick Santorum - the man who would outlaw birth control because it constitutes "a license to do things," who thinks Obama should oppose abortion because he is Black, who thinks food stamps are obsolete due to the obesity epidemic in America, who thinks health insurers should discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, who thinks abortions conducted to save a woman's life are "phony," and who brought his wife's miscarried fetus home to be "introduced" to the family (a story which originated from his wife's book, "Letters to Gabriel") - is now fully and completely in the electoral mix.
Romney will stomp the terra in the New Hampshire GOP primary - which, by the by, will be almost exactly as ludicrous as Iowa's dog-and-pony show this week, and for many of the same reasons - and then we're on to South Carolina, and then Florida, and Rick Perry's personal political Alamo...you know, or not. 130,000 Republican voters in Iowa are not going to tell the South what to do, no matter how desperately the "mainstream" political media tries to milk that particular corn-fed cow. And as for Rick, well, Santorum is as Santorum does. This festival of GOP electoral mayhem is just getting started.
Sorry, Iowa. I love you, but damn.