Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Nerd alert: Caucus edition

Maggie admits:
I'm so excited about the Iowa caucus tomorrow night I can hardly stand it. I'm planning a night on the couch with leftovers and hot remotes, anxiously flipping around for the best coverage. I'll definitely need a drink, or four. It's the kick-off to the rest of the year, literally, and will define everything that happens next. Although the run-up to some real voting action has seemed interminable at times, it's suddenly here with a bang, and I want it now.

As antiquated as our election system is, I can't help but love the way the cards fall in these odd states that go first: Iowa, more populist and peace-loving for Dems than much of the rest of the country; New Hampshire, fiery and featuring the best accents of the early races; South Carolina, the "who speaks to black voters best" primary for the Dems v. the "who's the most racist" primary for the Repubs. (But then there's Rudy, of course, blatantly ignoring all of them to bask in the glow of NY retirees in Florida.) Part of me wishes we had a state a little more representative of our actual national cross-section that came early... Ohio, maybe? I do think this process will look very different the next time we do it as a country, so for this year, I'm going to bask in the hokey stories the media retells about Iowa, the sparky ones they retell about NH, and the legacy-based ones they retell about SC. It just might be the last time.

So my thoughts about the actual candidates going into the caucus?

I'm an Edwards supporter at this point in the Dem race, and gave what little money I could last year in the push toward this month. Edwards speaks to me on trade, on poverty, and on the process of effecting change: that it doesn't just happen, you have to create conflict to effect the right kind of result. I like that about him. I think Edwards will place first or second tomorrow in Iowa. If he comes in third, it will be a huge let-down and could end it for him: after all, he has the best organization in-state and many think has the best chance of capturing many of the Dems who caucus for a candidate that becomes ineligible. (Although interestingly, Kucinich announced today that should he get less than 15%, he'd like his supporters to caucus for Obama.)

...Which brings me to Obama. I could be genuinely happy supporting Obama should he become the national candidate. I love the symbolism of voting for someone who so obviously represents a new way of leading this country, simply by his skin color and his name. I like the idea of voting for someone with a record of local work and neighborhood-level politics, too. Plus: not a billionaire! I really do believe that Obama is committed to changing this country for the better, yet I do question how he will actually create that change. His "bring everyone to the table and figure it out" approach seems incredibly naive. I'm also nervous about some of his more moderate takes on certain issues. But I could very happily vote for Obama next November.

Finally: Clinton. I would love the opportunity to vote for a woman for president who represents my values about where this country is going, but she is honestly not that woman. Of course I will vote for her in November if that's what it comes down to, but I think she's the least electable of the top three Dems, and that worries me. I love reading about Clinton early in her career, when she was an effective change agent full of passion and direction. Her focus was amazing, and she accomplished some incredible things through sheer determination. I think that along the way she became hardened and reticent about how to effect that change, and I worry that as president she would settle too early for a little bit of positive, whereas if she fought and didn't worry about failing we might have lots of positive. Plus, I find her views on the military, foreign policy, and trade rather unacceptable. Of course, I'd gladly vote for her versus any Republican, and will do so without pause.

So... what do we think? Am I the only nerd who'll be salivating all Thursday night watching these months of campaigning shake out? Am I the only one who would love the chance to actually be in Iowa on Thursday night, seeing it all in person? Who do you all think will run away the victor? How will that victor then hold up in NH and SC?

On the edge of my seat...