Democrats & Liberals Archives

Just Tell Me Why

So the Iowa caucuses are a week away. And last night’s debate was just another opportunity for the field to bash each other before January 19. Living in New York, I’ve watched Al Sharpton’s involvement with interest — and more often than not, I felt he was talking about issues. But going after Dean the way he did last night smacked of grandstanding — and I remembered for the first time in a long time that that’s how Sharpton came to national attention in the first place.

So I contrast the Democratic squabbling (r.r.) last night with the news reports this morning that focused on Paul O’Neill’s recollections of his time in the Bush II White House and the fact that personal privacy intrusions and “color-coding” continues in the name of national security.

I was born in DC and grew up in NoVa. I worked for the Navy Department during summers while in college. And I had a poster above my cubicle -- it was a picture of lemmings jumping off the ice floe into the water. The caption: "Don't ask why. Just do it." I think I've been fighting against that mentality my whole life -- now come to find that's happening every day in the White Houes. And I fear has become a prevalent life motto for many across the country.

And as for Sharpton, right now I'm more concerned about "red, yellow and green" issues than I am about black and white ones. Not that race isn't an important issue -- but it's nothing new in this country. Too many changes are taking place to keep reading out of the same Democratic playbook. When is someone going to start focusing on telling the American public why they -- instead of Bush -- should be President of the United States? Kudos to Moseley-Braun for trying to do that last night.

I also worked on the Mondale-Ferraro campaign in 1984. I was a senior in college and most of my last semester was spent interning at the campaign headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue. After graduating, I was hired full time as a member of the scheduling staff -- and was put to work finding motorcade vehicles and press buses in every city, village or hamlet that Mondale or Ferraro visited.

Before that, while still in college, I spent several weeks in New Hampshire - Berlin to be exact - going door-to-door encouraging people to vote for Walter Mondale in the primary. And then spent a short time in Maine for the caucus there. So the Iowa caucuses weren't really that important to me the month preceding the New Hampshire primary. And that remains true to this day. Why do we care so much about Iowa and what it means? And I'm not talking about the perception of what it means -- but what it truly means.

In light of the upcoming caucuses, I'm struck by NBC's timely report concerning Dean's comments four years ago about the Iowa caucus. The real problem isn't his correcting himself now -- there's no other way for someone in his position to respond. My problem with Dean is that given the context of the discussion, his comments then had merit -- as they do now. I admit I haven't been to Iowa -- but I've talked with plenty who have. And I have attended Democratic caucuses in Maine and Virginia -- and whether anyone will be willing to admit it or not, special interests do play a big role in the final outcome. I'm not taking away an individual's role in the caucus process -- but you've got to be big, loud and basically obnoxious to have any real impact. I had hoped Dean's campaign was changing the face of politics -- but now I'm starting to think it's more of the same -- just with a fresh angle.

But I guess that's human nature. Just as it's human nature to change one's mind -- as polled Iowans have indicated, according to yesterday's Meet the Press, so why keep polling? Which brings me to another point - Iowans hold a unique position in this country -- and they know it. They think they know how to manipulate the system -- and the media. And New Hampshire residents are even more hard core -- I've heard several say that if they haven't shaken hands with a candidate at least five times, there's no way they'll get that person's vote. Direct contact with a presidential candidate FIVE times? Millions of Americans would love the opportunity to do so one -- in their lifetime.

The over-importance of two of the nation' smallest states - one in size and one in population - on the primary schedule is an outrage. So why not take the results of tomorrow's DC primary more seriously than we do Iowa's? (It's too late this year since most took themselves off the ballot, the results are non-binding and the outcome is tied up more in DC voting rights than who should be President but I still want to know why. And don't worry, I already know the answer. I just keep hoping that real change is possible.)

Posted by 9thwave at January 12, 2004 12:13 PM