January 3, 2008


Enough to Make a Dem Blue: Bad news for Democrats in Iowa. (Mark Stricherz, 1/03/08, National Review)

[T]he problem with the Democratic party’s Iowa caucus is that its type of democracy is elitist. And in a party that at the presidential level has lost support from the masses, this is a problem indeed.

The party’s Iowa caucus, which debuted in 1972, was never meant to advance the aims of its blue-collar clientele. Its intellectual roots were in the New Left, the student-centered movement that began in the 1960s. While many members of the New Left endorsed the principle of one-man, one-vote, others put more stock in “participatory democracy.” In The Port Huron Statement, the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society, the group called for organizing political life on several principles. Among those was that “decision-making be seen positively, as the art of collectively creating an acceptable pattern of social relations;” “politics has the function of bringing people out of isolation and into community ...;” and the political order should serve to clarify problems in a way instrumental to their solution; it should provide outlets for the expression of personal grievance and aspiration …” Put crudely, the vision animating these principles was more guys-in-togas-deliberating-in-the-forum than the masses-marching-in-torchlight-parades-on-the-eve-of-the-election.

The main way in which the caucus is elitist is the amount and time and effort it requires of voters. Participants can not simply show up and vote. They must spend at least an hour and often several hours sitting through a meeting before finally declaring their support for a candidate.

Another way in which the caucus is elitist is that the caucus is a night-time-only affair. Unlike primaries, when voters can cast their ballots from dawn to dusk, the Iowa caucus occurs only in the evening. So long young mothers and second-shifters.

The consequences of these rules and structure are substantial.

In terms of demographics, the Democratic party’s Iowa caucus in effect marginalizes working class and less educated voters. Four years ago, almost three-fifths of caucus-goers (58 percent) had earned a four-year college degree or more. That might not sound like a high figure, but comparatively speaking it is. In the general election, only two-fifths (42 percent) of all voters had done so.

Well-educated people might not be different from you and me, but they are from their less-educated counterparts in terms of policy preferences.

Mr. Stricherz's book, Why the Democrats are Blue, is excellent on the entire process by which intellectual elites took over the Democratic Party from its former blue-collar Catholic base. But the interesting this to note is that, in IA, the Republicans are democratic and the Democrats are republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 3, 2008 9:37 PM

Elites, the new rich, the academics, the angry baby-killing suburbanites, the shallow entertainers, the unions, and the media. That's the Democratic party. 50 years ago, it would have sheltered a Huckabee. Today, Obama or Edwards gets 100% of their support.

Posted by: ratbert at January 4, 2008 10:48 AM