Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School House Rock Wednesday #7

I believe this is the most famous of the School House/Grammar Rock videos.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Iowa State Fair

The Political.....

and non-political side of the Iowa State Fair.

Turkey in the Straw

Currently, I am in the Hawkeye State, Iowa, visiting my family. As some may already know, it is state fair time and the Iowa State Fair, immortalized in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair, is the most famous. Once a year about one million fair goers gather to eat various food items (usually fried and on a stick), take a peek at the famous butter cow and largest hog and wander around for hours viewing all types of entertainment. This year the beginning of the Iowa State Fair coincided with the Ames Straw Poll and thus the Republican presidential candidates, both announced and anticipated, and the media have descended upon the state and fairgrounds.

The straw polls and subsequent Iowa Caucus always cause me to reflect upon the various methods we use throughout the country to elect our presidential candidates and, ultimately, the President of the United States. For those of you from states in which a caucus is not the norm, you should know that it is both a bizarre and fascinating experience. Bizarre in that it seems antiquated and not totally representative of the entire voter constituency (the process can take the entire evening, so not all can participate), but fascinating because it is an experience, much more so than going to the polls and just casting a vote.  The only thing to which I think it compares is Town Meeting, but that is a discussion for another time.  Yes, partaking in a caucus or straw poll is truly participatory and one easily gets caught up in the excitement of the process, but at the same time it leaves one open to the influence of others (votes are not secret and the supporters of candidates can openly try to sway other voters) and leaves out anyone who would like to participate, but cannot because of other obligations (I am thinking specifically of families with small children, people with evening jobs).  

Primaries, on the other hand, are run much like elections, but with some variations.  Once you are registered to vote, and in some cases, registered with the party in question, you just show up to vote and cast your ballot. Polls are typically open from early morning to evening.  In theory, almost everyone can, with a little bit of effort and not a lot of time expended, cast their ballot and participate.  Not as much fun, but open to all voters and the ballots are secret.

In so many ways we have outgrown our election processes (the electoral college is also a discussion for another time), but I do not know if we are ready for sweeping changes.  Iowans certainly are not willing to give up being first to vote on presidential candidates and will most likely not give up the current system of caucuses and straw polls. Especially when the Iowa State Fair and local businesses gain so much from the process.