Column

The Iowa Caucuses Represent the Best and Worst of U.S. Politics

AsAs I tried to explain the Iowa caucuses to my nine-year-old daughter, it occurred to me that I was never going to be able to articulate something so fundamentally bizarre. It’s democracy, but with names being pulled out of hats and coin tosses?

I will admit that I shed a quick tear while watching 17-year-old caucusgoers express excitement about getting to be in the room where it happens — watching young people physically show up for their preferred candidate and enthusiastically trying to convince others to come to their side gives me hope for the next generation of voters.

But that tear dried real quick because we all know the truth: This is a democratic process that’s not actually democratic—one whose time is past its expiry date.

In addition to the fact that Iowa is very white — even whiter when you consider the disenfranchisement of people who have served prison time — the vast swaths of Iowans who don’t have the ability (physical or otherwise) to be in a room for hours are left out to dry.

Then there’s the gender issue. As Iowa-based writer Lyz Lenz pointed out, women are more likely to be the primary caretakers of children and less able to lug a baby around a school gymnasium. And because the votes aren’t private, “Women in politically divided marriages or in abusive situations may not feel safe casting a vote that will make their lives harder at home,” Lenz writes.

None of this gives me particular confidence in the process. Nor does the fact that a wonky app held up results for so long the candidates had to leave the state in advance of knowing the night’s outcome. At the end of the night, there was only one thing we knew for sure: It was a shitshow. Which for 2020, feels about right.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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