U.S. campaigns are just too long

No one denies that the reporting on the results of the Iowa caucuses was an annoying, even comic, failure. But let me record a gentle word of praise for Iowa caucuses past.

In the years 1965 to 1999 when I taught at Wartburg, a Lutheran seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, I participated in the presidential election caucuses, usually held for our precinct at a convent overlooking the Mississippi River. At least 40 or 50 of us would gather: radical nuns, stubborn union members, cautious priests, spunky representatives of the League of Women Voters, influential Quakers, environmental activists, students and professors from the colleges and seminaries. The process of voting for first and second choices felt natural, not confusing. We vigorously discussed our concerns and the reasons for our choices, all the while presupposing support for the Democrats the process finally chose. We never questioned the paper records and the phone reporting.

Looking back, I remember these caucuses fondly as democracy in the raw.

Yet times have changed. Today’s media has breathlessly informed us that the debacle in Iowa and the subsequent uproar can be traced to a faulty, untested Shadow app which was supposed to improve on the past recording by paper and phone.

Some have suggested that “technological arrogance” lured the Democratic Party in Iowa into the debacle. Others suggest, more plausibly, that the multi-leveled influence of our 21st century “media-political complex” has brought the whole presidential primary process into potential self-destruction. Who of us, particularly in my older generation, truly understand the extent to which our political life is being reshaped by social media, giants like Facebook and Google — plus the president-led tweeting culture? Two things are clear. Iowa is not responsible for the mess we are in.

And it is not going away soon.

What other democratic country besides our United States of America has such endless and expensive presidential campaigns?

President Trump has actually held campaign rallies throughout his years in office and even turned his State of the Union speech into one.

Is there any hope that we might move toward a three-to-four-week campaign with only limited governmental funding and real discussion of the issues? Other countries do it. We might discover our unique form of 21st century raw democracy!



An extraordinary first

This is the first time in this country that impeachment of a sitting president substantially raised his prestige while lowering the esteem of those responsible for originating and pressing the indictment.

This extraordinary circumstance could only be originated and cultivated by the likes of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (“The Three Masketeers”) working with a highly flawed understanding of Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

However, the partisanship displayed throughout the whole affair, both impeachment and trial, has besmirched both parties indelibly. Most sadly and more importantly, however, it has left a stain on the Constitution itself (e.g., weaponization of the impeachment provision by the majority of the House of Representatives) the ramifications of which may take years to discern and which could do irreparable damage to the election process.



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