Today is the beginning of the big show. It could be the beginning of our demise, too. It's reminiscent of Christmas morning - the anticipation, the hopes, the spirit of mystery-- but as likely as it can go well, it's equally if not more likely that we'll come to open a pair of socks, or pajamas, instead of a new bike or political coup. The Iowa Caucuses are confusing, muddled arcanum, yet ebullient in their power over the general electorate. Most people, if asked, probably couldn't even locate Iowa on a map - yet it is set to position the candidates as they run out the gate for primary season. It seems unfair to place so much emphasis on Iowa, a state that has so little in common with most other states in the union. It's demographics are overwhelmingly white, with little to middling representation of the black, Hispanic, or Asian populations. It's a Midwest state with lots of farming and factories, sometimes called the "Tall Corn State," or "The Hawk eye State." Right now, the climate is ferociously gelid, and the importance of these hydrogenated votes are likely to stick to the bones of the candidates like wet tongues on American flagpoles. It's completely unfair that all the hawk eyed pundits are zeroing in on the Iowa primaries, but that's beside the point at this juncture. Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early primaries are even more important this year because, for all the early jockeying, the neonatal, intensive labor of many candidate's campaigns, we still just don't know who the heck is going to break towards the nomination finish line. Liken the candidates to cafeteria Catholicism -- each candidate offers unique, multifarious perspectives and views, and what we'd all really like is some way to pick and choose what we view as the positive attributes of each candidate and combine them in an unholy jumble of political mastery. But alas, we are stuck to buy the whole farm, not just the stalk of corn -- which means when we choose, we inevitably take not only the positions we approve, but all the historical baggage, crazy relatives, cross-dressing, inexperience -- you name it; the candidates themselves could be biblical characters with all the different stories that might fit in a few fat quartos.
What it comes down to is, people must make a value judgment of what views are most important, and what those views have the power to override, and what they cannot accept. The fact that Huckabee groups homosexuality with pedophilia is an absolute non-negotiable strike against him (not to mention he crossed picket lines to attend Jay Leno last night and didn't know that Pakistan's military state had been lifted two weeks ago), and Giuliani's power hungry drives and complete inability to surround himself with anybody but yes men should be another "divorcing" factor. But to continue down that road is a dangerous path - every candidate could probably become a candidate of non-negotiable aversion. McCain is old, and the senility is slowly creeping into his speeches with the froth of a rapid hamster - squealing with heightened delight and fervor to see that maybe, just maybe he still stands a chance, despite his hawkish views in an era of wartime discontent. Mitt is still burdened by his Mormon background and liberal Massachusetts governing style, two things that evangelicals in the south don't take too kindly too, that and their interest in just exactly what is tying his undergarments, which may or may not be Mormon approved, in a knot.
To be fair, the democrats are also troubled - Roberts is perhaps the populist candidate, but like a bad date, just can't seem to get more of a response at the end of the day than "well, that was nice." Obama, the increasingly identified gnomic, intellectual and idealizing candidate is neck and neck with Clinton, but Obama struggles where Clinton triumphs, and vice-versa. People just aren't used to a candidate that is actually semi-likable and can faint a normal existence (Obama); whereas Clinton, more hard-core political, can't seem to pull off anything but the political figure persona, and yet it is a negative for her. Politicians get a bad wrap, and often for good reason, but sometimes it seems that people, a.k.a the general electorate, not just lobbyists and pollsters and campaign staffers, are actually projecting problems onto candidates for the mere reason to be conflicted. Does it have to be so difficult? Why do we fault one candidate for one thing, yet praise the other for exactly what we faulted two minutes beforehand in the other? Well, perhaps it's that different candidates look better in different clothes (something Giuliani especially should take to heart).
Back to Iowa - because after today, not too many people will be going back. It seems appropriate that the majority of the scenes in "Field of Dreams" were shot in Iowa. If a candidate can build their campaign and gain first place in the Iowa primary, then it's likely many other voters will come. So the message is one of blind optimism and hope for the opening of the primaries, because it's at the beginning, if anywhere, that one can have such notions. Let's hope this year is one for the books, and the establishment of a better American government. Happy voting.