Sometime presumably late tonight after I’ve drug my decrepit bones to their well-deserved rest, a winner will be announced for the Iowa Republican and Democratic caucuses. What happens between now and then is something of a mystery to me – and I spent a good part of my formative years studying the vagaries of the US political system. Suffice to say that around 7PM central standard time the caucusing starts, neighbors fill schools, church basements, bus stops, outhouse, and gun shops to argue for their candidate until a sufficient number of people have given up arguing and a winner can be declared by each party.
At that point, the victors take the stage, say a few nice things about Iowa and then commit to taking the fight on to new Hampshire so they can do it all again. There will be less arguing in New Hampshire at least since they vote in primaries like normal, civilized people. Plus the other primary elections will start coming on now thick as thieves. No one place will garner as much attention as has been focused on poor, lonely Iowa.
If there’s any comfort to be drawn from tonight’s first-in-the nation electoral matchup, it’s that we’ve at least reached the end of the beginning for Election 2016. So far it’s been mostly sound and fury, campaign stops and press events. Now they’re playing for points and some of the pretenders are going to start falling away as we march on towards the nominating conventions and the general election in November.
It’s not over by a long shot, but as all the other states start coming into play, we’re going to get a temporary reprieve from coverage of all Iowa all the time. Then two primary winners (and probably a splinter candidate or two) will trudge on through summer making the last big push and blanketing the airwaves with uninterrupted political analysis and advertisements. Finally, on the day after the Tuesday following the first Monday in November there will be a moment of blissful silence while the transition machine sputters to life – assuming the election doesn’t split the popular and electoral votes or get thrown to the courts to adjudicate.
Then it’s time to start chattering about the 2018 midterms and speculating on who the out party will nominate for 2020 and the whole damned circus winds itself up again; with the ads and the debates and the commentary and suddenly before we know it we’re right back in Iowa doing the whole thing one more time. It’s the election cycle that never ends.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe people despise politics and its practitioners. Now, of course, is not one of those times.