CSotD: Going To See The Donkey

Let’s start with a timely Juxtaposition:

(Darrin Bell)

(Jeff Danziger)

Bell is specifically referring to the Iowa Caucus, while Danziger seems more to be looking towards tomorrow’s NH Primary, but they’re both casting the remainder of the race as being between Pete and Bernie.

It’s part of the horserace style of reporting that is the bane of small-d democratic process.

Without Iowans telling us who we favor, there’s no reason the race in New Hampshire shouldn’t be split between our neighbor to the West and our neighbor to the South.

Well, except that we see Vermonters as cousins and folks from Massachusetts as city folks who only come up here to drive badly and be generally annoying.

In a rational system, I would expect Bernie to walk away with New Hampshire as a favorite son, such that his win would therefore mean nothing and we’d look to see how Pete did against Elizabeth Warren.

But the Gods of the Cornfields have spoken, and, as Bell notes, they determined who’s ahead in the horserace but they did it in subdued tones, since the turnout appears to have panicked the touts who had predicted a Blue Wave about to sweep away the GOP.

Which they turned into a Great Important Trend to be reported: Nobody cares, so you don’t have to, either.

If, by contrast, Iowa had been a mob scene, it would be like Spring Break or a Grateful Dead Concert or San Diego ComicCon: The more people show up, the more people feel compelled to show up, such that the mob becomes the event.

To criticize Danziger, I haven’t seen a local fight between Buttigieg and Sanders, though I’ve certainly seen plenty of Bernie boosting on social media, just as I heard lots of generalized enthusiasm for George McGovern back in 1972.


And if you’re old enough to remember those results, you’re old enough to remember this picture, but you’re also old enough that your opinion doesn’t count stacked against the appeal of crowd-sourced wisdom.

But for those of us in the Granite State, we’ve got 24 hours to decide whether to vote with our hearts or to try to work out some tactical plan.

Theoretically, we should vote for the person who best encapsulates what we’d like to see happen in this country, and while it’s not surprising to hear people retain their enthusiasm for Elizabeth Warren, there is also some for Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar.


I’m not only old enough to remember 1972, but I also remember 1968, when I was too young to vote and still young enough to believe in “sending a message.”


Faced with the choice between LBJ’s faithful hound or Tricky Dick, I tried to persuade my parents to write in Dick Gregory, not because I thought he had a shot in Hell but because I thought a decent showing would send a good message.

It was only later in life that I came to understand that not only does nobody care who finished third, but they don’t much care who finished second, either.

The “message” comes straight out of Al Davis: “Just win, baby.”

This week’s “On the Media” is worth listening to, mostly because it’s largely a re-transmission of a podcast from New Hampshire Public Radio, which is at ground level in terms of explaining primaries and how they happen.

As Brooke Gladstone says in her introduction

Though the Iowa Caucus is increasingly regarded as unrepresentative, undemocratic and generally unworthy of the media attention it generates, news producers would probably not be pleased if it went away, because they’d be forced to re-invent their quadrennial election calendar and abandon the easy palaver.

And, as the program goes on to discuss, NH isn’t that much more definitive.

This quibble: A section from a 538 Podcast about how we went from the smoke-filled room to the system of primaries talks about Chicago and the hopeless quest of Gene McCarthy to beat Humphrey without mentioning Bobby Kennedy.

As Abbie Hoffman later said, the Yippies and their kindred spirits were on the verge of calling off the demonstrations when Bobby was assassinated.

So if you don’t like the Primaries, blame Sirhan Sirhan as much as Mayor Daley.


So I went to see the elephant — or, in this case, the donkey, last night.

There was a Liz Warren appearance at the local high school, Tulsi Gabbard having been downtown earlier in the day and Pete Buttigieg at the high school the night before.

Each of the candidates has been here multiple times, yet the parking lot was full.

Inside, I discovered that they had roped off the space in the gym to give the sense of a huge, standing-room-only crowd, which is good strategy for them but not particularly inviting to someone with a bit of claustrophobia and a new hip that can’t stand for long.

But what really struck me was the picture above: The back half of the gym was filled with media, and those chairs you see empty were full a half hour before Warren appeared.

I thought momentarily of trying to persuade the organizers that I was an “influencer” and should have a place to sit among the others, but realized that only self-important dorks refer to themselves as “influencers” and that I wouldn’t be able to see — much less report on — anything from behind that phalanx of cameras.

Anyway, I don’t know who all those people were, but I know they didn’t all need to be there.

Nor did I, since I’m halfway between two candidates — heart or head — and nothing Warren was going to say would shift that, particularly since she’s already said it several times within shouting distance of my front porch and I’d already had a productive one-on-one conversation earlier in the day with a state representative who came to my door working for Pete.

You have to work pretty hard around here to avoid knowing what’s happening, though, as elsewhere, the votes of fools and of sages count the same.

Sigh. I’m not sure if I miss Phil, or just being that age.


2 thoughts on “CSotD: Going To See The Donkey

  1. I found a cane chair at a thrift shop a while back, and am trying to keep it where I’ll find it when I start to need it. A few years back, I escorted my daughter to a fair for the final time, and carried a small folding stool so I could declare wherever I happened to be a good place to sit down.

    I still think it was a good idea, and who knows? Maybe it was the thing that decided Sarah on not needing an escort.

  2. A friend who lived across the country called me on Election Day 1968 to ask whether it was really OK to vote for Humphrey. I said Yes.
    More people should have called me.

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