Christopher Fox GrahamUnless you’ve been behind closed doors this week or catching up on all the New Year’s Day bowl games via TiVo, the biggest news this week was the Iowa caucuses.
Every four years, the corn capital of America takes its focus off its native sons Tom Arnold and Ashton Kutcher and turns toward selecting our next president.
Unlike typical blind ballot primaries, the Iowa caucuses are an odd throwback to our agrarian heritage.
The premise is simple: neighbors gather in a town hall, church or farmer Jim’s big red barn and debate which person they like best, like a bad high school prom.
One of the major parties – figure out which one — uses a straw poll, but admission to the caucus costs $35, so candidates often purchase tickets and give them out to supporters.
This is different from buying votes, because, well, they say it is.
The other major party has voters stand in designated areas for each candidate. For 30 minutes, they shout each candidate’s pros and cons trying to coax other voters to leave their group.
Nothing says we have a modern 21st century government like choosing our leaders in a game of Red Rover.
As some candidates’ support drops below 15 percent, they are no longer viable and the former supporters have to choose a new candidate to support and 30 more minutes of “will my candidate make it.”
Kind of like musical chairs.
In the end, the results are supposed to prognosticate the future election season.
The turnout is historically miniscule. This year, 225,000 Democrats and 120,000 Republicans participated, slightly more than 0.15 percent of the country’s registered voters.
In layman’s terms, it’s like determining the end of an hour-long football game in the first 3.8 seconds.
In our microwave society, that brevity makes sense.
Thankfully, Arizona has the foresight to hold its primary on what was once called Super Tuesday, but now Super Duper Tuesday, perhaps the lamest name for a calendar date since Weasel Stomping Day.
The date places Arizona on the “forgettable states” list, when faced with the powerhouse delegate states of California, Illinois and New York.
However, it also means that as candidates skip Arizona in favor of California, we’ll also dodge their negative ads, the slight swelling of anger when they mispronounce “Prescott” in speeches and a deluge of campaign promises that they’ll forget if and when they reach the White House.
“Did I promise Arizona I’d protect its water, or was it Tennessee? It was all such a blur.”
The results of Super Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5 will essentially leave voters with the two major candidates for the long, bitter run to November.
While the particular process of primaries is almost silly, the matter behind it is not.
This presidential election offers female, black, Hispanic, Italian, Mormon, senior citizen and second-generation immigrant candidates — not as fringe choices but as major front-runners for both parties.
But what makes the 2008 election a milestone is not that candidates come from these groups, but that their minority statuses seem to matter so little.
While in past years, a person’s gender or ethnicity was seen as a benefit or bane, in 2008, it seems to be more of a footnote.
While voters and the media note the specific differences, the actual influence seemed to be negligible at best.
Voters at the Iowa caucuses were gleefully choosing from a slate of candidates far different from their state’s demographic, with little concern about that difference.
Whether Iowa voters predicted the future president during their popularity games, they chose candidates based on the content of their character.
The prediction that race, gender and family heritage will cease to divide us less and less after 2008 is one any election-watcher can see coming.
Deciphering Sedona is published every Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.