I have a riddle for you. What rapidly became a national phenomenon, is infuriatingly frustrating, inspired an entire sub-culture based on (entirely inaccurate) prognostication, dominates the conversation of everyone involved and looks fucking ridiculous to anyone on the outside?
If you guessed fantasy football, you’re right, but I’d also accept the onetime cult ABC show Lost as a correct answer. Now I worked as a barista back when Lost was in its final two glorious/maddening seasons (2009 feels like so long ago) and we would spend hours dissecting that week’s journey into the great enigma. We’d discuss theories on what the show meant and where it was going. A fruitless exercise (because it tried so hard to keep viewers in the dark that it ended up lost in the weeds by the end of the show), no doubt, but the fun of Lost wasn’t in the watching the show, it was knowing that we were experiencing one of the last water cooler shows; the rearguard for must-see TV. But Holy Hail Mary was that a frustrating show.
I’m sure I’m not the only person here whose fantasy football league is dominated by members of the ever-expanding Who Dat Nation. And as I’m sure you all know, owning any fantasy Saint not named Drew Brees is a trying experience at best. During the third round of your draft some well intending yet misguided soul will draft Pierre Thomas and all of a sudden the floodgate is opened and a deluge of overvalued Saint players are taken off the board waaaaay (five As, one for each premature round Marcus Colston will be drafted in) too early. Don’t fret: I’m here to give you guidance! We hold our beloved Saints in far too much esteem in a versatile offense, but I have come up with a solution. Instead of thinking of Pierre Thomas as a primary running back in a top five offense, think of him as the Jack Shepard, the confusing, the maddening, the infuriating semi-protagonist of Lost. Lost? You won’t be for long.
A Rant about Iowa, New Hampshire, Deep Fried Twinkies, and Starving Kids
If worst comes to worst, one of the Republican candidates currently crawling through the state of Iowa will become responsible for a $15 trillion economy, a 5,000 warhead nuclear arsenal, and the welfare of 307 million Americans. But first, they must all pay homage to a 600lb cow made of butter, extol the virtues of rural America, and pledge allegiance to one nation under corn, with ethanol and high fructose corn syrup for all. Such are the imperatives of the presidential primaries, which give out-sized influence to the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary thanks to those states’ perverse stranglehold on “first in the nation” status and the media’s obsession with the winners of electoral contests attended to by far less than 1% of US voters.
There are, to be sure, apologists for a system in which two small, lily-white states monopolize the resources and attention of presidential contenders for the first year of the electoral cycle. They argue that only in Iowa and New Hampshire can candidates be forced to engage in retail politics, eschewing expensive and alienating television advertising in favor of face-to-face contact with voters in diners, coffee shops, and living rooms. This kind of “citizen-based empirical assessment” is apparently impossible in Florida, Texas, Indiana, Nebraska, or Vermont, whose coffee shops are somehow less conducive to the practice of democracy and whose voters are too preoccupied with the vagaries of everyday life to serve as gatekeepers to the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.
The truth is that there’s nothing exceptional about either Iowa or New Hampshire that would qualify them for their exalted status. Iowa is 90% non-Hispanic white, New Hampshire 93%, compared to the United States’ 65%. Neither state is representative of the United States demographically, economically, or politically. Nor are the states’ voters more deliberative, responsible, or knowledgeable than the median American, with a study in 2000 finding “voters in Iowa…despite an intense campaign neither learned more than voters in other states nor appeared more engaged with the campaign.”
The states’ small size is something of a non sequitur. Were the current system replaced with rotating primaries, wherein states or regions took turns going first, candidates would not be required to shake hands with every voter in California, Michigan, or Arizona, but they would make a concerted effort to connect with some of them. The stuff-on-a-stick delicacies of the Iowa State Fair (in case you were wondering, Joe Lieberman is a fan of the deep-fried twinkie) have their place, but wouldn’t it be edifying, not to mention amusing, to have presidential candidates share barbecue with a Texas oil rigger or eat a hot dog with a New York cabbie while discussion something other than commodity farm prices?
Meanwhile, the quadrennial spectacle of pandering and debasement surrounding the early primary states would merely be an affront to procedural fairness if the consequences of parochial politics did not extend to creating misguided national policy. Senator McCain once said, “Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality.” He was right on all counts, until he had a change of heart: “I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects.” Such are the vagaries of Iowa. Meanwhile, food prices are rising for those least able to absorb the impact and the United States’ decision to burn food for fuel is at least partly responsible.
Of course the Iowa Caucuses don’t shoulder sole responsibility for an insane agricultural policy that places tariffs on foreign sugar (at a cost of several billion to consumers), subsidizes corn (at the cost of $74 billion to taxpayers over the past 15 years), and makes Americans fatter while denying nutrition to impoverished people oversees. The blame must be shared by the lobbying and financial power of agribusiness and the over-representation of rural interests in the US Senate. But the special status of the early Caucuses do not help.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” The unfair and capricious primary process is one root of our dysfunctional politics. We should strike at it.
Good read. I believe that the Iowa/New Hampshire system is completely ass-backwards and this article only reinforces those feelings.
I want to tell y’all a story. This is a story about you (or me; it’s really a story about all of us) and that person you almost dated in high school. We’ll call this person Pat. Sure, you knew Pat, but maybe Pat was already in a relationship. Maybe Pat was painfully awkward or really shy. Maybe it took twenty years for Pat to have a winning season—the details aren’t really important. What’s important is that you and Pat flirted, but for whatever reason nothing ever happened between you.
Now, this is a story
all about how your life got turned upside downabout the lost love between you and Pat over all those years; but this is also a story about how to behave once you’re in a relationship. Sure, it’s new and sexy and you want to wear your Drew Brees jerseymake out with Pat all the time, but you have to learn how to control yourself and do a relationship right.
Or, you know, learn how to be a Saints fan.
Check out my newest post for my other (Saints-centric) blog. The title says it all.