The Washington Post

What’s the matter with Iowa

Everybody says our system for electing presidents makes no sense, and I won’t argue with that. But making no sense and being no good are not the same thing. You want a process where voters have some idea of who the heck it is they are voting for, and we have that. You also want a process that isn’t so convoluted in its rules and procedures and timelines that it produces outcomes which bear no relation to the will of the people at large. We have certainly devised a strange apparatus that a visitor from Mars would have trouble understanding, but here’s the thing: there ARE no visitors from Mars. WE are the Martians, and we’ve never been rational or systematic and we never will be. People are nuts, now, as a politician might say, more than ever! We have a goofy way of deciding things and Iowa is goofy in a good-old-American way. I say hooray for the intrepid citizens that brave the cold to gather in some horrible living room with that awful couch and those grungy colorful plastic kids’ toys piled over there to actuallyl try and make American democracy mean something. The problem is too many reporters swarming all over the place over-reading the tea leaves in every campaign styrofoam coffee cup, to mix beverage metaphors.

The other problem is too many people want to be president. I just take this as a kind of pattern warning sign. Serving as president of anything is supposed to be a good balance of stature and drudgery. The kind of thing your canny friends need to talk you into. We have elevated our conception of President of the United States of America to some OzWizard-Ringmaster status that both distorts public understanding of the job and attracts a lot of frivolous people. Let’s redefine it as more service and less circus.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.


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