There’s an interesting piece in Slate today (click) that speculates what the mainstream media, as well as the mainstream GOP, will do if Ron Paul wins Iowa’s caucuses.
The concensus seems to be that Paul supporters will say the win means something, while everyone else will say it doesn’t.
This has already happened. When Michelle Bachmann (who? Yeah) won the Iowa straw poll last year, it was heralded as a huge meaningful win, while Ron Paul coming in second was ignored in favor of whoever came in third.
What the media ignored then was that the Iowa straw poll was essentially composed of purchased votes. The straw poll is a fund raiser, and voters have to pay to get in. The candidates pay the entrance fee of all their fans, not to mention providing food and other goodies to attract them, so the win goes to whoever can bribe the most voters, not to put the point to suscinctly.
I found it more telling that Bachmann paid for more supporters than she ended up with votes.
But Ron Paul, at No. 2, got no respect, as Jon Stewart on the Daily Show made clear.
What’s this got to do with the Utah party conventions? Everything.
Iowa Caucuses are not representative democracy — they’re popularity contests among party faithful, which puts them on a par with Utah’s party conventions, although perhaps still slightly above.
The Utah GOP convention, these last few years, has been taken over by the party fanatics, especially the Tea Party. This is prefectly legal, but shows again the problems that can arise when ”government is decided by those who show up,” as Rep. Rob Bishop told a Tea Party crowd one time. When the ultimate decision in November — the final candidate — is pretty much decided by who shows up in January, you get a process skewed to the desires of the fanatics, not the general electorate which is busy earning a living.
When only the fanatics show up, what does it mean? Well, it means Sen. Bob Bennett, who would easily have won reelection in the last election, getsbooted in the party convention. It means Sen. Orrin Hatch, who really ought to have more dignity, is busily prostituting himself to the whims of the Tea Party whackos and ultra-conservative bloggers because he knows he has to hit that lowest level of politics to survive the convention.
Party conventions might mean more if people with a wider range of political beliefs went to them. The trick is how to do that.
It might be better to just take away the convention’s power to decide the next election by booting an incumbent, perhaps by forcing a primary if the convention selects a challenger. That would force the conventions to engage in more reasoned discussion, perhaps choose their alternate more carefully, making conventions less of a opportunity for the big mouths of the fanatics to take the place over with shouting.
As to what it really means if Paul wins Iowa: Nothing.
As the story makes clear, Paul’s forces are busily doing their best to pack the caucuses.When a political function turns into something you have to win by manipulation, it becomes merely another piece of purchased propaganda, grist for the campaign later, and no longer has value.