Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
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The Iowa caucuses
are history, and amazingly, they have shaped, and indeed, re-shaped
the nature of the Democratic presidential primaries already.
because, when one considers the size of the state, not to mention
the demographics, it can only be 'amazing' that such a place has
such an outsized impact on a nation of almost 300-million people.
If the United
States were stacked like books on the floor, with the top one representing
the State with the largest population (California, incidentally),
29 states would be
perched atop Iowa.
if one were to rate the States according to whiteness, Iowa would
be the 5th whitest State in America.
the next site of the campaign, is even whiter! (As is Gov. Dean's
adopted state, Vermont).
with all its rural charm, and rustic beauty, has had an impact.
Gov. John Dean, the heralded front- runner several weeks ago, is
tumbling towards 4th place, and Senators John Kerry (Mass-D.) and
John Edwards (N.C.-D.), are soaring from their Iowa showings. What
is also 'amazing', is that the caucuses, which represent the
voting preferences of 100,000 to perhaps 120,000 people, represents
just under 4.5% of the state's population, and may yet determine
who becomes the Democratic candidate for President of the United
have determined that the much- reported "momentum" coming
out of the Iowa caucuses are largely illusory. According to a recent
report in the *Washington Post* (Jan. 5-11, 2004 [weekly]) a study
of 10 contested nominations from both parties, dating from 1980,
shows that either a first or a second-place finish in Iowa did virtually
nothing to improve the statistical chances at winning. What was
far more important, according to an American Political Science Association
report (Aug. '03 Convention-Phila.), what mattered most was the
top fundraiser's identity, and where one stood in the polls before
the presidential year (p. 4).
early in the game, few audiences are really focusing on the 'pre-elections'
and caucuses, other than political reporters, pollsters, campaign
activists and big-money donors. The grassroots are still in slumber.
What this means,
of course, is that the process is increasingly antidemocratic (despite
It means that
the very few (less than 5%!) determines the candidates for the many.
One can call
that process anything one wants to call it; but 'democratic' shouldn't
almost lily-white states as Iowa have enormous influence on all
of the caucuses and primaries to come, because the system is hopelessly
front-loaded with such states (only South Carolina breaks this mold
and DC was ignored).
was Iowa, that Sen. Richard Gephardt, who ran ostensibly as labor's
candidate (and pitched his tent around trade issues) has departed
the pack, and according to press reports, will relinquish his Senate
seat soon, as well. Indeed,
Gephardt's prior try for the White House tells the tale, for he
won Iowa when he ran in 1988, but his 'momentum' didn't last long
(Bush, the 1st, and Quayle won that year).
And here we
are again, in the grips of a process where whiteness is the prized
political characteristic, and it easily excludes millions of people
of color, and a repeat performance is set for New Hampshire.
In a system
where the Electoral College actually determines who wins and who
loses (remember 2000?), and therefore, where small states have a
on the election process, this front-loading system seems to be a
double barrier to real democracy.
still favors those it has ever favored those with the most
money, get the best chances to run the country for their class.
2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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© copyright 2004 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
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Reprinted by permission of the author.