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Stateside: It's All Caucussian To Me

Stateside with Rosalea

It's All Caucussian To Me

Watching television here at the moment is about as tempting as watching maggots crawling in and out of a dogpile. If I hear the words "Iowa caucus" once more, I swear I'll go and register Republican.

But, I didn't explain to you how those caucuses work, so I'm going to add to the overkill by doing so now. Imagine that instead of registered Democrats in Iowa going through this process to choose their favourite presidential candidate, Aotearoa/New Zealand has decided to use the caucus process to decide the national ice cream flavour.

Groups of folks get together all across the country and sign in as eligible participants in the process. Local proponents of each of the four flavours on the ballot - chocolate, strawberry, pistachio and garlic - present the case for their flavour and, when the time comes to vote, the attendees go and stand in the part of the room that represents the flavour of their choice.

Let's say of the 100 folks gathered in a local war memorial hall, 48 have plumped for chocolate, 35 for strawberry, 12 chose pistachio, and 5 took a stand for garlic. Is that the end of it? No. The rules state that any flavour getting under 15 percent is not a viable choice, so now the persuasion starts - in anticipation of the second round of voting.

Obviously, if pistachio can get those garlic-lovers on their side they become a viable choice. On the other hand, if strawberry can get both pistachio and garlic on its side, it will have 52 votes and be ahead of the chocoholics, which will translate into one more delegate than chocolate has at the upcoming National Convention for the Choosing of a National Ice Cream Flavour.

Now, don't you think that's the damnedest thing? I mean to say, why shouldn't I look at who the proponents are of the various options and decide to vote garlic, knowing it won't make it. Then I'm just left with the choice of whether I'll slip my vote to pistachio because the proponent is on the local hospital board and might swing a contract my way, or strawberry, because that proponent could write a letter of recommendation for my daughter to get her a good job.

It is a process fraught with possibilities for corruption and coercion - and just plain ill-feeling in the neighborhood - yet the news people in this country tout it like it's the second coming of the Virgin. And they're not above skewing the outcome - deliberately, I think. Face the Nation, on CBS, featured John Edwards last week and his popularity in the polls since then has risen dramatically. It featured him again this Sunday.

The reason this caucus is so important, the news media say (after having made it so), is that it represents the "big mo" - momentum and money. If you're not in the top three after the Iowa caucus, then your support is likely to drop away sharply if you don't also make a good showing in the New Hampshire primary the following week.

And if I might take umbrage with the national media on an international note: the implication by an ABC news reporter that 30,000 Iraqis protested against the US imposition upon them of a caucus-based election system was because they couldn't understand it is cultural bias of the worst kind. They protested because they *do* understand it, and the millions of people around the world who protested the invasion should also be mobilising to protest the imposition of such an election system.


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