Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Our Most Profound Expression of a Profound Right

Norman Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech" painting, fair use claimed, full cite in the sources below.

Greetings All:

The Iowa Caucuses are less than a week away.  For those of us here in Iowa, it is approaching a fever pitch.

Our phone has been ringing with requests to take a survey or go meet a candidate.  Dawn is none-too-pleased with the (in my opinion, "regular", in her opinion, "all the time") calls.  All I can say is, "Tis the season."  

For those of you who live neither in Iowa nor New Hampshire, this may all seem curious, quaint even.  It's not.  It's serious.

When I mean serious, I don't just mean deciding who will be holding a certain Federal office about a year from now.  I mean it also in the sense of the awesome responsibility placed in the hands of farmers and teachers and laborers and doctors and lawyers and retirees and college students, all, all of them, Iowans.

I've heard the grumbles from some of the national media who have grown weary of the "Iowa charm."  For those who view our caucus process as antiquated, a leftover relic from the pre-internet age.

To them, I say:  "Because it is a leftover relic, it is precisely why it matters, the caucuses, that is."

Think about it for a moment, please.  In an era where you can answer questions online and have zero interaction with your fellow citizens, the caucuses require you to engage with others.  The Republic caucus is more of a "straw poll/secret ballot" event.  Still, there will be speeches given for candidates.  The Democrats, on the other hand, will spend time gathering in groups, seeking to be "viable" to have delegates to go on to the county, district and state delegations.  I suspect in some caucuses, tempers will flare but no punches will be thrown.  After all, Iowa is dead-center of "Midwest nice."

The older I get, the more I equate the caucuses to the most profound expression of the most profound right- to decide.  I am not one who despises the Federal government.  I want my food inspected and my water treated.  I want to drive on roads that are fixed and bridges that are safe.  I want my mail to be delivered and my national parks preserved.  I want these things, and many more.  And for all these things, I cannot do on my own.  Oh, and I forgot-I want a military strong enough to keep my family and I safe.  These things, and many more, can only come from government, the Federal government.

And yet, there are those things that should be, must be reserved only to the citizenry.  At the top of the list is the election of those who hold leadership positions.  For some, the need to elect a strong leader is paramount.  Some long for a "deal maker," or a "strong man" to "make things happen."  For others, their candidate must put the preservation of individual liberty at the front of the line.  

What do I want?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  I've been wrestling with that very question for some time now.  As I said in my last blog post, there is no perfect candidate.

In 1970, Robert Greenleaf wrote a book entitled, The Servant as Leader.  In it, he described the "servant leader" as one who first seeks to serve and from that motivation to serve, becomes a leader.

I could be wrong, but I like to think that is what we Iowans want, expect in a leader.  To that end, we do more than just cast a vote in a polling booth.  We meet, we gather, we discuss, we argue, we cheer, and then we may meet up at a bar or coffee shop for the returns.  Some will cheer the results, others, not so much.  

Yet know this...whatever the outcome, we were there.  We were there on a cold winter night.  We were there to stand with a candidate and also stand for ourselves.  Our beliefs, and goals, and hopes and yes, fears.

The photo that opened this blog post is my favorite Norman Rockwell paining, "Freedom of Speech."  In it, stands a common man.  He wears no tie, nor suit jacket.  His voice may be soft or halting.  Likely, public speaking is not his daily task.

Yet look how straight he stands, how clear his eyes appear.  This is a man who needs no poll or focus group to know how to cast his ballot.  This is a man who knows what he believes.  Who speaks from the heart, who fears neither scoffs nor rebuke.  This is a man whose vote any politician should feel grateful to earn.  And earn it, they must.

I know this picture is not linked to the Iowa Caucuses.  I have a link below in the credits if you wish to learn about it.  So notwithstanding this photo not being tied to the caucuses, this photo is a clear reflection of the folks who will show up next Monday night.  Who knows, had the Iowa Caucuses been around when Rockwell got the inspiration for this photo, he may have made it about it.  

So as I mentioned before, if you are in Iowa, are eligible to participate in the caucuses, then please, go out, show up, pick a candidate and if so inclined, pick a platform issue fight.  But please, participate.  For those of us in Iowa, it is the most profound expression of a profound right, the right to be heard in the formation of government...our government.

Be well my friends, 








Sunday, January 24, 2016

No Perfect Choice

My voter registration card.  Photo by J. Berta

Greetings All:

In nine days, it will be over.  Gone will be the attention lavished on us out here in frozen flyover country by the press.  The candidates will be gone as well.  For some, their journeys will be brief, as their campaigns will be soon coming to an end.  For others, a long slog awaits through the south and the rest of the primary season.  

For us in Iowa, February 2nd will mark the return to normalcy.  The Iowa Caucuses, the first in the nation presidential contests, will be in the history books.  Even the most hard-core political enthusiast will likely (yet silently) breathe a sigh of relief.  For many other Iowans, it will be a giant cheer.  "Hooray!  No more phone calls, or junk mail, or calls from surveys or campaigns!"  

Until then, there is one more week to go.  This is truly the home stretch.  Although the polls have been reasonably accurate over the past few cycles, there is always the wild card of who will actually come out to participate.  Unlike primaries, to engage in the caucus process, one must commit a period of time to gather and engage with one's neighbors to some extent about the issues of the day.  I will be curious to see just how many of a certain candidate's supporters will actually show up on caucus night.  We shall see.

I am excited that my oldest daughter can participate, as she'll be eligible to vote in the general election.  Both my wife and I plan on attending as well.   

Participating can mean different things to different people.  For some, it will be a quiet display of support for a candidate.  For others, it will be a loud expression of support for a cause that transcends any one candidate.  I like to think that for all attending the caucuses, they will feel a sense of civic pride.  They all should.

I may have some other comments on this process and might even write about my own choice on caucus night.  For now, I will say this:  I find no perfect choice.

I don't envy those who have found their candidate, I'm happy for them.  Even those who support a certain one (whose name I shall not mention), if their intent of support is pure and genuine, then so be it.  

I have particular admiration for those who are supporting a candidate that has no chance of winning.  There are candidates who are polling in the low single digits.  Their campaigns, like a lawn mover running out of gas, will cough along for a few more weeks before fading away.  Until that day, supporters, perhaps only a handful, will cheer them on.  As well they should.

For my adult life and even prior to that, I've never had a challenge rallying to a candidate.  Not so this year.  If you'd read my blog, you might have noticed how I have commented on the evil of ISIS.  While I do not favor single issue politics, I see this year as different.  I see the defeat of this barbaric terror group to be THE issue.  To say I am disappointed with the candidates' responses would be an understatement.  As mentioned above, I may comment more on this subject in a few days.  

For now, I'll simply say that while I wish there was a "perfect" candidate for me.  There is not.  Then again, the sheer fact I would even think there is such a candidate is a new low in my sense of entitlement.  

There can never be a perfect candidate.  The reason is simpleTo be a candidate, one has to be a person first.  And people are flawed.  
Yet flawed is fine, to an extent.  For within one's flaws can lie an authenticy, an authenticy that can knock down the walls of bluster and rage and naivity and cynicism.  

Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of Democracy in America, wrote:  "America is great because she is good.  If America ceases to be good, Amercia will cease to be great."

 Yes, America is still good.  And because "good" is less that "great," there is the room in good (or goodness) for flaws.

So to those of you reading this that live in Iowa, go out and caucus on February 1st.  Don't worry if you don't find your perfect choice, find one with flaw, just flaws you can accept.  

And by participating, by making the commitment to both choose and accept the less-than-perfect candidate, you're embracing, continuing and renewing the greatness of America.   

I'm convinced if Mr.de Tocqueville de Tocquevilde Tocqueville were to make another visit to America, Iowa to be precise, next Monday night, and watch our caucus process, he'd agree America is doing just fine.

Be well my friends,