Thursday, March 16, 2023

Kevin, Tucker and the Weird Big Lie

The stunt that Kevin McCarthy pulled, releasing hours of Capitol video to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, may be backfiring.

I think part of the problem is that too many of use recall Jan. 6, 2021. Trying to reframe it now as peaceful patriots simply visiting our seat of government is to completely miscast events we watched unfold. It seemed like a violent insurrection meant to gum up the work of democracy only because it was a violent insurrection meant to gum up the works of democracy.

Take, for instance, this clip, in which Tucker says video “proves” a Capitol police officer was not a victim of violence:

But wait, there’s more. As PolitiFact points out, in an essay on seven lies pushed by Carlson, the video doesn’t prove what Tucker claims it proves.

Well, as violent historic events go, the Jan. 6 riot was not all that organized. It wasn’t 9/11 nor Pearl Harbor—the death toll was much more modest, the Capitol was damaged but not burned as it was when British tourists wearing red coats visited early in the 19th century. But it was not peaceful, either, and it was an attempt to shut down a peaceful transfer of power following a legal election.

Let’s say it again. The 2020 election was not stolen. Joe Biden won. It’s OK to not be OK with that, but it’s not OK to not acknowledge it as a reality. When you lose an election, you dust yourself off, pick yourself up and vow to come back in the next election.

You don’t march on the Capitol and demand a redo.

And if you’re the Speaker of the House, and you want to go against the advice of law enforcement and release a bunch of raw video form that day, at least you release that video to all media all at once, not some weird alt-universe commentator like Tucker Carlson.

What McCarthy did, and how Tucker used that video, is not transparency. It is the opposite. It’s ink in the water. It’s a big lie, parading around like it was truth.

We are always better off if we at least can agree on the basic facts, and the problem with Tucker and Trump’s Big Lie is it remains a Big Lie. And Jan. 6, 2021, was a shameful day. People did die. Democracy was in danger. And it still is.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Echoes of the Other Nixon Scandal

"Bag Man" book cover
Over image from

In my media history classes, we do spend some time on Watergate, a scandal that started in 1972 and eventually brought down a president who had just won a landslide reelection.

But I also mention Spiro Agnew, President Nixon’s first vice president, forced to resign in disgrace. Mostly I teach about him because, as the designated attack dog of the Nixon years, Agnew constantly attacked the news media, pointing the way to a Republican strategy of shooting the messenger that has intensified as it continued through the decades.

While Richard Nixon was no Donald Trump—in Nixon’s case, he was a long-time public servant who had some grasp of both government and history, subjects that Trump has flunked in his adult life—Nixon’s scandals did scar and shape the future of his party. So there is a through line to the modern GOP flirting with a cult of personality and proto-fascism.

Anyway, I just finished reading “Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up & Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House” by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz. I did a few seconds of internet research, but could not find out who drew the interesting cartoons that begin each chapter—a mystery to me that I wish I could solve.

Despite wondering where the cover and chapter art comes from, I found the book to be a readable, interesting summary, not just of Spiro Agnew’s crimes, uncovered by federal prosecutors in Baltimore, Maryland—it’s instructive in terms of how Agnew chose to fight the charges and frame the scandal.

Spiro Agnew
From Wikimedia Commons, official White House mug shot of a criminal: Vice President Spiro Agnew.

Because he pretty clearly was a felon. He had taken large cash bribes to award construction contracts for state projects as governor of Maryland--and continued to take bribes as Nixon's VP. But to get him out of office before Nixon’s fall—otherwise the U.S. would have had a criminal president, something we didn’t really get until we crazily elected one in 2016—the Justice Department agrees to let Agnew escape the ignominy of wearing prison garb in exchange for his quitting.

The Nixon years were years of political shocks. There was Lyndon Johnson, deciding in March of 1968 to quit the race for reelection even as Nixon's primary campaign was just taking hold. Bobby Kennedy being shot during the primary campaign. Nixon picking an obscure, right-wing governor of Maryland, who he never respected, because Nixon was shoring up right-wing support in his own party. A close election that Nixon won. Years of paranoia about the media culminating in the CREEP engaging in clumsy, illegal manipulation in 1972.

And just as Johnson stunned the nation in 1968 with his sudden departure from the campaign, we have the sudden execution of the “the deal,” where Agnew unexpectedly cashed in the only cards he held, giving up his public office. He maintained his innocence, not just to the end, but beyond, claiming at one point that Nixon was plotting to have him killed and that federal prosecutors had engaged in a “witch hunt” against him.

AGnew with crew of Apollo 10
Happier days for Spiro Agnew--as VP, meeting crew of Apollo 10 in 1968. NASA official image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

I was pretty young when it all broke and, at least briefly in my young adulthood, a Republican. But I lived in a newsy house—my parents always watched the nightly news, they subscribed to three daily newspapers and news was always around. I never bought into Agnew’s version; it was pretty obvious at the time to any consumer of the news that he was a crook.

Yet he did maintain a base of support. I suppose he could have shot a man on Fifth Avenue and some of his supporters would have remained loyal to him.

Politics in this country is a rough game—I guess it is globally and throughout human history. Just ask Julius Caesar what he thought of Brutus. Our particular times are not particularly different, except we have stumbled on a system that at least balances our worst impulses with some rule of law and some semblance of We the People having our say.

As our democracy wobbles a bit in election denial—face it, today’s Republicans, Joe Biden won with no trickery, deceit nor widespread conspiracy—it is nice that we survived those Nixon year shocks. Yet buying into Trump’s lies today is in line with a darker moment of your past recent history.

Agnew did it. Sure there was a witch hunt but the point is that there really was a witch (or warlock). They caught him but didn’t burn him just so that he would never become president. And Agnew's evasions created an odd playbook that, sadly, is still being applied by crooked politicians today.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Some Reminders of Why Journalism is Important

Students at ICMA
This and next three images--college student from around Iowa listening to speakers at annual Iowa College Media Association convention, hosted by the Iowa Newspaper Association, Feb. 2, 2023, in Des Moines.

There’s no doubt that journalism is changing. This week, two students and I attended the Iowa College Media Association Convention Feb. 2 in Des Moines.

The convention, which was a two-day affair PC (pre-COVID), was one day this year. It’s hosted by the Iowa Newspaper Association, and with fewer vendors willing to travel in pandemic times and a shrinking base of newspapers, the associated twitched to a one-day affair.

Times they are a-changing. So is the MMU Times, the Mount Mercy University campus newspaper that I advise—it’s gone from broadsheet (full size) to tabloid (half size) with the idea that we’ll be more of an on-line news source. I foresee that a day may come soon where we forsake the printing press for a total emphasis on cyberspace.

We’ll see.

Students taking notes (above and below).

Anyway, it was great to be back in Des Moines. I wore a mask—it’s an event that brings hundreds together from all corners of the state, and I just felt it was prudent. I was almost alone in that, and I hope this convention doesn’t prove to be the super-spreader event that helps the new Kraken sub-variant really get going in the Hawkeye State.

I took a home test tonight. Negative.

But I was pretty positive about the convention. INA’s keynote speaker was the kickoff event, and it was a kick. Dr. Richard Deming, a Des Moines oncologist spoke about “Pursuing Life with Purpose and Passion.”

He runs a sort of adventure travel program that involves taking people who have undergone cancer treatment on trips, such as climbing Mount Everest.

Dr. Richard Deming
Dr. Richard Deming tells stories from the nonprofit "Beyond Cancer" that takes people who have been treated for cancer on adventure trips. He describes it as a form of ministry.

Deming noted that treating cancer is not the most important part of what he does—a great doctor, he said, treats the patient, not the disease. And partly that means taking the time to be part of their story.

“You guys (newspaper people) are story tellers,” he said. “You have to be a story listener before you can be a story teller.”

He touchingly recounted trips and people, showing pictures and telling stories. We met women and men who overcome and live life to the fullest facing whatever hand of cards the universe deals—an elderly lady with poor balance and eyesight, for example, scaling the slope of Kilimanjaro.

She and the others all share a deep appreciation of a reality that we all face but sometimes forget—our time is finite.

“If you have a dream you to want to fulfill, today is a good day to do that,” Deming said.

Also that we need to treat each other with kindness and support. As we all pursue our dreams, none of us can do it alone. And we should do it now, too.

“You don’t have to have cancer to get off your butt and live your life,” he said.

I had been asked to snap and share some images during the convention, so I stuck pretty much to the ICMA speakers. It was enough, they were an interesting group.

EJ Phily Burton
EJ Phily Burton is introduced.

EJ Philby Burton, of Produce Iowa, a state office promoting movie production in Iowa, talked of the opportunities in that industry. I thought much of she said applied to any creative profession, including journalism.

For example, when you’re in a hurry and have a complex task to get done, “power walk, don’t sprint.” If you move too quickly, you’ll get sloppy. I often tell students that their slowest typing should be when they’re writing cutlines or headlines—the last-minute touches done in a rush are also where the most embarrassing mistakes are made. So don’t sprint when you’re in a hurry. Don’t crawl, either—but power walk, working quickly, but deliberately.

She also noted that on a movie set, a smart production assistant won’t whip out their phone, but will look around and see what needs to be done—carefully, so as not to interfere with others’ tasks, but success comes to those who can see what needs to done without always having to be directed.


Sarah Muller
Sarah Muller of Forbes talks of the need for journalism and journalist to evolve and meet their audiences where they are.
At a later session, Sarah Muller, Social Media Lead for Forbes, gave all kinds of example of how media needs to be more active online.

In particular, she urged us to seriously consider TikTok as a story telling venue, given that’s where younger members of the audience are. And Iowa is banning state offices from using that app. I feel another post on another topic coming on soon.

Back to ICMA. “We have to learn to evolve,” Muller said.

The final panel of the afternoon is one I look forward to each year, the “Young Professionals.” They were a good crew this year, as they often are.

Young professionals
Young professionals panels. Hayley Schaefer of Iowa PBS speaks.

The one that stuck with me most was Olivia Allen, a Simpson College graduate last year who now is an education reporter with the Quad City Times. She spoke passionately of her desire to give voice to the voiceless, to write about school policy including the voices of students who are most affected.

It felt, to me, exactly what this gig is all about—giving voice to those whose voices are otherwise not heard. It echoed back to what Dr. Deming had said in the morning, because part of the challenge is to learn to be a story listener in order to be a better story teller.

Olivia Allen
Olivia Allen of the Quad City Times speaks as Nick Brincks of Iowa Public Radio listens.

The other panelists were memorable, too. Nick Brincks, of Iowa Public Radio, was the oldest of the young professionals, having graduated nine years ago. I thought he brought some realism about how life changes as you go from the college life to full adulthood.

The program ended with the ICMA 2022 media contest awards ceremony and keynote speaker.

Ty Rushing
Ty Rushing speaks.

Ty Rushing, a force in Iowa journalism since he joined the ranks of Iowa reporters in 2013, spoke. A native of Kansas City, he told us of his jobs and the lesson he learned at each, including, honestly, what kind of editor not to be.

It took be six years to work my way to an undergraduate degree, so Rushing’s stories of working in a warehouse at night and attending college during the day resonated with me—for me, for part of my academic career, it was an overnight shift in a cat food factory. He took seven years, but he made it.

Anyway, one point both Rushing and the four young journalism panelists emphasized was the importance of getting as deeply involved in student media as possible.

The students I advise at the MMU Times earned seven awards, including:

  • First Place, Staff Editorials (Jada Veasey, Annie Barkalow and Gwen Johnson). I’m thrilled with this award, which the Times has won in the past. It’s a strength of this paper that it can speak with a coherent, powerful voice. The editorial cited included one on COVID-19 policy, and two urging students to take care of their mental health.
  • First Place, Best Vlog or Blog (Catherine Kratoska for Catherine The-Not-Too-Bad). Again, a traditional strength for Mount Mercy (you’ll see us again in second place in the same category).
  • First Place, Best Written Feature Reporting (Annie Barkalow). Mrs. Barkalow’s name came up a lot this year. This was for coverage of a Holocaust memorial speaker at MMU in spring.
  • Second Place, Best News Reporting (Annie Barkalow). A story in spring about student art being removed when some deemed it offensive.
  • Second Place, Best Vlog or Blog (Annie Barkalow for Anne with an E). Second time in a row Barkalow has won this honor. She’s the CCR of blog writers.
  • Honorable Mention, Best Headline Writing (Jada Veasey, Annie Barkalow, Gwen Johnson).
  • Honorable Mention, Best News Reporting (Annie Barkalow). This one confused me a bit, because it’s for an excellent feature about teaching, but I think there was some category confusion. I entered it in “investigative reporting,” and I’m not sure why it shifted categories.

Well, seven awards, with three first-place awards is a decent result. Congratulations to all the MMU winning journalists!

Delcie Sanache
Delcie Sanache at the ICMA convention, with Joselyn Hildebrand in the background. Both are editors on this year's newspaper staff, and, I hope, winners of ICMA awards next year.

And thanks to Delcie Sanache and Joselyn Hildebrand, two Times editors who attended the conference and represented MMU there.

I do miss the two-day conventions, but we have to learn to evolve. And Thursday was a good day.

Craig Schaefer and Jana Shepherd
Craig Schaefer, president of ICMA, congratulates Jana Shepherd of the Iowa Newspaper Association. Shepherd received the John Eighmy Service Award, given by ICMA each year to a supporter of college student journalism. Without her support, ICMA would not be able to have it's annual meeting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

‘A Man Called Otto’: a Hanks Triumph

Actors in "A Man Called Otto"
Sony Pictures publicity image of Tom Hanks and Mariana Treviño in "A Man Called Otto."

OK, I’m not a movie reviewer, but my wife and I had a “date afternoon” today, attending the cheap movie day at a local theater to see “A Man Called Otto.”

There are lots of funny bits in the trailer, and the movie does have comedy in it. But it’s a serious story about an old man struggling with finding a reason to live—a drama in which he attempts suicide several times. We learn, late in the movie (spoilers coming) that his wife died just six months before the movie. He’s taken a buyout at work and was pushed out the door after his company went through a merger. He’s convinced the world surrounding him is full of idiots—which, since it’s full of normal, flawed humans, it’s not all that far off the mark—although Otto, an engineer, equates intelligence with two traits: following the rules and knowing how machines work.

In short, Otto is ready for his road to reach its destination. Yet, I think part of the point of the movie is that Otto learns his views are too constrained. His keen mechanical intelligence doesn’t always give him empathy and insight. He may be a good engineer, but he’s not too keen on understanding the souls of the creatures—human and feline—around him.

It takes a stray cat and a new family in the neighborhood to reawaken some of his appreciation of life. It doesn’t fix it all, inevitably the movie is about the end of Otto’s life, but it helps illustrate why, even in dark times with a broken heart, it’s worth it to still be here, to still care, to still read a story to young children in the voice of a bear.

Besides Hanks, to me, the movie’s next most important actor is Mariana Treviño. She plays the mother in the new family and becomes, to some extent, Hank’s surrogate daughter. She’s fantastic in her role, and is the center of both her own family and the newly enlarged family with Abuelo Otto.

And other cast members and characters are well done, too—the only slightly off characters, to me, were the evil real estate ones—the movie wasn’t about them, but they didn’t seem to be the three-dimensional humans the other characters were.

Movie poster

Small point. It’s a poignant story, fantastically acted, gripping and moving. Franky, it was a hoot going to the movie just as an experience. It was almost sold out, and the crowd tended to the elderly—I think my wife and I were among the “youngsters” there. We bought our tickets late and had to sit in the front row, but with new recliner seats, that worked out. We were in a row with several old ladies, who were funny, chatty and sociable—the idea that reaching out and not trying to live life all on your own wasn’t just a theme of the movie, it was a theme of the whole matinee theater experience.

I suppose the fact that my own dad was a man called Otto, and who was also an engineer, endeared me even more to the movie—but it’s also true that my father led a different life with different struggles and was a different kind of man.

Book Cover

The movie is based on the novel “A Man Called Ove.” My wife has read the book and recommends it, so it’s on my to-read list now.

And, if you care about this non-reviewer’s movie choices, yes, I heartily recommend “A Man Called Otto.” See it with some old ladies in the front row. If you’re like me, you’ll be a bit misty-eyed at the end, but glad you came nevertheless.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Remembering a Key Figure of the Big 3 Era

Barbara Walters in 2008
From Wikimedia Commons, an image of Barbara Walters at the Metropolitan Opera in 2008, posted on flickr by Rubenstein, link to image.

“Every female broadcast journalist working today owes a debt of gratitude to the O.G., Barbara Walters, who died Friday at age 93.” Katie Couric, writing in The New York Times.

There was Walter Cronkite. There were Chet Huntly and David Brinkley. And there was a woman, a fiercely talented, competitive person named Barbara Walters. No, I don’t mean she was a TV giant of the stature of a Cronkite, but she was an important TV personality who brought needed change to a male-dominated medium.

I first became aware of her in the late 1960s as my family sometimes had the Today show tuned in on our 19-inch black-and-white TV.

I don’t recall her much from that time, but I was young. I became more aware of her as the first female network co-anchor starting in 1976 on ABC, a gig that honestly didn’t go all the well. But as she had done many times in her long career, Barbara Walters had the courage to try something new, and after she was an anchor, she reigned as the queen of celebrity and news maker interviews, first at 20/20 on ABC, and then in a series of prime-time specials.

Barbara Walters with President Barack Obama
An image of Barbara Walters speaking with President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2013. Image posted on flickr by Ester Vargas, link.

At an age when many people have returned, Walters in her late 60s helped create The View, a daily talk show, in 1997.

The news today, of course, is that Barbara is no longer with us. She has died at age 93. An important female figure of the Big 3 TV era is gone. Her passing is a reminder of that bygone era, and her long career a testament to her tenacity and talent.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

One of the Great Presidential Speeches

President of Ukraine meets President of U.S.
Dec. 21, 2022--President Volodymyr of Ukraine meets President Biden of the United States in White House. Image from the web site of Ukraine's president.

Did you catch the address to Congress by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on the darkest day of the year? Dec. 21, 2022, long after darkness fell for our longest night, wearing his trademark green shirt with the presidential symbol on it, Zelenskyy spoke movingly of the struggle his country faces.

I thought it was a speech for the ages, one that will be quoted and studied. Zelensky put the war his country is waging to defend against a Russian invasion in the context of the larger global struggle for democracy—imploring American to remember that aid to Ukraine is not charity, but an important investment in that ongoing struggle that we are a vital part of. (C-SPAN video of speech below, skip ahead to 19:00 when Zelensky enters and then starts speaking.)

And he powerfully evoked some American cultural milestones—the U.S. Army battling the last German offensive of World War II in the Battle of the Bulge; and the battle that helped turned the tide of the American Revolution, Saratoga.

It’s fitting, somehow, that Zelensky referenced the Battle of the Bugle because that battle was raging at this time of year. On Dec. 16, the Wehrmacht used the cover of poor winter weather (to avoid Allied air superiority) to launch an attack through the Ardennes.

The German offensive failed. Just as Russian forces failed to take Kiev last year, the Germans stalled in their drive to split Allied forces by marching to Antwerp.

In that case, the German offensive was a long shot, almost certainly doomed as Germany was running out of resources, particularly fuel. In the case of Ukraine, they are fighting a defensive war against a Russian army with vastly greater resources. Still, the Battle of the Bulge echoes in the American mind, and Zelensky was reminding us of some parallels.

In some ways, I think, the analogy to Saratoga was more apt. In fall of 1777, British forces launched a three-pronged offensive to divide the Americans by splitting New York. Gen. John Burgoyne brought one of those prongs south from Canada, capturing Fort Ticonderoga and sweeping south towards American forces dug in near Saratoga.

The British attacked twice, but the Americans defenders held them off. Faced with losses and being cut off from reinforcement, British General John Burgoyne surrendered to American General Horatio Gates on Oct. 17, 1777. Partly as a result of the battle (technically, I suppose, the battles) of Saratoga, France decided it was worthwhile to support the American cause as the Yanks had demonstrated they maybe could win. And the tide of war was turned.

Painting of surreder at Saratoga
19th Century painting by artist John Trumbull of General John Burgoyne surrendering to General Horatio Gates on Oct. 17, 1777. Painting in collection of Yale University, image from Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, the Russian army didn’t surrender to Ukraine when their invasion forces stalled on the road to Kiev this spring, but still, just as American defenders at Saratoga produced a turning point, Ukraine’s valiant defense of Kiev and offensive to push back in the east give hope to its cause.

As President Zelensky noted, the first Russian defeat was its loss in the psychological war. Most of the world, and most of the body politic in the United Sates, recognizes Russia as the aggressor here. Zelensky reminded us that his country needs continued support as the battle against Russian aggression continues.

It is, as he stated, a key moment in a global fight for democracy. And, Zelensky predicted, a fight that Ukraine will win. That seemed faint hope when Russian tanks trundled across the border this spring—many of us, I’m sure, expected Russia to crush Ukraine. It seems, like the Revolution post Saratoga, that Ukraine’s ultimate victory now is at least a possibility, should its allies show backbone and stay the course and support Ukraine's cause.

Ironically, Zelensky is a TV entertainer turned politician who has proven, in his country’s darkest hour, to be an effective leader. He’s an FDR or Winston Churchill, a great communicator who showed his ability before Congress to sound the right notes, to clarify the issues at state, to rally support.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine
Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, in March 2022. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

How different from a recent U.S. President who was a TV entertainer turned politician. Indeed, President Trump was impeached for the first time for a corrupt phone call in which he tried to hold aid to Ukraine hostage for political favors. Trump is the anti-Zelensky, a divider, not a uniter, a man who this week was exposed yet again for attempting to undermine American democracy.

I felt it was very weird when the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection recommended that the former President face criminal charges, and the reaction from Iowa’s Republicans was a yawn. We’ve moved on. We don’t care about Jan. 6 anymore. We’re working on the issues Iowans care about now.

How American. How forgetful we are as a people. It’s less than two years since an American president attempted a violent coup in Washington DC, and too many want to close that chapter and forget about it.

Well, if we don’t forget the Battle of the Bulge or Saratoga, it is way too early to turn the page from Jan. 6. After all, the chief villain in that sad narrative, Donald Jerk Trump, is a leading candidate for President in 2024—the leader of an attempt to subvert our very democratic system is in the running for his party’s nomination for president, and the craven, cowardly “leaders” of his party are too scared of him to note that he’s proven himself unqualified to support and defend our Constitution. I’m one Iowan who hasn’t yet moved on and is disgusted with the gutless Iowa Republicans who claim we should. I’ll move on when the GOP renounces Trumpism and Trump, as long ago they should have.

And this week we have the opposite end of the scoundrel spectrum. A true icon of democracy, President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling on us to remember who we are—we are the victors at Saratoga and The Bugle, a people who have fought for two centuries for the cause of self-government and democracy.

Today, that fight is happening in Ukraine. But also in the hearts of Americans. The dark cancer of Trumpism is still with us. The fight for democracy isn’t just happening in eastern Europe.

Flag of Ukraine

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Presidential Circus Leaves Iowa Behind

Amy Klobuchar
Jan. 19, 2002, Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks in Marion, Iowa. I listened to her and backed her in the Democratic caucuses that year.

Bernie Sanders
Jan. 20, 2016--Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. I was there, although I don't think I caucused for him.

The Republicans will still do it. The Democrats say they are shaking things up.

The Iowa Caucuses have been the lead-off political event of the presidential contest season for as long as I’ve been a voter. When I was 17 in 1976, I was a Gerald Ford guy, was elected at a precinct meeting to attend the county convention and was a delegate to the next level—my memory is a bit fuzzy, I think it was a district convention, but the state meeting may have been the next step up.

I didn’t try to go to the national convention, although I recall toying with the idea (which suggests the counties sent their delegates to the state level). I didn’t have the means.

And 1976 was it, for me and the Republican Party. I was a Ford man to stand in the way of the Reagan upsurge, and when Reagan took the nomination in 1980, I became part of the immoral minority that voted against him.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I wasn’t involved. After I graduated from college in 1982, I was a newspaper journalist in Missouri. I returned to Iowa in 1991, but was preoccupied with family and don’t recall attempting to caucus in the 1990s.

I was back by 2008. I got caught up in the Obama bandwagon.

Vampire Weekend
Lead singer from Vampire Weekend warms up Bernie Sanders crowd, Jan. 30, 2016.

In 2016, I was torn. I was interested in feeling the burn for Bernie Sanders, but don’t recall if, in the end, I went that route.

My 2020 choice was Amy Klobuchar. I still, in my heart, would feel better if she were President.

Face at Klobuchar rally
Jan. 19, 2020--Face in crowd at Amy Klobuchar rally.

Anyway, I drove downtown in Cedar Rapids with my youngest daughter to attend an Obama rally in 2007. I saw Amy Klobuchar speak in Marion Iowa in 2020. In 2016, Vampire Weekend sang at a Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa City before Bernie Sanders spoke, and I was there. Sadly, the Oxford Comma wasn’t.

The Iowa Caucuses were a bit of a political anomaly. In 1972, Sen. George McGovern fared well in caucuses whose date had been set early as the party grappled with complicated new rules enacted after the fiasco of 1968. That gave him a boost, and caused Iowa politicians to take note. The two political parties colluded (imagine that) to set the 1976 caucuses early, and a Georgia nuclear engineer, governor and peanut farmer—Jimmy Carter—organized early and did well, propelling him to the White House and the Iowa Caucuses onto center stage.

There has been a lot written about the value of the retail politics that the caucuses provided, and how important it was to have early voters actually meet candidates. But, in recent cycles, Democrats, in particular, became increasingly disenchanted with that process.

Iowa is not very racially diverse. It’s more rural, white and older than the nation as a whole. And Democrats are all about diversity.

Well, this week, the news from the national party is not good. A recommendation to make South Carolina the first state to select a Democratic candidate in 2024 has been approved by the panel planning such things. The 2020 Iowa caucuses, with their software glitches and delayed count, were a bit of disaster that shifted momentum perhaps forever away from Iowa’s first status in presidential contests.

Listening to Amy Klobuchar
Someone listens to Amy Klobuchar, Jan. 19, 2020. Klobuchar speaking (below), same date.

Amy Klobuchar speaking

Still, Republicans, undeterred by the whiteness and age of Iowans, are going ahead with their early contest in this increasingly cherry red state.

I will miss the caucus hoopla. I’ll miss the chance to drive to a local bar and listen in person to a potential future president. And I’m afraid the national party decision, while it makes sense, is another blow to the Iowa Democratic Party at a time when the party is already down.

For 50 years, from 1972 to 2022, the caucuses have been important. Perhaps their time is gone. If the Democrats won’t caucus here first in 2024, how long will the Republicans? Even if they continue, a one-party contest isn’t the same.

Besides Democrats, another loser may be Iowa media companies. In 2015, a big owner of local TV stations, Gray TV, purchased channel 9 in Cedar Rapids for $100 million. The company then raked in lots of revenue from the 2016 and then the 2020 presidential contests. The flood of campaign money into Iowa TV stations may be abating.