Tomorrow is the Iowa caucus, the first big shebang of the 2016 presidential election season. For Iowa voters, this means voting for their favorite candidate, and then (probably) watching Donald Trump eke out a victory against Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders, and Clinton literally run Martin O’Malley over with a steamroller while Johnny Cage and Sub-Zero gaze on, aghast.
For candidates, this means an end to interminable months of campaigning in the Hawkeye State and (by default) an end to sheepishly shoveling deep-fried detritus down their pieholes at every state fair from Sioux City to Cedar Rapids.
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson
As for everybody else in America, we’ll delight in the subtle joys of watching the entire presidential election agenda set by maybe .094 percent of the nation’s population. You see, there is absolutely no logical reason Iowa gets to go first. Iowa scored the most coveted time slot of the primary season purely by boring accident way back in 1972, but no one cared until 1976, when Jimmy Carter spent a bunch of time campaigning there. The state noticed it was big business, and made a law saying they had to hold the first caucus of the year.
And now Iowa, a state of three million people, becomes the most important place in American politics once every four years. Since 1980, all but one U.S. president has won their respective party’s caucus in Iowa, so the pressure’s on. And yes, all this red-and-white-and-blue hullabaloo makes life super goddamn weird for the people who live there. Just how weird? Cracked sat down with some Iowans and learned …
#4. You Might Randomly Turn Into A Human Prop
At this point, it’s cliche to point out how marketable cute little kids are for politicians — “kissing babies” has become a euphemism for campaigning, after all. But this cliche belies a cosmic truth. The people who want to be our president know exactly what an adorable tot’s face is worth in publicity, and “ethics” often takes a back seat to “kickass photo op.” Take this scene:
Where the family values candidate exposes a dozen children to full-frontal nudity.
Look at those kids hanging out with Republican candidate Carly Fiorina. It’s pretty hilarious that none of them appear to give one-sixteenth of a fuck about what she’s talking about. But the reality is way more screwed up.
Those kids are all four-year-olds who went on a field trip to a botanical garden in Des Moines at the exact same time Fiorina happened to be stumping. According to Chris Beck, the father of one of those kids, “They were approached by a campaign person who said, ‘Do you want to be approached by a presidential candidate and hear her speak?'” Fiorina then proceeded to usher the kids in and plop them down right to the front of the room, when they were supposed to be looking at some bark and shit.
If you’re pro-kidnapping, here’s your candidate.
When did Beck and his wife learn about this? Why, when their childcare provider called to let them know the kids had been shanghaied by a presidential candidate. According to the Fiorina campaign, she is simply so goddamn magnetic that all children flock to her like her she’s a rainbow candyfloss golem Pied Piper. But let’s go to the video:
She could’ve told them she would ban candy and puppies and gotten a more excited reaction than that.
After her speech and a bunch of photo ops, Fiorina moved on to other campaign stops in Des Moines, leaving Chris and his wife to figure out the best way to talk about abortion with a child who’s at the age when most kids think “Spongebob” is a viable career goal. (“I know they had little fetuses being passed out to the kids … Carly was talking about harvesting organs. I don’t know how much he has retained.”)
And then there are senior citizens, who represent another valuable source of photo ops for candidates, as they participate in the caucus in droves. Getting pictures with voters of certain age is apparently so valuable that candidates don’t actually have time to say jack. Another Iowan named Pauline told us about the time Mike Huckabee visited her favorite diner:
“Huckabee came in and shook everyone’s hand. When he came to me, he just smiled and barely made eye contact. He ordered a coffee and sat down with a few local retired folks. I served him the coffee, but in a minute he got up, waved, and left. He took a sip of coffee, and that was it. I liked him when I met him, but it was really an empty impression. There was over an hour of buildup from supporters coming, but just like that, it was nearly empty again. One of the retired folks he sat with told me he felt like he had been conned.”
Huckabees Hearts Nobody.
And what is caucus season like for those Iowans who don’t happen to be in high demand as photo models? Get bent, randos! One Iowan we spoke with, George, had keen memories of John Edwards’ campaign screwing up his breakfast one day in 2004. “They looked at me and my son head-to-toe and told us that [my son] was allowed to go in, but I wasn’t. His campaign didn’t need a farmer-type like me there that day to ruin all of his pictures for younger people.”
“It’s OK. I’m great with kids. Cancer-ridden spouses, not so much. But children? I’m aces.”
#3. Your Phone Will Be Deluged With Ads
Most of you live in states where the overall voting results aren’t in doubt. Texas is going to vote Republican, California’s going to vote Democratic, and Florida’s going to fuck up and eventually cast everybody’s ballot for President ERROR.
He’ll build a wall to keep out the Dodongos until we can figure out what’s going on.
Even if you don’t live in a swing state, you’ve probably still gotten a call or two from a few candidates. But Iowa is one of the states that’s been most tenderly caressed by the hand of electoral providence. This means that, for residents, the phone calls never stop coming. Said an Iowan named Ronald:
“This year has been bad. Every day, I get at least two calls from a caller ID that says ‘Donald Trump,’ and more from other candidates. I can’t even ask to get off their list because they’re automated. There is this one I kept hearing about in the news about Muslims [Ed’s Note: this one], and I’ve gotten it at least once. After that, I’m just ignoring all calls from people for the rest of the month, unless it’s my wife.”
As opposed to the Darkest Timeline, when President Trump will make sure you don’t ignore him.
And here’s what George had to say about 2012: “I had a work cell, a house phone, and my personal cell, along with a phone my daughter left home to charge. I was woken up by calls at all hours … Romney was the worst. ‘This is Mitt Romney.’ ‘This is Mitt Romney.’ ‘This is Mitt Romney.’ I blame him for struggling to stay awake at work.”
The same way America blamed him for their struggling to stay awake during the debates.
George’s son worked in Council Bluffs during the 2012 election. He had a work cell phone, and the coming of campaign season “was such a disruption and waste of cell phone minutes that they switched them all to numbers based out of Nebraska.” Seriously, during the last presidential election, it was reported that some Iowans were receiving 10-15 messages per day, and this year seems no different. We guess democracy doesn’t work unless everybody hates it first.
You might have noticed that this article’s had a generally negative tone so far. Well, that wasn’t true of everyone we spoke to. The staff and managers of Pizza Ranch, an Iowa restaurant chain, loved caucus season, which may have something to do with the fact that …
#2. A Random Pizza Chain Seems To Be Critical to Democracy
Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Caucus back in 2008, credited his numerous visits to Pizza Ranch locations. Rick Santorum made a point of visiting Pizza Ranch repeatedly before he won the 2012 Iowa caucus. And now visiting at least one Pizza Ranch is a requirement. We spoke with a Pizza Ranch employees from three locations. They told of visits by Huckabee, Cruz, Trump, Rubio, and even one by Hillary Clinton.
Presumably, Cruz’s entire speech was wanking motions and reminders that Trump eats pizza with a fork.
We asked everyone we met why in the hell a pizza chain in Iowa was seen as such a critical linchpin for victory. No one had a satisfying answer. But one employee gave us a perfect PR answer: “Pizza Ranch is important because of the values that the company as a whole represents: Christian values and kind of a family atmosphere.” That’s certainly a lot prettier than the actual answer, which is basically, “A bunch of people running for the highest office in the world are so fucking superstitious that they’re visiting the same pizza chain over and over again because it worked for two guys who didn’t even win the ultimate nominations.”
A vote for Huckabee is a vote for “Really? Him?“
We’re sure Pizza Ranch makes fine pizza, and their employees were all unreasonably helpful. We thank them. But the fact that so much campaigning during the Iowa caucus is done during off-peak hours in a single pizza chain highlights something super-duper important …
#1. Iowa Is A Ridiculously Bad Predictor Of The Presidential Election
Let’s say Jim-Joe Liberal is browsing his Facebook feed — while eating kelp granola and burning cruelty-free incense to summon the ghost of Howard Zinn — when he sees this article float by:
And spends the next 30 minutes giggling over “Koch Block.”
And let’s say Francoise Republicano is doing the same thing while dutifully cleaning Saint Ronald Reagan (which is the name of her Bible Gun):
And spends the next 30 minutes fear-vomiting over Hillary Clinton’s murder face.
Both of them are about to get super excited about what the Iowa Caucus means for their candidate. (“Everyone’s feeling The Bern!” or “America’s urethrae are roaring with Trumporrhea!”) But what neither of them realizes is that trying to judge America’s attitudes toward a candidate based on Iowa is freaking ridiculous. Here’s a statistical breakdown of the respondents in the poll both those articles cite (hat tip to the Cracked forums):
Notice how there’s a thorough statistical breakdown of how many white men support each candidate? Now notice how the “women” and “non-white” columns say N/A all the way down? That’s because there weren’t enough “women” or “non-white” voters in the survey (of over 2,000 people) to count.
Another fun fact: The only age group they had enough data to break down was “55 and older.” And you can blame some of this on a shitty poll, but Iowa is around 92 percent white, compared to around 77 percent for the rest of the U.S.
And the nature of a caucus makes the whole process even less representative than it would be. In a presidential primary, voters around the state cast ballots in their normal ballot-casting place. Iowa instead does a caucus, which requires all sorts of arcane crazyballs rules involving delegates and thresholds and Golden Snitches. In any case, only a few hundred thousand Iowans are estimated to vote tomorrow — meaning the most you can say is that the Iowa caucus strongly reflects the preferences of maybe 10-13 percent of the voting population of one of America’s smallest, least-diverse states.
It’s the political equivalent of assuming everyone on Earth agrees with the 25 shut-ins who follow you on Facebook.
So no matter what happens tomorrow, you might as well kick back and soak it all in, because there’s a high probability that this entire election was nothing but viral marketing for the third season premiere of Black Mirror (“The Tan Who Would Be Troll,” starring Bruce Vilanch as “Gonad Thump”).
Sadly, the episode sees him only eat a pig.