Goodbye, you and yours. By you, we mean the candiates, and by yours, we mean the national and international press corps, who move with the candiates amoeba-like, changing in shape and size as campaign intensity heightens. And by we, I mean Iowans.
That no one was trampled to death during the Caucuses surely must count as one of this rich Iowa tradition's successes.
One last time, some favorite images from the Iowa Caucuses. View the gallery – with editorial comment.
There was a moment the other day at a Ron Paul rally when, trapped in the media vortex, I seriously wondered if "The Who" concert in Cincinnati meant anything to any of those people. Probably not. This was a young crowd.
Wedged against a portable cube-shaped riser one of the walking dead who emerged from the CNN bus had planted near the podium, my knees were plumb against the plywood.
I finally did say this, nicely under the circumstances:
“I’m sorry, but there is nowhere for me to go. I am wedged against this stand,” I said, pointing to a stand obscured by bodies. “And if you don’t stop pushing me, you are seriously going to hurt me.”
“There’s room on that stand?” he wanted to know.
Sometimes the media are the story.
When cameras are all lined up in a row on leggy tripods, they look like Gatling guns, the rapid-fire assault weapons banditos used in the old cowboy movies. The candidates, caught on video that can go viral faster than Rick Perry can flub the federal agencies he wants to ax, probably think so, too.
The best viral moment of the campaign was the “Iowa Nice” video.
Don’t you just love that edge? A little of the joke’s on you, baby, and you don’t even know it savoir faire. That’s right. We are, indeed, nice.
It hopefully replaces in your mind any notion you might have entertained that Iowans are like that humorless, pitchfork-wielding pair in native son Grant Woods’ “American Gothic.” We haven’t been those severe-looking people for a very, very long time. Or at least most of us haven’t. It’s not hard to imagine the Bob Vander Plaatses – Mr. and Mrs., that is – in that painting.
Speaking of tired old depictions, how much does it bite to be Stephen Bloom right now? No matter how many times he tries to explain away his ugly personality as a literary device – and here’s a little colloquialism, for free, that he can use against us the next time he wants to reveal himself as a boorish oaf – that dog don’t hunt.
One of the first rules of satire is to know your audience. Bloom sorely underestimated Iowans’ sensibilities and their sheer pride – something every community journalist has probably done from time to time. My own was the “town square that Christmas threw up on” column. I apologized and toughed it out. Bloom should, too.
People expect the media to be their eyes and ears on the campaign trail. Their noses? Not so much.
A truth that we can’t convey because technology wizards haven’t yet figured out a way to tickle your olfactory senses through your smart phone: campaigns smell. We can tell you about it, praise the virtues of 24-hour underarm protection, and talk about the value of breath mints to cover up onion breath after gobbling down a fast-food sandwich, but you truly do have to smell it to understand how bad it can be.
The good news is that amid the crushing crowds that accompany candidates these days, no one’s going to know for sure that you’re the one who hasn’t stopped long enough in 48 hours to take a shower.
Jokes aside, we Iowans did well, taking seriously our privilege to vet the candidates and telling the rest of the country, via the visiting press corps – also performing a valuable, important service – what we discovered.
But at the same time, just know that as you go, there are people who are saying sincerely and cordially – we’re nice, remember – don’t let the screen door bang your backside on the way out of Iowa.