NH wins the Iowa caucus

Plus thoughts on the State of the Union address

I have never understood the Iowa caucuses nor why anybody pays attention to them. The February 2020 caucus reinforced the point with the confusion, delay in results, inconclusive outcomes and total disarray.

The caucus is not a primary or an election. Rather it is a bunch of club meetings by party members who have the stamina to stand around for several hours and go through a somewhat obscure process involving several steps.

This year, the confusion was exacerbated by the employment of a phone app that proved not to work, both because of the lack of training in how to use it and, supposedly, a programming error, added to the lack of connectivity in parts of Iowa.

Compare that to New Hampshire. Our primary is an actual election, conducted by state and local officials who are trained in running elections. Our primary uses paper ballots that are preserved, counted by machines that are not interconnected or online so they are not susceptible to being hacked, and there is a record of the vote in case there is a recount.

In Iowa, the turnout is generally a fraction of the total number of eligible voters. In New Hampshire, we get one of the best turnouts in the country as members of both parties participate significantly in the election process.

In Iowa, while the result was fractured among many candidates, that is not the fault of the caucus any more than it is the fault of the primary, in which there can be “winners” who get less than 30% of the vote. However, when it is that fraction of a tiny percent of the population, the term “winner” and indication of popular sentiment is misleading.

If the Iowa caucuses were not first, in time they would get little attention.

After this year’s Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, the results of which are not known as I dictate this column, one winner is certain. The New Hampshire primary, is the clear winner of the Iowa caucus.

Party officials, legislators and the press should consider whether the Iowa caucus is worthy of any attention four years hence. Of course, in Iowa, they may decide to go to a primary, in which case, under New Hampshire law, we will be required to put ours before theirs and they no longer will be the first of anything!

I watched the State of the Union address on Feb. 4, placed curiously on the day between the final arguments and vote on impeachment in the U.S. Senate, which had predictable results.

During the speech, President Trump, to his credit, stuck to the script and seemed to afford the dignity of the event and the place. The problem is, he and speaker Pelosi both exhibited their distaste for each other by the failure of Trump to shake Pelosi’s hand and Pelosi’s tearing up of his speech at the conclusion of the event.

More problematic, however, was the fact that the president took credit for a lot of things that he is not responsible for, did not note the contribution of the Congress in the new Mexico, Canada and U.S. trade agreement, did not reach out to the other party for anything, and claimed to support things that the record shows he does not support.

Though he is not the first politician to take credit for things that happened under his watch, whether or not he was responsible for them, his consistent ignoring of facts, along with the total partisanship he displayed, was not presidential.

In particularly poor taste was the presentation of the Medal of Freedom to radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh, who recently announced that he has serious lung cancer, which everyone can regret, does not even claim to be a political commentator but an entertainer. Over the years, he has been one of the most divisive people in the United States, has claimed that “smokers are the most patriotic Americans” (among other outrageous statements), has denied climate change, has demonstrated venom, and has in many ways tried to divide the country and rile up the uninformed.

Awarding him the Medal of Freedom — devised by President Kennedy as a way to honor heroes among us, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks and others — cheapened the honor and makes it more of a recognition of celebrities than heroes.

This blatant appeal to the president’s base was transparent and inappropriate.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He can be reached at bcook@sheehan.com.

Categories: Cook on Concord