Democracy, revisited

You may have heard that the Iowa Caucus is Monday January 15 (see comment from Larry at end of this post).  More, if you wish, from the Des Moines IA Register: Iowa Caucus 2024. (For me, the most interesting data is on page 5 of the article.)

If you’re not sure where Iowa is:

Minneapolis-St. Paul is about 240 miles from Des Moines.  Chicago is about 330 miles and New York City 1,100 miles east; New Orleans 1,010 miles south, San Francisco 1,825 miles west….  Iowa has 3.2 million population; Minnesota has 5.7 million, U.S. is about 330 million.

We’re a large country.  At the same time, as a democracy everyone eligible to vote has a single vote, whether billionaire or the most common person.  It is a great right, and an awesome responsibility.


Last week, I posted a commentary from Chuck Woolery about the Danger of Democracy.  I sent it along because I found it very interesting and concerning: a statement of uncomfortable truth.

If the post passed you by, here it is again.  Agree or disagree, the points made apply to politics past, present and future.  We, the people, in a democracy. ARE “politics”.  We are the ones ultimately and always responsible for who we elect to represent us, by action or inaction.

By choice, I am a modern day Democrat – the party that dealt with its roots in slavery.  Every post I make includes my self-identification (at right on this page.)

A favorite quote is the one attributed to Will Rogers in the 1930s.  “I am not a member of any organized political party; I’m a Democrat.”

To this day, Democrats are criticized for being a disorganized rabble, and the criticism is justified as far as it goes.  Democrats (democracy) is a big tent philosophy which encourages different voices.  Democracy represents we, the people, as we are in all our rich diversity.

Democracy is the antithesis of authoritarianism, which seems to have become the philosophy of choice in today’s Republican party.


I don’t have any nifty one liner to add to Chuck’s fine collection of quotations seemingly against “democracy”.

Neither do I have have any opinions about what will happen in Iowa on Monday, nor about the pull quotes which anchor the news about one side or the other down there.  Were I a resident in Iowa, I would be no different than I am as a resident here: a single but essential voice.  I would likely attend and participate in my caucus, as I have always tried to do here.

What does Democracy look like?  And how can each of us have a positive impact?

Every single one of us is part of one, often many, family(lies), and I’m not talking about a family where everyone marches to the same drummer.

One of aggravating constants of any functioning family unit is inevitably tension requiring negotiation to not only survive, but thrive.

For every family unit, this looks different.

A suggestion: make your own list of who you define as “family” in a personal sense in the course of a normal day.  If you do this with an open mind, you’ll find differences of opinion and philosophy which must be constantly negotiated.  My family lists do not include my “birds of a feather” which “flock together”: the people I totally agree with, all the time.  Come to think of it, there aren’t any of these!  There are all varieties.


Wednesday, Iowa will be old news, and the focus will be elsewhere, New Hampshire, etc.  There remain about ten months till Nov. 4, 2024….  Show up, well informed.

This is a time to get actively engaged as part of the body politic – demonstrate what democracy looks like.

POSTNOTES: In side conversations during the preparation of this post, there are some  brief threads which relate.

About Chuck Woolery’s post (there were also a couple of comments at the end of this post):

Fred: Got this last week and saved a bunch of them.

Kathy: Thought you might like to see what brother Tim has created from his work with Native Peoples and differently abled folks. (Video here).  Let me know your thoughts

Frank: Well, I plowed through this and it makes me shake my head in sadness as I find myself agreeing so many times with statements I would have found to be blasphemous fifty years ago. Thanks for sharing.

Larry: It looked very much worth printing…so I printed it for keeping and reference. It took 11 pages on both sides…no prob. I have my old laserwriter for that…the color printer for anything that requires color…thanks…will give you my take after I digest it…LG

In February, 2008, I remembered a memorable precinct caucus in Minnesota – the year Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the main event.  I was writing to two local friends.

Dick: Do you remember Feb. 2008?  I went to see Barack Obama on February 2 (it was Saturday), and the next Tuesday we went to the caucus at Oak-Land Junior High.  It ws bumper to bumper on I-94, and finally I walked about a half mile into the school to cast my presidential preference on a scrap of paper – they had long since run out of the prepared ballots.  (I had dropped Cathy off at the school first).

My preference: Hillary Clinton, because I thought she had more relevant experience….
I’ve always regretted not taking a photo out at Oak-Land that night.
That’s what I’’m thinking about as Iowa looms next week….

Joyce: I well remember that caucus night; my daughter was trying to keep things under control in our room, and failing, despite doing everything possible. I didn’t see Obama at the Target Center, but I did see him at the Energy Center right after he got the nomination.

Sue: I remember the caucus at Oakland Junior High too. The parking lot filled up quickly, and some people (like Dick) had to walk a fair distance just to vote in the presidential preference poll. I was there early because, as I recall, I was manning a table in the front of the building. As far as I can remember, they haven’t had a caucus night there since. Although the school has been (or is being) enlarged, so maybe they’ll start again.


Mary in New York State: Hi all…in case you missed it there is an event in IOWA on Monday.  I know none of you are there to participate but I was curious how many of the folks that I associate with regularly even knew where the state was… I completed a straw poll which included ushers and book club members in my age group, lifeguards at the pool, and random other folks.  N=20 so it was small.🇺🇸🇺🇸♥️

NO ONE could place it with all surrounding states, about half thought it was somewhere in the middle of the country (yea) and knew it was near Minnesota, too many put it in the south or west, and a couple just said really undereducated things like  “Is that a state?”.
I am hoping grandkids may be better informed but wonder if everyone should post a United States map on the back of the bathroom door.

Joyce in Minnesota: This reminds me of some of my former coworkers back in NYC. As I was preparing to move to Minnesota, they asked me what I liked about the state; one of the things I mentioned was how beautiful the Mississippi River looks as it winds through the state. My former coworkers told me that couldn’t be right; the Mississippi River, they said, was in the south.

John in California:  To Mary : What a revolting development!!! I think you need a better set of friends….

As a seasoned world traveler I, of course, know exactly where Iowa is, and have crisscrossed the state in multiple directions – including visiting the High Point  of Iowa, which (believe it or not) is on the crest of Iowa Highway 60 in Northwest Iowa. And frankly, the only reason that I went down that road was to get to the High Point of Iowa.
But I digress… Unfortunately, your informal poll only serves to strengthen the arguments presented by somebody in one of Dick’s latest blog – 118 Quotes Against Democracy. Pretty much the  overarching theme of that article was that people are too dumb to be trusted to govern themselves…

Sue: These stories remind me of the responses I got from classmates (from all over the U.S.) when I enrolled in a graduate program (in psychology) at Sonoma State College (now University) in northern California in 1975: “Minnesota – that’s east of the Rockies, isn’t it?

Joyce, a number of these scholars were from New York.

Sean in Houston (with tongue firmly in cheek!): I thought Iowa was a county in Western Illinois or Southern Minnesota.

Joyce, again, and Sue: There was a New Yorker cover by Saul Steinberg, years ago,  showing how New Yorkers view the world.  Sue: Yikes! Things are even worse than I feared.


from Larry: I find it rich — and rather abominable at the same time — that Iowa’s “Republican event” is on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

from Peter:  As to democracy, I think all the complaints about it are really about people who are woefully undereducated in just what it is. In my various conversations, especially amongst diverse indigenous people, it seems to me that democracy is very much older and more sophisticated than any of us in the “west” realize. But we have lost or forgotten or never understood the other component, the thing that happens when somebody in a real democracy goes off the rails: the others quickly surround them and hold on until they recover their sense of community (there are many creative ways this is done).

There is a tribe in the Congo that has danced the same dance for seven thousand years; and when one of them gets sick, they paint a red spot on the head of every person down to the smallest, newest baby. They do this to spread the malady as thin as possible, while all understanding that they are taking on part of the burden of this illness. Seven thousand years is a long time for a culture to last, and it isn’t because they got set in their ways. Au contraire, as they say in Paris, France.
So my take on the wonderful list you sent along is that it says more about the various speakers than about their subject; and yes, people are contentious and silly, but better democracy is not going to address that one.

Responding to Peter: Of course, I know you now for over 20 years, and while I’ve never met Chuck in person, but there is long connection there as well.  I think the two of you would get along famously, pretty much on the same page (though I know you both as very capable of standing your ground!). Anyway, this is one of the advantages of having this network, now so many years around.

from Flo: Being a Minnesotan since 1968, and having friends from Iowa, I had no trouble recognizing where it is!  Glad I don’t have to vote there, but living and voting in Hubbard County MN certainly has made our votes count for less!

Regardless, please vote well informed, with a clear conscience! Hope Minnesota will continue to have among the very best voter turnout nationwide.

from Mary:  Interesting post.  Which shall take precedence?  I will watch a few snippets of caucus but likely wait for the rehash.  Maybe I am in the Isaac Asminov category ………. ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge’.That snippet of his quote seems to fit way too often.

from Deb: Interesting article.People need to get out and cast their vote. It’s odd that only 55-60% vote & others don’t exercise their right. It matters when all vote, at least everyone has opinion.  Can’t imagine being in Iowa today, it’s a nasty day to be on the road for anything…

from Jeanne: I think there may be a few more than one or two Democrats in Iowa but there is no way to tell because they don’t vote and they don’t talk to each other. Lol

2 replies
  1. Thad Ludwiczak
    Thad Ludwiczak says:

    Lots of thoughts on this one. It begins with a map. If people are not curious enough to discover where various places are like Iowa, we have a problem. How do we get people to expand their universe and truly enjoy the journey? The next idea is critical thinking. How do we get people to weigh both sides and come up with a reasonable conclusion. The last is responsibility. People need to feel as if their action matters. Why does 40% of the population not vote? I do not have the answers but we clearly have a problem.

  2. Rich Hahn
    Rich Hahn says:

    I confess I ignore Iowa. I simply do not consider Iowa mainstream America; nor do I consider Iowa a springboard in a presidential race.

    The reason … a branch of my family tree is from Iowa. I have simply been unable to overcome their racism and extreme political positions that I have observed over a lifetime.

    I seldom see these people. As a Democrat, I view these Iowans as Trump Republicans that quite simply hold views far different from most Republicans in my circle of acquaintances. For me, it is a good time to read about Lincoln … maybe authored by Kearns-Goodwin or


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