In the Arena

Iowa Idonwanna

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So there’s now talk that Iowa is going to move its caucuses up to…next week. No, actually to January 3, 2008. Or maybe the Republicans will caucus that Thursday night and the Democrats will go on Saturday, January 5.

Could I just say: This is nuts.

There is a natural arc to news stories–and to the way the news media work. You need about a month–three weeks minimum–for the public to focus in on an election and make up its mind. In recent presidential campaigns, that’s meant the month of January for Iowans: the holidays are digested, the kids are back in school, there’s time to figure out whether Howard Dean is, say, too angry to be a good thing. Or this time: whether we actually want another Clinton presidency.

That sort of rumination disappears with the new schedule. Human Beings spend the month of December shopping, decorating, cooking, going to parties, drinking, vowing to lose weight after it’s all over. The only way presidential candidates will barge into those traditions is if they spend the month working as sales clerks at Toys ‘r’ Us.

Furthermore, we in the mainstream media have our appointed year-end rounds. Ten Best lists. Photos of the Year. Persons of the Year. Presidential politics has intruded in Decembers past, but not as the overpowering story that it needs to be in order to get the general public’s attention. That usually happens in January: there is a certain dread synergy to the combination of politics and post-holiday indigestion.

So what happens this time? Beats me. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the country…just…simply…ignores…Iowa. Or perhaps gives it shorter shrift. I mean, if Howard Dean screamed in the midst of the NCAA Championship Bowl game, would anybody hear it?