Friday, December 14, 2007

Caucus Countdown: Candidates in Wonderland

Yea, yea. We know. The excitement is building (yawn) for the first caucuses. Actually, the *real* battle, rasslin' style, was over which state got to have one first.

Did you ever stop to wonder just what the heck a caucus really is and why everyone's running so hard? Fear not. We're about to tell you.

Your primary resource is Alice in Wonderland. What, you thought it was just a weird kids' story? Not at all.

The tale of the caucus begins after Alice, while she was nine feet tall (oh! the ego of politicians), cries a pool of tears. Yea, this is the substance abuse time in the plot (hel-lo, Obama!).

Having had her (literal) upper and downer, Alice picks up the wrong tool (a fan, hel-lo Bill and Rudy, pardon the pun!), and shrinks again. Next thing you know, Alice is in a deep pool of salty water, with an odd collection of fellow travelers swimming around. Yea, they finally get out, but now they're soaked and they want to dry off.

Ever think politicians are all wet? How do they dry off (and get dry behind the ears, too?) Simple.

A caucus race. Here's the point where we reveal the secret of the caucus gallop.

"`What I was going to say,' said the Dodo in an offended tone, `was, that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.'

`What IS a Caucus-race?' said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that SOMEBODY ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

`Why,' said the Dodo, `the best way to explain it is to do it.' (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn't matter,' it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?'

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.'

`But who is to give the prizes?' quite a chorus of voices asked.

`Why, SHE, of course,' said the Dodo, pointing to Alice with one finger; and the whole party at once crowded round her, calling out in a confused way, `Prizes! Prizes!'

Alice had no idea what to do, and in despair she put her hand in her pocket, and pulled out a box of comfits, (luckily the salt water had not got into it), and handed them round as prizes. There was exactly one a-piece all round. `But she must have a prize herself, you know,' said the Mouse.

`Of course,' the Dodo replied very gravely. `What else have you got in your pocket?' he went on, turning to Alice.

`Only a thimble,' said Alice sadly.

`Hand it over here,' said the Dodo.

Then they all crowded round her once more, while the Dodo solemnly presented the thimble, saying `We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble'; and, when it had finished this short speech, they all cheered. "

Yep. They start when and where they like, running an erratic course, stopping--where first? Oh! Iowa!

And somewhere, one of these racers will get an "elegant thimble" as a reward. This thimble will look like a montage of facts, votes, graphs, charts, analysis and what-nots. Then the runners will be on to the next caucus race, for another thimble. Thimbles that, in essence, they all bought and paid for (How many millions? Billions).

Lewis Carroll was wicked clever when he wrote Alice in Wonderland.

The Electoral College is the dodo bird, folks. Let's get rid of it and figure out a way to save time, money, and resources.

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