Caucus, and caucus hard


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Believe it or not, my caucus endorsement isn't exactly a hot item on the Iowa political scene. But with less than a month until the big night, and with so many other politicos around the state offering their stamps of approval, I felt I better weigh in.

So here's my endorsement: Caucus.

I don't really care who you caucus for. Well, I do. But who you show up to vie for is secondary to the fact that you're there at all.

Jan. 3, 2012, probably won't be a very nice night. There will definitely be snow on the ground, the wind will definitely make it feel below zero, and your car isn't going to start itself (unless, I guess, you're getting an automatic starter for the holidays). Oh, and you'll definitely get sand and salt plastered to the bottoms of your jeans.

But suffer through it.

The Republican caucuses here don't have a great record at picking the eventual nominee (they've picked two out of the last four GOP challengers), but the results do help shape the rest of the nomination race. For instance, Mike Huckabee's win in 2008 pitted the Arkansas governor's brand of social conservatism against the moderate flavor of guys like repeat candidate Mitt Romney and eventual nominee John McCain. That's a debate that's worth having and one that's still going on today. It might not have started if not for Huck's win.

See, trudging through the elements to your polling place — or making the trek back to Iowa City from Naperville — gives you a chance to shape national politics. That's neat.

I know this is a weak endorsement. I hate it when people tell me just to vote and don't put their own spin on it. So, I guess, here's my sort of real endorsement.

Caucus for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, or former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

They are unequivocally the only candidates in the race who are serious about cutting the federal deficit. They won't lie to you about U.S. foreign affairs like the other candidates (the president especially) will.

Even if you're a liberal and you detest Paul's and Johnson's ideas about severely curtailing the functions of the federal government, ending the wars should trump all of that. If we're killing Pakistani kids with our bombs every day, does the U.S. Department of Commerce really matter?

And even if you're a conservative who thinks it's in our interest to patrol the world for terrorists, it's time to admit we can't afford it. We're borrowing money to do it, and it's unsustainable.

But even if you can't get on board with either of these guys, I don't want you to stay home on caucus night. Try one of the fringe candidates. California political activist Fred Karger, for instance, is the first openly gay presidential candidate. And former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is one of few candidates who has declined to take big donations. Neither of them will ever be president, but a better-than-expected showing in the early nominating states could bring their issues relevance.

After that, there are a whole bunch of candidates who are basically the same as President Obama. Putting Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, or Jon Huntsman at the lead of the nomination pack won't stir much substantive debate about how the next president can be better than the current one.

And then there's Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. Their social conservatism puts them way out of touch with reality. They're both very nice people, but I think it's unbecoming of the United States to have a leader who detests gay people. These are the only candidates whom I would definitely not vote for in a general election.

But even if one of them is your candidate, please go caucus. All of these people have positions and ideas that deserve discussion, even if they're the wrong ones.

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