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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Where Are We? What Time is It?

posted by on January 2 at 5:28 AM

Oh look, it’s 5 a.m. again. They tell me I’m in Ottumwa. While we have another brief moment of electricity, warmth, and wireless, some more photoblogging from the Edwards up-all-night bus tour.

12:00 a.m. Jan 2
Atlantic, Iowa. This was a farm house, very American pastoral, where John and Elizabeth Edwards had cornbread and black-eyed peas…


…and reporters took notes through indoor windows dressed in lacy trim (in the background is the cutest wood burning cooking stove ever)…


…and the farmer who owns the house looked like this:


2:15 a.m. Jan 2
Creston, Iowa. This stop was notable for the fact that we got to sleep two hours before it happened. The drill now is this: Sleep, fret about battery life, wake up, ask where you are, have no idea what it means, pull on jacket, know it won’t help that much, step out into the dark, feel physically ill from the temperature difference, and find yourself, say, in a lovely house with blue interior.


The stump speech keeps getting shorter, and I feel like I could give it myself by now… “Fight for you,” “Stand up,” “The power of the corporations,” “This is very personal to me.”

Only about 15 more hours and 8 more stops to go. See you at the next stop with wireless. Meanwhile I hear the sun just came up… And indeed it did.


It’s morning in America, wherever in America I am, and it’s time to get back on the bus.

RSS icon Comments


Boy, that looks cold!

...and it seems ironic to me that, as more and more of Iowas farmland gets either developed or turned over to corporate interests, the decorating gets more and more "country". Back in my farm days, nobody I knew was of the lace-curtain and old-timey cookstove persuasion. Maybe because the folk I knew weren't that removed from when they actually had to tat their own curtains and stoke the stove.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 2, 2008 6:28 AM

It makes me want to puke that these hillbillies have so much influence over the presidential nominating process. What kind of democracy is this? We need either a national primary day, or a rotating regional primary system. This is just stupid.

Posted by David In Wedgwood | January 2, 2008 6:37 AM

I'm sorry that you feel unwell, David, but if you feel like vomiting, just excuse yourself and find a restroom.

And yes, it would be so much better if we left it to, say, the citizens of Wedgwood to pick a candidate. After the drum circle and the poetry slam, they could get right down to business and select a viable candidate. Someone like James Harris or Cynthia McKinney.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 2, 2008 6:50 AM

Here I was, all set to smash David @ 2 for the "hillbilly" comment, when I see that Catalina has handled it nicely. Thanks!

Posted by James | January 2, 2008 7:40 AM

That guy looks more like a aging new age hippie than a hillbilly. Maybe he used to grow pot too, and used to live on a commune. Considering he was hosting a democratic press event at his home. It's probably an organic farm. Have you ever been to Fairfield, IA? You would know what I'm talking about.

Posted by Dontcha think? | January 2, 2008 8:04 AM

No, they are hillbillies and they are hurting America. If they were so well informed about politics and if they took their role so seriously, as the David Broeder clones keep assuring us, they would stop.

Since Iowans obviously don't know what democracy is, or don't care, and if they aren't hillbillies, what is their malfunction?

Posted by elenchos | January 2, 2008 8:14 AM

Just keep working on that statue in your honor, Elenchos.

Posted by Dontcha think? | January 2, 2008 8:20 AM

Regardless of the unfortunate use of "Hillbilly" above Mr. In Wedgewood is correct that a rotating regional primary or a national primary would be much better (i.e. less "winners syndrome" and more people voting based upon their personal ideology, greater democratic control by all voters, etc...)

Posted by Fonky | January 2, 2008 8:32 AM

That last shot of the early morning "Main Street, USA" is really pretty. In fact, it makes me a little nostalgic for the Midwest :( I bet there's a GREAT diner in that town.

Posted by Katelyn | January 2, 2008 10:36 AM

I'm expecting Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '08 from you, Eli.

Posted by Gitai | January 2, 2008 11:10 AM

Thanks for the updates, Eli. Fun stuff.

Well, I mean, not for you - of course, but for us. Of course.

Posted by Sam | January 2, 2008 11:36 AM

Sure... A national primary would be just great.

Then -- instead of candidates having to visit a state, speak to voters, and actually give speeches detailing their policy positions -- we could all just go to the polls and vote based on flashy commercials, media soundbites, and who our favorite columnist/commentators tell us we should vote for!

Posted by Mickymse | January 2, 2008 12:49 PM

Remind me what the purpose of sending a reporter along on this four-wheeled charade of democracy? He's just watching the candidate give the same speech over and over. It's an open invitation to write a fluff-piece.

Posted by Rottin' in Denmark | January 2, 2008 1:08 PM

Eli, I love this series and am completely jealous. I am also finding it hard to believe it's been 20 years since staffing my first prez campaign (where we convinced Washington to FINALLY vote for a Democrat -- at least Dukakis won the west).

The photos are beautiful! I think it's truly remarkable how little tolerance some SLOG readers have for people who look different than, say, the so-called hipsters on Cap Hill. Iowa is a farm state! They dress for function!

BTW, if you want to attack Iowa for its lack of democracy, thanks to an arcane caucus system, you might want to go check out a mirror, and start blasting our state Democratic Party. After all, fewer than 200,000 people will caucus in Washington, and the party won't even count your Feb. 18th Primary ballot. Talk about disenfranchised voters! Work on Saturday morning? Too bad! Can't get child care? Too bad! No handicapped parking? Too bad! You'll be out of town at college? Too bad! YOUR VOTE DOESN'T MATTER TO THE WASHINGTON STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, because all they really want are the names of people "committed enough to show up" -- names that will be solicited for funds. The rest of you, TOO BAD!

Posted by Dukakis Staffer | January 2, 2008 1:18 PM

Oh, give it a rest, @14, you can do an official ballot if you have religious objections. I've seen kids at these things too - some of them are in people's houses ... and libraries and schools ...

And it was the GOP that forced the caucus to be on Saturday, the Dems were then forced to follow them, as you'd know if you weren't just a bitter Ron Paulite.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 2, 2008 2:28 PM

@13 -- It's only an open invitation to write a puff piece if Eli wasn't a serious journalist who we're lucky to have embedded (yipes!) behind the cornsilk curtain.

The repeated speeches are only the most superficial aspect -- there's also the slight nuances that are added and subtracted to the speech and why; the reactions of the crowds; the various degrees of organization at each of the stops (are they strong everywhere, or spotty?); the contrasts between how each candidate goes for the same voter's commitment; the interaction between spouse and candidate, reporter and candidate, black eyed peas and candidate; and on and on.

There are many layers to politics, Rottin', and you can't see them all the way from Denmark, from Washington, or even from Muscatine if the action's in Ottumwa -- you need a reporter right there, and -- lucky us -- we have one.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 2, 2008 8:37 PM

I liked the caucuses when I was a kid. I could go, but had to be seen but not heard. That sounds like a drag for a kid, but I was a political dork, and it was interesting to listen to the various otherwise boring adults talk about why they liked the various candidates. They would get quite animated (probably because of all the coffee) but everyone stayed polite. Plus, there were cookies.

We lived in western Iowa, which is the bonehead section of the state (that legacy continues in Rep. Steve King) but our caucus always had union people, the city librarian, and most of the town's handful of Jews, so it felt cosmopolitan and educated - something you didn't see everyday there. It doesn't pay to show your smarts too much in a place like Council Bluffs.

Details are fuzzy now, since I haven't been to a caucus since 1979 or thereabouts, but it seems to me to be a pretty good example of both run-off voting and democracy at its best.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 3, 2008 6:51 AM

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