Saturday, March 04, 2006

Three Mules For Sister Sara

Today was the Johnson County Democratic Convention. It was my first political convention and I wore my new Russ Feingold for President t-shirt to let everyone know I vote Jewish and I vote often. It was held at North West Jr. High in Coralville, IA. 170-something Johnson County delegates and I crammed into the auditorium and spent most of the morning listening to stump speeches from candidates for governor down to county auditor. All three gubernatorial candidates showed up and it was the first time I’d seen any of them in person.

First there was Ed Fallon. He is the candidate I pledged for. He is very tall and slender with mostly birdlike features including smoldering owl-eyes. He looked like a nut, or a teacher - which he's both, and that is why I am voting for him. He is the kind of Democrat whose energy platform is to heavily fund research for a car engine that runs on peace and love. He answers an opponent’s call for a cigarette-tax increase with a call for universal health-care (which is actually true). And he is the only candidate that was wearing clothes bought at a Goodwill store. I was undecided at the precinct caucus because I didn’t think Ed could do as well as Sec. of State Chet Culver against Nussle. Now I’m sure he can’t but I pledged for him anyway.

Mike Blouin was next. He is a former congressman and state representative. There has been bad buzz around him by the uber-liberal types (myself included) since he named a running-mate last week and it was leaked that she was a registered Republican as little as two years ago. They showed up together at the convention. Mike had a weird Howard Stern quality to him and his running-mate Andy McGuire was his Robin Quivers. He had the stage presence of a pro-politician – there was loud bloviating and a lot of podium pounding. But the vibe in the room had me looking stage right every twenty seconds expecting exotic dancers, or Babba-Booey to appear. The whole time Mrs. McGuire stood behind him, literally not symbolically, nodding her head, laughing at his jokes, and instructing delegates when to applaud. She looked like a day-time T.V. news anchor (though she is a doctor), and in her speech she showed herself to be as politically astute as Katie Couric.

Chet Culver was last. He was late – late into the game at least, and he had to stand in line patiently while some Board of Supervisors candidate profoundly declared “I believe this election is about change”. Chet Culver is at least 300 lbs. heavier than I thought he was. On his website he is fit and dashing, but in person he looked more like a severely bloated Dr. Jenning from Howard the Duck. Chet was as creepy as Dr. Jenning too. He was even louder than Blouin. And when he lied about Blouin in his speech a couple of Johnson County delegates interrupted to correct him. He just pretended they weren’t saying anything and kept sweating and cursing Mike Blouin– it was pathetic.

The overriding theme to the convention was familiar to us Democrats – Anyone but “X”. This time around it’s Jim Nussle. He is fabled to have worn a paper bag over his head during session his first term in congress because he was ashamed of the way the democratic controlled congress was spending money. And after he became chair of the House Budget Committee instead of doing something to heal the shame, he rested on his paper-bag laurels and allowed the deficit and national debt to grow at a rate previously unseen. He is also rumored to have master-minded the Columbia Space-Shuttle disaster. As greasy and off-putting as Culver and Blouin were today at least they both pledged to not murder any astronauts while in office.

The keynote speaker was U.S. Congressional candidate Dave Loebsack. Sometimes when I listen to him speak I pretend they never did a paternity test on my dead-beat dad and that there’s a small chance he and I share a bloodline. I actually do that with most men I see, even Jim Nussle. Dave is a great speaker, he is a professor at Cornell College – and he has a doctorate in African Politics. He can make you really believe there is a similarity between the Biafran struggle for independence in Nigeria, and the touch-play slot-machine controversy in Iowa. Anyway he played his greatest hits – culture of corruption, son of a janitor, homeless garbage-eating childhood, he also said we need to “re-define integrity”. Of course he meant politicians should possess real integrity, but I stopped listening at that point to do some verbal algebra. I had read on a poster in one of the hallways of NW Jr. High that Excellence = Integrity X Achievement. So integrity, by that definition, is excellence divided by achievement; which doesn’t seem quite right. I am still puzzled by that but at least I do know what integrity is not: Some asshole with a paper-bag over his head.

It should be noted that I made a distinction between “voting” and “pledging”. That’s because the Iowa Caucuses are a sham. They have been since the seventies. The only vote that matters is the primary which is in June. The convention was just kabuki for the old-hats and liberal elites to make them feel like they’re making a difference. Theoretically a candidate can garner support and media attention through the caucuses and ride that wave to the primaries, but ultimately it’s no longer up to the old Democratic Machine. There’s a small chance we did make a difference today. Long-shot Ed Fallon won most of the delegates in Johnson County in spite of losing all major union endorsements and being ‘out-yard-signed’ at the convention by Culver and Blouin by about 20-1.

It was still fun to imagine being at the Convention fifty years ago: Cigar-smoke billowing out of the Jr. High School auditorium, aged-scotch flowing out of the water-fountains, giant orgies in-between votes in the gymnasium and principal’s office, and all policy issues being decided by Labor Unions, Big Environmental Interest, and the eminently powerful Welfare Lobby.


  1. We need Russ in the White House. Please, come over to and sign the petition asking him to run. Thanks for your time.

    Kat in California

  2. Ed Fallon? Bub, this is even more absurd than when you supported Bob Lafollette in 24. The stakes might even be higher this time.