Tonight people of all walks of life will gather in homes, schools, libraries, and restaurants for the 2008 Iowa caucus…and while I know they understand the responsibility of what they will do, I hope they understand the grandeur of their enterprise.
Can you imagine any other place where folks gather in small groups to discuss and in publicly demonstrating their support for a candidate initiate the process of selecting the next leader of their country? Oh, perhaps it has happened on the small scale…but outside the occasional smoke filled room the small gathering has been the choice of the revolutionary, be it the US founding fathers or those in Russia, China, or France.
In the US, it is just part of the way we do business.
The Iowans are perhaps used to this, but I still marvel at the cooperative miracle that allows us to do this, and I hope the folks who caucus tonight treat this not only as a solemn responsibility, but a joyous opportunity!
I an put in mind of Election Day 1980. I was CRFV chairman for my college, and had the last shift at a local poll. By coincidence the YD chair also had the shift, and as the polls closed on that cool night the two of us chatted about what we thought would happen. I looked up at the Rockingham County sky and, perhaps taken by my recent reading of Teddy White’s “The Making of the President 1960”, reflected (I was not yet old enough to ruminate) on the similar scenes taking place in the Eastern Time zone; and how this scene-the closing of the polls after a long campaign-would repeat itself time and time again as the sun moved west…the voice of a free people deciding who would lead their country, and of power willingly surrendered in response to their voice.
There is a quiet grandeur to these proceedings, yet so often in history the quiet grandeur has been achieved with the bayonet not the ballot. The quiet grandeur of the surrender at Yorktown, Waterloo, Versailles, and on the Missouri was the result of years of the roar of weapons and the flow of blood. The grandeur we shall see in Iowa and across this country in the months ahead will be the result of the roar of oratory and the flow of tv spots.
It is not perhaps a perfect system, but-still-better than any other political sytems humans have created.
Tonight formally begins our quadrennial national rebirth…let us take strength and be glad in it!