THE CALVINBALL TOURNAMENT

Posted in Rants on January 3rd, 2012 by Ed

I like teaching, generally. One of the best things about it is the discretion it allows. Yes, there are certain things one must include in a course – I can't teach American government without talking about the Constitution or how a bill becomes a law – but there is a wide amount of latitude. No one hands me a script and says "You are obligated to tell the students that evolution is just a theory." There is no standardized test to prepare for. I like that because it means I never feel like a fraud, telling students that something is true when I believe otherwise.

It's getting increasingly difficult with time to talk about the presidential nominating process. I have to do things like take the Iowa Caucuses seriously and pretend that the primaries are interesting to me. They aren't. Not at all. This is all a big circus to me. The candidates are so bad it's almost surreal, the outcome isn't terribly relevant (Hell, it barely matters which party wins, let alone which candidates the parties choose), and most of the so-called "contenders" haven't a chance in hell of winning the nomination anyway. But most of all, the process itself is simply ludicrous. The pre-McGovern-Fraser system, which allowed party insider delegates to hand pick nominees irrespective of public preferences, was hardly a great one. Compared to what we do today, however, at least its incestuous politics and corruption had some semblance of dignity since most of the dirty work happened behind the scenes. What we do now is just embarrassing. It makes no sense whatsoever.

I get paid to pay attention to this stuff and it's supposed to be interesting to me, and even given those circumstances I can't muster the energy to get into it right now. These candidates are so bad, the amount of money in the process so absurd, and the failure of the media so complete that I'd be lying if I said I took it seriously or thought the outcome was important. Sifting through the waves of misinformation and accounting for the idiosyncratic rules of the Caucus itself (which make polling particularly ill-suited to predicting the outcome) is far more trouble than it is worth.

When will this process get so absurd that it will change? It's not impossible. It happened in 1824, it happened during the Progressive Era with the introduction of primaries, and it happened in 1968. The question is, given the current health of our political system and electorate as a whole, would we end up replacing it with something worse? The evidence suggests that we would. And that has become the guiding principle in American politics – disgust followed by detachment, apathy based on the conviction that we can always make things worse by opening them up to change.