Iowa Caucus – C-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-i-o-n – Then and Now

BS”D

Hearing about all the drama taking place in Iowa, reminds me of one word which I learned in Oak Hill Elementary School, St. Louis Park in the mid-1950’s. And of all events to have taken place in Elementary School, this one word stands above the rest.

The word is Communication . I was a second grader if I remember correctly. For some reason, this was the word that sticks in my mind which I can still spell in a flash. It was something our teacher drilled into our heads until we knew it perfectly.

For that matter I also remember having to sit for hours learning my arithmetic multiplication and division tables. No calculators to help us, we just had to use our heads and figure it out. It took many hours of hard work but we managed to get through it and were then ready for our next challenge.

Communication – The Definition

Communication has many different parts such as verbal, non-verbal and written forms of communication. And in each of these parts there are individual categories which can be discussed for hours. But I want to just make a few simple points as they relate to the Iowa Caucus-

The First Televised Presidential Debate Featured Two Women

According to information I have discovered, it was not the Kennedy- Nixon debates, but rather the first televised debate occurred four years earlier, when Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson challenged incumbent Republican president Dwight Eisenhower. On November 4, 1956, two surrogates debated the issues on network television: For the Democrats, former First Lady and party icon Eleanor Roosevelt; for the Republicans, the senior senator from Maine, Margaret Chase Smith.

The Iowa Caucus – History In The Making

The Iowa Democratic Caucus features two women presidential candidates debating on TV.

And when you think about it, In 1984, former vice president and presidential candidate Walter Mondale from Minnesota, seen as an underdog, selected Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate in the upcoming election. Ferraro became the only Italian American to be a major-party national nominee in addition to being the first woman.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is putting in a surprisingly strong showing. If she becomes the Democratic Presidential nominee, and she chooses a male as a vice-presidential running mate, it would be a complete reversal from the 1984 ticket – a female Minnesota Presidential candidate choosing a male running mate.

The Communication Difficulties Currently Taking Place At The Iowa Caucus Send A Strong Message

It is now 6pm on Tuesday, February 4, in Israel as I am writing this and as of yet no official results from the Iowa Caucus have been made available. As I understand it most candidates have either arrived or are on their way to New Hampshire where the next primary is taking place.

In other words, everyone is now left in the dark regarding the outcome of the Iowa Caucuses. I see many headlines about candidates, pollsters and even the voters themselves expressing their frustration with the lengthy delay in reporting the results.

Please Be Patient The Results Will Be Announced

When we lived in South Africa, you would call up many government departments to name a few places, while waiting on the line for a customer service representative to help. More often than not, you would hear the phrase “Please Be Patient, Your Call Will Be Answered”. But the message never said exactly what time that would be.  And so we had no choice but to remain on the line and wait for our turn in the system before someone would come on the line to help.

In today’s modern world of communication, everyone is in competition to deliver the news as it happens before anyone else.  TV Cameramen, Reporters, Journalists  who want to report the news first are in a race to find the most interesting story at the time, and then to communicate this in the most efficient manner possible.

In Iowa, caucus night became a very embarrassing moment for the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) which issued a statement. I am including a portion of this which follows-

As precinct caucus results started coming in, the IDP ran them through an accuracy and quality check. It became clear that there were inconsistencies with the reports. 

As this investigation unfolded, IDP staff activated pre-planned backup measures and entered data manually. This took longer than expected.

As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound. While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed. The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately.

Because of the required paper documentation, we have been able to verify that the data recorded in the app and used to calculate State Delegate Equivalents is valid and accurate. Precinct level results are still being reported to the IDP. While our plan is to release results as soon as possible today, our ultimate goal is to ensure that the integrity and accuracy of the process continues to be upheld.”

It is clear therefore, that the IDP does not want to release any results until they are absolutely certain that the final figures are correct.

So What’s All The Fuss About?

Mistakes do happen, systems so fail and so do apps. This must not be the first time that this has taken place in Iowa. But the bigger question is if we will all stop and think for a moment what would have happened if this took place during the 1960’s?

The answer of course is that it most likely never would have taken place because the computer age was in its infancy. Therefore, what is now taking place to verify those vote counts at this very moment in Iowa, was similar to the norm that took place in the 1960’s.

That brings back memories when we would stay up late into the night during that time period when there were no computer projections of the winner and that made it far more exciting than it is today, when many major networks already project a winner just as the polls close.

What Can We Learn From All Of This?

The 2020 Iowa Caucus makes it obvious how times have changed.

It also makes it quite obvious how we all have changed in our expectations for instant answers and results.

The fax machine, internet and cellphone have replaced those times when we would sit around the lounge as a family and discuss how the day went, or the latest events that impact each family member.

Thank G-d For Shabbat!!!!

I can easily remember when the idea of keeping Shabbat was presented to me as I was learning to become Orthodox.

At first it seemed like I was being kept prisoner at home, not being able to go out or do anything I wanted to do because on the weekend, School was not in session. Just the thought about not being able to have my freedom was  unimpressive.

But I learned that keeping Shabbat was not a punishment, but rather a reward which allows me to stay in touch with my family because all outside communication via any electronic device is banned from our house. That leaves me and my family as the main interest for the whole of Shabbat.

The Shabbat table becomes the center of attention and often my children and grandchildren come to spend Shabbat with us because they get a chance to interact with our other family members in person, something that is impossible to do with a laptop or a cellphone.

Conclusion

I have mentioned it before, but I get jealous when I see these young boys learning a piece of Gemora or studying the Torah together, and think what it would have been like gaining that type of knowledge when I was that young.

But on the other hand, having a base that starts with the word Communication is something that I will never forget.

Nor will I forget those times when cellphones, email and internet were not even invented. And our only way of communicating with each other was by phone; or first class letter, which, no doubt, most children know nothing about.

So smile, Iowa Caucus fans-

Please Be Patient, The Results Will Soon Be Published.

About the Author
Born and raised in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. Married to a South African, we lived in Johannesburg from 1979 to 1996. Made Aliyah with our seven children on Parshat Lech Lecha. BSB Accounting Degree from the University of Minnesota. Investment Portfolio Manager and Analyst. Served in the US Army Reserves Semi Retired spending quality time with my wife, children, grandchildren and attend Kollel while analyzing current events as they relate to Torah and Mitzvahs.
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