Thad blogs favorably on recent pieces by Jeff Greenfield and Chris Hitchens (see below).
There are many kinds of “democratic” processes out there, and it isn’t correct to presume that a secret ballot cast in private is the only set of voting institutions that merit the label “democratic.” For example, to advocates of “deliberative” democracy, no process which relies exclusively on an individualistic, atomized decision making procedure can be called “democratic.” Democracy requires some level of consensus in the community, and, to these theorists, we build consensus via conversation and exchange of ideas, not through one-way political advertisements.
And to the defender of Iowa, the caucus process displays these features in spades. Citizens publicly defend their preferences. They publicly try to convince their friends and neighbors to change their minds. And they “cast” their ballots by grouping themselves with others.
My main concern with Iowa is not the caucus process per se, but the unrepresentativeness of the population and the low level of participation. But precisely the features that Hithchens and Greenfield hate–the public nature of the discussion and vote–are features that I find rather appealing.