James Madison was not a democrat. He denounced popular rule as “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.” Democracy, he observed, must be confined to a “small spot” (like Athens). That’s why what’s underway in Iowa is so remarkable for its local impetus, “a gathering of neighbors,” really. Where an Iowa-like process loses any semblance of legitimate self-government is once campaigns expand and local voices become fainter and fainter. The Iowa Caucuses would be remarkable Athenian Democracy, but for the fact that by the time candidates get to Washington, they forget about Iowans (or the people of any other state). When it leaves the locality, Democracy, like water ripples, never comes back.
Right now, this “gathering of neighbors” is impressive:
In Iowa, groups of voters will meet in 1,681 precincts throughout the state beginning at 7 p.m. local time Monday. “It’s basically a gathering of neighbors, so it’s the folks on your street or in your neighborhood or at your church who vote at the same place where you vote, coming together to discuss politics,” said David Redlawsk, a political science professor at Rutgers University currently serving as a fellow at Iowa’s Drake University. The caucuses will take place at schools, fire stations, city halls and sometimes churches — any easily accessible public location. … There’s a similar theme voters in both states should remember: Love thy neighbor. It just might help your candidate become the next president. … “The caucuses are really about community and neighborhood gatherings and talking politics. But in the end, the campaign in New Hampshire is very similar to the campaign in Iowa — it’s very personal, it’s very oriented around town halls and one-on-ones,” Redlawsk said.