For the first time in my life I feel like I have, at least, a basic understanding of parts of the US political system. My insider in the media (and bestower of complimentary tickets) Mr James O'Brien invited me to the premiere of a new Aussie documentary film "First Stop Iowa". The film examines the Democratic Party primaries, with a special focus on the Iowa caucus. The intricacies are a little too complicated to examine in a short blog post (especially when I should already be in bed a half an hour ago), but the film examines the changes to the system that were generated by the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Party conference, and how that has created a system where the small state of Iowa has such an important role in in party politics.
Surprisingly engaging stuff, and I think some of that comes from the fact that the film focusses on the 'grass roots' campaign efforts of the various candidates' supporters. It manages to humanise and demystify a system that seems kind of odd to those of us looking in from outside the system, and without caucuses, electoral colleges and multi-multi-million dollar campaigns. Much of the footage was supplied by individuals attending the various rallies and campaign parties, and has an intimate feel. One thing that struck me about the difference in our political cultures is the zeal, enthusiasm and energy involved in the campaigns. Bread in part by the need to engage voters in a non-compulsory voting environment. Fascinating stuff, and although we know the outcome of the 2009 election you can't help but get caught up in the momentum of the Obama campaign as the election draws closer. I recommend it if you get a chance to see it.