The Iowa Caucuses & A Reverie on Prescription Medication

The Capitol in Des Moines.

The Capitol in Des Moines.

The Iowa caucuses are over!

For the last week, presidential candidates have zoomed around Iowa making speeches and glib promises. The media have been here.  David Muir anchored the ABC news in front of the Capitol building in Des Moines.  He was charming, relaxed, well-informed, and uncondescending.  We switched to ABC from CBS, where Scott Pelley grumbled and said that Iowa didn’t matter.

I don’t know about that.  Bernie and Hillary are tied in Iowa. That means something.

I always vote in the election, but did not attend the caucus last night.  I do not really care to stand in a gym for two hours and raise my hand for a candidate. I also had  divided loyalties.  I had planned to caucus for Hillary in memory of my mother, who idolized her and even kept her Caucus for Hillary kit from 2008.  My mother, however, also disliked the caucuses, ande only attended onece, for Ted Kennedy.

But I had a revelation.

I love Hillary, but Bernie represents the vision of America held by my deepest, truest self.  I have always called myself a socialist, and I never thought a socialist would get this far.  I was raised in Iowa City, where I breathed the air of feminism,  pacifism, whole-wheat bread, and Our Bodies, Ourselves.  I can’t forget who I am.  It’s time to go back to my (slightly) radical roots.

If I had gone to the caucus, I would have supported Bernie.

There was a record turnout for the Democrats in our precinct:  662.

And Bernie won in our precinct!  Here are the numbers:

Bernie:  52% of the votes, 342

Hillary:  42%, 280

O’Malley:  not viable:  6%, 42 votes

In Iowa Bernie and Hillary are virtually tied.

Now they’re gone:  we’ll see them in the fall maybe, but they’ve got other states to woo!


A brief meditation on health care.

I was horrified to learn that one of my medications would cost $1,000 a month without insurance.

I am not very political, but I know about sickness.

Every American deserves health insurance.  The creation of “Obamacare,” or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is a miracle in our conservative country. What will happen with next year with a new president? Check the records:  Hillary and Bernie have strong records on health care, while the Republicans say they want to revoke Obamacare.

I tend to be too personal, but I will just tell you: multiple medications kept my mother alive, she lived long, and she was not ready to die when she died.  I am still middle-aged, but I, too, need  medications.  What happens to people who slip through the cracks and cannot buy the drugs they need?  Obviously, many die.

In an article in The American Scholar, “Medication Nation,” Philip Alcabes, a professor of Allied Health at the School of Nursing at Adelphi University and Director of the Public Health Program in Adelphi’s Center for Health Innovation, writes about America’s dependence on drugs. He believes drugs are over-prescribed , and cites some interesting statistics.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Americans filled more than four billion prescriptions in 2014. On average, about half of all Americans use at least one prescription medication in any given month. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that more than 300,000 legal nonprescription (over-the-counter, OTC) medications are also available. Eighty percent of us use OTC drugs as the first response to minor ailments.

Although I don’t doubt that many doctors overprescribe drugs, I wonder about the politics of articles like this.  They undermine the fact that many Americans do have serious health problems and desperately need medications.

Not everyone in sparsely-populated Iowa has access to  health care.  There are bleak rural areas with no doctors.   Even in the cities, there have been severe cuts to health care services.  In 2014 in Des Moines,  8,000 pyschiatric patients lost their doctors when Mercy Medical Center closed its psychiatrict hospital for adults and outpatient services.

As a consumer, I am grateful to my health care givers.  Where would we be without them?  But I was on a rocky road for a couple of years. After an excellent doctor retired, one of his/her partners proved incompetent. You may remember my account of a painful pelvic exam.

Even after you switch doctors, there are ripple effects from treatment by  incompetents.  Are you ready for this?  He/she had miscalculated the dosage of my thyroid pills.  In fact, that gave me a new disease:  my HYPOthyroidism turned into HYPERthyroidism.  (It is under control again now.)

So we need good health care as well as affordable health care.  I am very happy with my health care now!

I am very, very serious about the importance of health care.  Let me just quote our two tied Democratic candidates.


“My view is simple: health care is a right, not a privilege. We spend far more than any other country on health care, but 29 million Americans remain uninsured and millions more are under-insured. That is unacceptable. The time has come for a Medicare-for-all universal health care system that provides every American with affordable, quality care.”


“I’ve fought for quality, affordable health care my entire career. As president, I’ll defend the Affordable Care Act, build on its successes, and go even further to reduce costs. My plan will crack down on drug companies charging excessive prices, slow the growth of out-of-pocket costs, and provide a new credit to those facing high health expenses.”

Concerts Instead of Caucuses!

Obama and Bruce Springsteen in Iowa, Nov. 5, 2012

How I wish I’d seen Obama and Bruce Springsteen in 2012!

The presidential candidates have descended upon us.  It’s a bit like being visited by Zeus, Athena, and the other gods.   Iowa always has the first caucuses (Feb. 1 this year). The candidates woo us for six months to a year before the caucuses: they give speeches in August at the State Fair , which I last attended in 2001  for a Bob Dylan concert, and at rallies I never hear about till afterwards. This year I missed Hillary and Katy Perry, whose music, I must admit, I do not listen to.  I also missed Lena Dunham, author of Not That Kind of Girl, campaigning for Hillary. A few year ago I missed Obama and Bruce Springsteen. So many celebrities!  But we were swept away by a Bernie commercial with a Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack: it’s like Woodstock without mud or drugs (the best kind of concert).

Music counts!

Hillary with Kate Perry and Bil.

Hillary with Katy Perry and Bill.

I have not seen a politician speak live since McGovern in 1972. “I am pro-Choice and I vote,” as we used to say when I was a volunteer at NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), but nowadays I attend writers’ readings instead of politicians’ speeches.  I will  vote for the Democratic candidate next November, whoever it may be.   That said, we are a Hillary family.  I received my Hillary caucus guide in the mail today.  I also received a Bernie flyer and, later, found an O’Malley card slung over the door handle.

I saw five political ads during a rerun of “The Big Bang Theory.” Hillary’s are practical; Bernie is a visionary.  I can’t tell any of the Republicans apart, except Trump and Jeb, the least extreme.  There were a couple of Trump-bashing ads by the Republicans that make him look liberal by their standards and set him apart from the Christian rednecks and would-be Ku Klux Klanners.  I must admit, I burst out laughing when I saw Trump on the news at the State Fair and he said he wanted to build a wall along the Southern borders. I thought he was joking.  He was not. That said, he’s less crazy than the others.  Michael Moore says Trump does performance art. Welllllll…..

Anyway, if you’re in Iowa, this is How You Survive the Canvassing & the Caucuses.

1 Never open the door to a canvasser.  The canvassers are all impossibly beautiful and handsome but they are not like you and me:  they have been exported from the coasts to woo us. It’s hard to align Hillary and Bernie with a beautiful woman whose shade of blonde cannot be found in a salon anywhere in Iowa, but she knocked on my door and I answered because I thought it was UPS.    Botticelli’s Venus? Perhaps. In 2004 when I I answered the door to a canvasser, I ended up caucusing for Howard Dean, who became famous for the “Dean scream,” which, by the way, did not happen.  The  “scream”shown on the network news was two seconds of an ordinary speech out of context.

2. Bring your phones or tablets to the caucuses so you can play discreet online scrabble, because you will be there a while.   The caucuses are vaguely reminiscent of junior high pep rallies. They are held in school gyms, auditoriums, churches, libraries, and other sneaker-smelling public buildings.  You sign in and then  sit (or stand if there are no chairs) in your candidate’s section. There is milling and thronging, sitting idly on bleachers or folding chairs, important people trying to persuade others to change sides (sometimes a candidate is not viable, because he has too few supporters), and finally, a couple of hours later, a head count is taken of the various candidates’ supporters.  The results are tallied in all the counties, and determine the “win, show, place” positions of candidates and the number of delegates for each candidate at the convention.  It is a long process!

Rah rah rah!  I wish we had concerts instead of caucuses.  It would be so much more fun to vote for  Hillary at a Chrissy Hynde concert, or Bernie with Simon and Garfunkel, etc.  You’d get a better turnout, too.  If you’re going to be there a while, why not listen to music?

And now I want to go listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.”  What a great song.

After the Caucus in 2008

At the Iowa caucus in 2008 my husband, an environmentalist, sat in the Richardson section.  We’re always in the wrong section,  meaning our guy never wins, so I don’t go anymore.  He said the Obama section was huge.  He recognized some guys who work at the neighborhood stores cheering for Obama.

I was backing nobody.  Why bother until the election?  I gave up caucuses after the Howard Dean fiasco in 2004.  He was predicted to win in Iowa, and he made third place by one vote, probably mine, and afterwards the media created the “Dean scream” debacle, which was a two-second sound-byte taken out of context.  In retrospect I wonder why I ever thought he could win.  Don’t presidents have to be extraordinarily attractive?  With the exception of George W. Bush, I think that’s a requirement.

Whether it’s true or not, I now say I’m a socialist.   The caucuses are to blame for this.  What a f—–g crazy system, everyone sitting in designated-politician-fan sections of a school auditorium and then a couple of volunteers doing a head count.  A primary makes more sense.

The day after the 2008 caucus, I met my cousin at Starbucks.   She was moderately excited that Senator Clinton (whom we refused then to call Hillary) was running for president, though of course Clinton was a centrist and my cousin, like me, was a socialist. But if Megan and I are leftists, why are we supporting the corporate chains?  But I no longer feel guilty about my penchant for Starbucks, Scooter’s, and Caribou. They are luxurious, with their plump comfortable chairs.  Yes, I’m supposed to support the independents, but I love Starbucks.

At this rate I’ll be voting Republican next. Or at least Democrat.

“Don’t even bother to root for Hillary.  There will be a gay Hispanic president before they elect a woman,” I said.

“No!  I tell you, Clinton’s going to do well.”

Hm.  I doubted it.  Many disliked Hillary.  I don’t know why, because she’s smart and attractive, but I can remember some women seething in the ’90s and saying that they hadn’t elected Hillary along with Bill.  This was because she involved herself in some First Lady issues other than reading books to children, I think.

Years later, after doing a spectacular job as Secretary of State (and why didn’t she win the Nobel?), she might have a shot at winning–who knows?  Perhaps times have changed.  Michiko Kakutani likes her latest book: better her than me, because I find these political memoirs dull and poorly written.  But when Hillary did the interview with Diane Sawyer, she seemed strong and self-assured, but she didn’t seem committed to running.

My mother hoped she would see a woman president in her lifetime, and one of her happiest moments was seeing Hillary and Bill speak on the Old Capitol lawn in Iowa City.

So who’s running next time?  I assume Hillary, but I haven’t the faintest otherwise.

In 2016 I’ll support the Democratic candidate, whoever it is.  (I may be socialist, but I’m not crazy:  I’m not letting the Republicans back in.)  And  I do think Obama has done a great job overall.   I support the health insurance program (which the insurance companies are fucking with, and the media have decided to trash, and, as usual, people uncritically believe the media attacks).

But politics is so not my thing.

Yes, the candidates will start roaming around the Midwest next year trying to get our votes for the 2016 caucus. Actually some are already roaming.

I won’t be at the front-porch talks.  (Well, maybe if there are cookies!)

I won’t be at the local pizza place shaking their hands.

I won’t be at the caucus. Well, not unless it seems like an emergency, because I never support the right person.

Wouldn’t it be better if they waited till the end of 2015 to start campaigning?

Yes, obviously I don’t understand how politics works.

And so I’ll go back to reading novels.