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Advice To Young Readers: Ignore Ames

The Republican straw poll in Ames is an excellent example of a story that serious people should ruthlessly ignore.  For Republican political operators and people trying to figure out which candidate to back in order to get a government job in 2013, perhaps Ames matters.

But for most of us, following the Iowa straw poll is as big a waste of time as watching reality TV.  We don’t have time for it because so much else is going on that actually matters: the economic turmoil, the Middle East upheaval, the Great Game in Asia, the break up of the blue social model on both sides of the Atlantic, the euro crisis, the drift of American politics back toward the right after 2008.

There are people who follow political news for the same reason others follow sports: it’s a hobby and they want to root for their team.  I’ve got no quarrel with that in itself, but young people trying to figure out how the world works and what news to follow can be seriously confused by the press’ self-indulgent over-coverage of non-events like the straw poll.

Learning to tell the difference between fluff and news is one of the most important skills you can develop if you want to understand the world and change it rather than rush around aimlessly in a state of futile excitement.

Our society controls access to power in part by scattering useless information so widely.  People waste their time learning stuff that doesn’t matter, and invest their energy in causes that are bound to fail — or will fail to have much impact even if they succeed.  People who really want to make a difference need to learn to screen out the idiocy and the chatter and invest their attention and their study on things that actually count.

The press has an inordinate love of contests and process.  Most of this doesn’t really matter and can safely be ignored.  If you want to understand the world, ignore the torrents of slush coming out of Iowa this week.  Scan the headlines when the winners emerge; then move on.

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  • Kenny

    “Ignore ames.”

    Exactly right.

  • gh

    This seems to be a completely pointless blog post. I’d advise young people to ignore the blogger.

  • jb

    To preface my remark, I do not vote and have not since the Pappy Bush debacle in ’92.

    There is only one politician who understands monetary and fiscal policy, the threat of the Fed, and his constitutional responsibilities. The other 536 are abject failures.

    And it is strangely odd that a post like this, and on many other sites, suddenly are disparaging what were dynamic indicators of electability in years past, and now don’t “matter” . . .

    Ron Paul might win the straw poll, and pseudo-conservatives and the GOP (whatever they have become anymore!), are beside themselves about Paul.

    It is hilarious to watch. The right wants real change as little as do the communists and the Bammster.

    It’s fun to watch the scrambling.

  • Tea Party Veteran

    Obamabot blogger here? Stupid article with illogical premise.

  • Rico

    gh must be a Pulbot

  • af

    GH, why should anyone care about any poll where candidates are actively allowed to stuff the ballot box?

  • James

    Translation —

    Ron Paul will win the 2011 Ames Straw Poll

  • Steve S.

    Important to whom? When?

    Would this be in the same manner of ignoring Gov. Perry’s speech, in that he is not going to say anything we don’t already know? Is this in the manner of ignoring President Obama’s speeches, in that they have so far proved unenlightening?

    How shall our young people learn to recognize fluff if they don’t see it, or experience it?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Steve S: I’m not worried about our young people being underexposed to fluff.

  • Winston

    Great post!

  • Pete Dellas

    Though this straw poll is like a big campaign event and has no real balance, it certainly provides opportunities for viewers to hear the candidates and their views. And the Thurday debate helped to do the same.

    Am I to assume you mean pay no attention to the winner of the poll? That the win is meaningless? If so, perhaps I agree. But I would rather have young people watching the events in Ames than, say “The Jersey Shore.” At least they’ll be able to glean bits of useful info from the candidates.

  • Jim.

    It looks like Ames this year meant at least, “Tim Pawlenty will not be our next president”.

    Maybe he shouldn’t have given up. McCain came in 10th last time around (though one could argue his lack of Conservative credentials hurt him at both Ames and with base turnout in the general.)

    Reagan lost to GHWB in 1979. GHWB lost to Pat Robertson in 1987. McCain lost (badly!) to Romney in 2007. Dole tied for 1st in 1995.

    If you’re looking for predictive power in this poll, it’s pretty clear you’re not going to find it.

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