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Well Done, Iowa

No matter whom you supported in last night’s Iowa caucuses, I think all Democrats and more than a few Independents will be saying "thank you, Iowans" this morning, not for the specific choices they made — many may disagree — but for the process they used. Iowa did a great job helping the whole country sort out the choices for President.

And Iowans did it with impressive numbers. Over 236,000 Iowan’s turned out in bitter cold to participate in the Democratic caucuses, nearly 90 percent more than 2004, and as Howard Dean noted on CNN, about twice as many as participated in the Republican caucus. There were record numbers of first time participants, and large increases in women and young voters. As Marcy Wheeler and Hubris Sonic noted, all three Democratic front runners trounced Huckabee last night.

Iowans put up with a lot from the media, ignoring Beltway insults from those like the Washington Post’s David Broder who declared yesterday that Iowans don’t matter. After all, the imperious Broder declared, they’re either left wing radicals or right wing religious nut cases who don’t have enough sense to select the Serious candidates the Beltway pundits had already annointed for President.

I’m impressed by what the Iowa process did to educate the country. Iowans forced all the candidates to come there and answer their questions, in person, in hundreds of large and small gatherings all over the state. In the process we learned that some of the Republican candidates are not honest men; some are just phonies.

We learned that one Republican front runner is a political chameleon who changes his views to fit his surroundings; another can’t stop padding his resume while obscuring his questionable past and association with thugs. Several are so mean spirited you’d never want to meet them, let alone allow them near the Oval Office, while most are either stunningly uninformed about the world or dangerously misguided in how they interpret it. The nation is forewarned.

The press reported Iowans were not happy with the choices on the Republican side, and that message came through last night when only half as many Iowans showed up for the Republican caucuses. The Republican annointers had already rejected Huckabee; last night, Huckabee’s supporters rejected those who once annointed Republican candidates. Their party has now inherited its own sectarian cultural war.

On the Democratic side, Iowans examined the candidates and concluded they like these Democratic candidates — all of them, even the second-tier guys. They like the qualities they saw and were genuinely torn in choosing among them. Iowans remained uncertain to the last minute about which of the front runners to support, because they had good choices across the board.

On PBS’ News Hour last night, before the caucuses began, David Brooks conceded Iowa Democrats got that conclusion right. These are good Democratic candidates, he said — all of them — and it’s a shame we have to eliminate any of them. Biden is gone now; Dodd bowed out. They competed honorably and made their party stronger. If the media had given the second-tier guys more attention, Brooks added, they too would be in contention. No kidding.

In the comments last night, oldgold summed it up best (h/t Elliot):

The caucus I attended was very friendly. The comment I heard most often is how proud people were with the strength of our candidates.

I have attended quite a few of these events. I have never seen the party so upbeat.

I was surprised by the number of young people in attendence. Most of them were for Obama.

As Sam Cooke sang: "A Change is Gonna Come."

Tonight was a victory for our party.

After absorbing Obama’s victory last night, MSNBC’s analysts gushed over Obama’s electrifying speech (our Attaturk was there) and swooned on the message it might be sending to the country and the world. "We are one nation, one people, and our time for change has come," he said.

So even though many of us/you may be disappointed that a favorite did not win, I’m feeling pretty good today about what Iowa did. Thanks, Iowans; well done. On to New Hampshire.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley