(Part II) Caucus Kickoff: Please Not Iowa


Flickr Creative Commons, Lei Han

Iowa should no longer be first in the nation. Rather, Illinois should begin the nomination process since it is not a caucus state, about the right size population, demographically representative of the country, and often predicts winners.

Last week we covered the (good?) reasons why Iowa is first in the nation.  This week we’re going to talk about the GOOD! reasons why Iowa shouldn’t be, and the devastating effect its status has on other states.  As our TVs blare patriotic music and show rolling vistas of corn punctuated by sermons on small town living, we answer the question.  If not Iowa, then who?  Who should we really be looking at today?

Iowa is a terrible choice for the first state to vote because they’re pathetically far from representative of the country.  The United States is 81% urban while Iowa is only 64%.  The US is 78% white to Iowa’s 93%.  Finally, Iowa has less than 1% of the country’s population.  This lack of representative behavior would seem to allow rather unusual or extreme candidates through like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in ‘08 and ‘12.  This disenfranchisement of voters of color, as well as the unreasonable favoritism toward the insane fringes, is completely unacceptable.

It’s commonly said of Iowa that “anyone can win here” and that’s true.  This point couldn’t be better argued than by Brady Olson or, as you may know him, Deez Nuts.  The Deez Nuts 2016 touched hearts and changed minds over the summer with its cogent arguments and relatable style.  Unfortunately, a pesky constitutional rule keeps Mr. Nuts from a more prominent 2016 run but I won’t be at all surprised if Deez wins Iowa in twenty years.

Iowa, like New Hampshire is quick to defend its power by suggesting that, in the words of Sharron Gryzwacz of Manchester, “It filters out a lot of the wannabes because I think New England people in general kind of see through a lot of the curtains that they have up.”  This is a similar attitude to the small town rhetoric I hear every day coming out of the corn fields.  Personally, I am skeptical of this claim from two states that voted for Richard Nixon (twice) and Bill Clinton (twice).  To put it bluntly, their ability to sense honesty seems a little leaky to me.

It’s commonly said of Iowa that “anyone can win here” and that’s true. This point couldn’t be better argued than by Brady Olson or, as you may know him, Deez Nuts.”

— Riley Wheaton, columnist

Finally, Iowa shouldn’t go first simply because it is a caucus state.  Caucuses are not run by state governments but merely by state parties.  Parties have other agendas than this vote and so caucuses can take hours to run their course as other business is conducted.  Caucuses are also often held on weeknights so if voting takes two hours – plus drive time -many citizens stay home.  This heightens the bias in favor of extremes that already exists in Iowa since only the most hardened flanks of the parties will decide it’s worth their time to show up.  This is unfortunate because the constitution doesn’t technically include an inalienable right to vote, it just denotes certain groups who cannot be denied that right.  But on a weeknight there are lots of things to keep a voter home from lack of babysitters to compulsion to work.  For people who need to choose between putting food on the table or caucusing, staying home is an incredibly reasonable choice.

If not Iowa, then who? Who should we really be looking at today?”

— Riley Wheaton, columnist

So if Iowa shouldn’t go first, who should?  There is one state in the union that has it all.  A huge city and lots of small towns, black white and brown in proportion to the country, poor and rich similar proportion to the country, educated and uneducated, it’s even got the feel of both the north and south depending on which regions of the state you visit.  The Washington Post created a map compiling data from censuses across the country which placed every state on a color scale from light (very representative of the country) to dark (not representative of the country) based on a whole slate of demographic indicators.  The only state of fifty that was actually white, actually representative, was Illinois.  It is high time to give the birthplace of Lincoln the attention it truly deserves.