THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT WHAT GOES ON IN THE IOWA CAUCEUSES IS SHOULD, IN THE END, BE “SOUND AND FURY SIGNIFYING NOTHING,” EXCEPT THAT THE PRESS MAKES IT ALL SIGNIFY SOMETHING
The population of the United States is approaching three hundred million people. Approximately one percent of those people live in Iowa. Its population is fifteen percent that of New York, and there are less than seventy thousand African Americans living there.
When you deplane at New York City’s John F Kennedy International Airport and go to the newsstand, you find postcards with photos of The Empire State Building and the United Nations. When you get off the plane in Des Moines, the postcards have pictures of pigs and corn stalks.
I have been to Iowa over 20 times. It is a pleasant place, and its people seem to be genuinely nice. But Iowa is not a microcosm of America. There are hardly any Black people living there, and the numbers of Hispanics and Jews is so small that I was unable to find reliable information quantifying their number in relation to the overall population.
Why then, do we go through a quadrennial breast beating over the Iowa Caucuses? Why should it matter?
It seems that the mainstream press has a thing about Iowa that has skewed their coverage to increase the importance of the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary. Both of these states have positioned their presidential nomination preference polls to be earlier than those of the big states so that they can reach a level of importance that they simply don’t deserve.
Iowa has two members in the United States Senate and five members of Congress, giving it seven electoral votes. By contrast, New York also has two Senators; however, there are 29 members of Congress, giving it thirty one electoral votes. One would have to think that the New York Presidential Primary would hold a far more important position on the national political agenda than Iowa’s caucuses, but it doesn’t.
When Howard Dean failed to place meaningfully in the Iowa caucuses in 2004, his previously front running campaign fell into the trash bin. Had the New York primary come first, would Dean have ended us as the Democratic Candidate that year and defeated the incumbent, George W Bush? We have no way of knowing.
Had the press waited until after the New York Primary in 2000 to declare a victor in the Republican races, would the 41% Bush got in Iowa have held up? Would the Republicans have run someone else? Would Al Gore then have gone on to claim victory? And, most important, would we have fought a war for profit and mortgaged our children’s futures by enriching the President’s buddies through no bid contracts and the creation of the largest budget deficits in our country’s history? We can’t tell. We have no way of knowing. But the speculation is interesting and, perhaps, numbing.
The problem is that the press, in looking for subject matter, has given small states an inordinate amount of power in choosing our presidential candidates. This needs to be stopped. We have been moving toward more Super Tuesdays, on which we hold multiple state primaries. We should begin a move to amend the Constitution to make that a national policy now.
It is important to understand the importance of this, and we can do that by looking at the results of this past week’s Iowa Straw Poll. Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts won one third of the votes in that process, but that totaled only 5,000 voters in a race that Giuliani, Thompson and McCain chose to sit out. Yet the press is proclaiming that Romney is now some sort of a front runner. Second and third places were taken by former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, two men so conservative that they have both rejected evolution as real science.
The fact of the matter is that what goes on in the Iowa Caucuses should, in the end, be “sound and fury signifying nothing,” except that the press makes it all signify something.
This needs to be fixed, but the inordinate power held by small states in the United States Senate will prevent that from ever happening. The founders of our country sought to protect small states by giving them equal voting power to the larger states in the Senate. However, they never envisioned a country this large.
And they probably never imagined that states as small as Iowa or New Hampshire could disproportionately affect the leadership of our country. Over two centuries later, that lack of foresight has come back to bite us in our posteriors and has given a small number of Iowans the power to determine who leads their parties’ presidential tickets.
And for that reason, I am asking the question, why Iowa? Or to coin a new word to describe this sort disproportionate use of political power, Whyowa?
HENRY A. HONIG – THE PUNDIT