There’s only one solution to the wholly disproportionate emphasis on Iowa: Convince the voters of New Hampshire to punish the winners of those caucuses.
Don’t vote for them, people, or write their names in for one of those oddball elected New England offices like selectman in charge of the town dump.
There have been attempts to spread all the attention Iowa and New Hampshire get to new venues, like, say, the other 48 states, but to no avail.
The candidates are afraid not to campaign in Iowa and, indeed, are unhealthily solicitous of Iowans’ wellbeing. Remember that waitress at the Maid-Rite diner (Maid-Rite? This is not most Americans’ America) in Marshalltown who said she had been stiffed by Hillary Clinton? Her campaign went to Defcon 4, and it turned out that Clinton and her party had left a tip — $100 on a $157 check.
But because Iowa hogs it all, Clinton is never going to stop in your diner.
Several states jealous of all the attention and cash — an estimated $50 million — lavished on Iowa tried to move their primaries and caucuses up, but were bluffed into submission by Iowa’s willingness to hold its next caucuses the morning after the previous presidential election if that’s what it takes to hold onto first.
As it is, at least 20 states have moved up their primaries and caucuses to Feb. 4, which is still way too early.
Iowa is terribly unrepresentative of the rest of America. It has only about 2.9 million people, barely a decent-sized large city, and it is largely rural, whereas most Americans live in the equivalent of New Jersey. “Rural,” thanks to the generosity of taxpayers, doesn’t mean what it used to, so Iowans are not really rubes but, annoyingly, they insist on playing bumpkins on the TV news.
“We’re simple, God-fearing folk …,” they tell the camera while thinking privately, “… and when that farm bill is signed I’m going to buy Bermuda.”
The result is that the atmospherics and demographics are heavily stacked against urban candidates like Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joseph Biden of Delaware. The most urban candidate of them all, former Big Apple Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, basically gave up on the state altogether.
The caucuses are a strange ritual that, in point of fact, serves only to choose delegates to a county convention. It is exclusionary in the sense that caucus-goers have to be able to physically show up at a specific place at a specific time. Voters with other demands on their time — gainful employment, for example — are out of luck. Their voices go as unheard as the voices of, say, California and Florida.
The caucuses are also terribly unrepresentative even of Iowa. In 2004, only 6 percent of eligible voters showed up. Still, representatives of 2,500 news organizations showed up to record this year’s deliberations. The New York Post estimated that the outlays on the campaigns worked out to about $200 a vote. That’s $200 that could be going to your vote — if your state had a chance at being first.
Iowans say their caucuses serve to “winnow the field,” although no one recalls anyone asking Iowa to perform that particular function. We can winnow the field ourselves, just not in the way they imagine.
Make it a point to vote against the winners of the Iowa caucuses. We need to make an Iowa victory a curse on the order of the Flying Dutchman or the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Since there’s no foolproof way to campaign for a respectable mid-pack finish, candidates will quit coming to Iowa other than for token visits.
Ah, yes, you say, but that will only leave the equally annoying New Hampshire to suck up all the attention as the first contest of the presidential cycle.
Simple: Vote against the New Hampshire winners, too.