“The Iowa caucuses have become a blight on American politics,” writes long-time smart-guy-for-a-journalist Jeff Greenfield in Politico Monday.
I’ve been on this page for a long time, although I think the choice of “blight” is perhaps a tad — what do we politically correct types say? — insensitive.
“Iowa looks nothing like the rest of the nation, and its wintry, time-consuming caucuses make participation difficult, if not impossible, for much of the citizenry — especially those with limited economic means. The Democratic caucuses in particular take two of the core principles of a free system — the secret ballot and one-person-one-vote — and throw them away.”
You’ve heard this before. The Dem side (of Iowa caucus participants) is too white to speak for the party as a whole. The Repub side is too evangelical, which is why the Rev. Pat Robertson won Iowa in 1988 and the Rev. Mike Huckabee won in 2008, both of whom suddenly had to be considered among the frontrunners for the nomination until it became obvious that they weren’t.
For me, the “unrepresentative” state is the wrong starting point for the argument. No state is properly representative (although many come closer than Iowa) and the main point is that no state — or two states counting New Hampshire, or three if you throw in South Carolina, which has recently become the spokes-state for the South — should be permanently awarded disproportionate influence over the nominating process. I would favor something like this: Group the states into 10 groups of five each. Every two weeks after the starting date, one group would go, then the second group, etc. On the next cycle, using the same groupings, the order would change so that the group that went first last time would go last this time.
Greenfield spend little time on my particular criticism, but in describing how Iowa-first-forever critics are usually accused of being “contemptuous of smaller ‘fly-over states,’” he adds “though they do not explain why the same smaller, fly-over state gets to be first every time.”
My favorite fact from Greenfield’s piece: “Ted Cruz, made his first trip to Iowa more than two years ago, in August 2013, seven months after taking his seat as a freshman in the U.S. Senate.”