We may credit Stephen Bloom and the Atlantic magazine to give the Iowa Caucuses even more attention than normal. Obviously Mr. Bloom’s description of Iowa was more like Alice in Wonderland than reality. Then Mr. Buttry and the Atlantic magazine felt the need to pile on. TWEEEET! Unnecessary roughness call on the Atlantic magazine! Of course, an organization with the name “Atlantic” is not expected to understand Iowa nor the Iowa caucuses. They obviously consider Iowa as one of the flyover states.
From 1992 to 1994 I recruited candidates for MCI’s office in Cedar Rapids. The fact that we successfully attracted 144 families from all over the nation to live in Cedar Rapids should dispel the notions that Mr. Bloom decided was normal. In 1994, we moved to Iowa and lived outside of Cedar Rapids for 15 years. We currently live in Utah – no to your next question. Do I have an Iowan pedigree? No. Does Iowa represent the rest of the United States? Probably more than you would think.
Iowa has way too many counties in order to run efficiently. However I love the reason Iowa has 99 counties – no county seat is more than a one day horse ride to and from any location in the county. Why is that fact important? It is the desire for Democracy and to ensure the people of Iowa are represented fairly. If an Iowan wants to meet their State Representative or Senator, a quick phone call makes that happen. Chances are they see them in their local Hy-Vee food store.
Since I do not feel either party today represents their constituency, I refer to myself as a political party agnostic. Therefore I have been both a Republican and a Democrat while I lived in Iowa. This is important because I attended both Republican and Democrat caucuses while we were in Iowa.
The Republican caucus was my first presidential caucus in Iowa. Prior to that caucus, I voted in the Maryland primaries where the candidates’ views were totally cleansed in political advertising. A point that struck me in the Iowa Republican caucus was the fact that I was surrounded by neighbors who felt strongly towards one candidate or another. Several neighbors were selected to talk about each of the candidates. These were heartfelt comments not some sound bite by the candidate (although I could have heard one or two candidates’ groans from Des Moines). I will always remember the farmer who came in from the fields to talk about a Republican candidate from Maryland. Then we voted. Now this is Democracy in action!
In 2008, I attended the Democrat caucus because the Republicans must have upset me at the moment. Well, Democrats in Iowa always told me their caucuses were more fun. They were right. It was tough for me to try to straddle the line because most of the candidates were well left of my center. Finally we had to decide between Senator Clinton (I felt that more than 2 families could be President of the US in 18 years), Senator Obama (not enough experience in my mind), and Senator Edwards (didn’t like but had to stand somewhere…). The Democrat caucus was like going to a horse auction (in a funky positive sort of way). It was just a different way for Democracy to work. At the end of the day, these were also neighbors and were speaking their beliefs.
Some people, Mr. Buttry included, believe that the Iowa caucuses do not represent the population of the US in its diversity. I feel that he may be right in the diversity side of things. However, in terms of what all people really want and expect from their government, I feel that Iowans (and New Hampshire residents) are less influenced by polished commercials than some of their big city counterparts. Their caucuses enable people to discuss the issues that impact them instead of simply watching the wretched political commercials; and then going to the polls and voting on what they thought they heard.
Iowans know what they want from their representation in Washington, DC. Since agriculture is a big piece of their economy, naturally they want to protect that industry just as Michigan wants to protect manufacturing. However possibly the Iowa caucus is a better model for our democracy than primaries. The Iowa model demands that candidates put themselves in front of their constituency. More than one candidate’s candidacy was buried in Iowa soil when they committed the fatal faux pas.
Based on my time in Iowa, I feel that Iowans truly are mostly independent thinkers. Most Iowans are not all that different than friends from Maryland or now Utah. Their votes in the primaries typically are from their hearts and minds. My straw poll indicates that most Iowans vote for the best candidate, not simply because they belong to the same political party.
Mr. Buttry decried political candidates’ participation in RAGBRAI, the annual bicycle ride across Iowa. Actually if I were a serious candidate, RAGBRAI would be a great way to start a grassroots campaign because the participants come from around the US and the world. In my 2009 RAGBRAI ride, I met a number of people from Europe and from almost every corner of the US. What a great way to meet Iowans in their element as gracious hosts.
Should any one state always be the first caucus or primary? I’m not smart enough to answer that question. It may be a good thing that Iowa and New Hampshire are the first states to speak up. The rest of the country pays attention to their thinking because they are actually meeting the candidates while trying to measure whether the sound bite matches what they see or hear in person.
In my experience, life isn’t fair. Get over it!