Monday, February 1, 2016

The irrationality of Iowa first

NPR and some other media outlets have aired interviews with Iowans on why Iowa always gets to go first. Who goes second get far less coverage, but the same logic presumably applies. If what some Iowans say is representative of at least half of its residents, most are an arrogant bunch. More disturbingly but not surprisingly, Iowans are not logical.

The Iowa is best “rationale”
Like most empty political rhetoric, there is usually a big disconnect between rhetoric and the real world. The rational for why Iowa and New Hampshire should always go first and second fits that pattern. For Iowa first, one politically active Iowan argues this: “The real reason we're first in the nation now is because of what we do. We take this real seriously . . . . You know, we ask really good questions. We ask follow-up questions . . . . We look them in the eye like I am you right now. It's real. It's one-on-one vetting of candidates. Are you for real? Not a TV spot, not money — what's in your heart?" Ah yes, that’s the good old, tried and true, being serious, asking questions and follow-ups and looking into someone’s eyeballs to see their hearts rationale.

Looking into eyes and hearts falls short of former president Dubya’s more sophisticated analytic technique of looking into eyeballs and souls tactic, but it’s a good start. As Dubya put it regarding his tactic as applied to the murderous Vladimir Putin: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. . . . I was able to get a sense of his soul.” That worked out well, didn’t it? Anyway, eyeball and heart looking is one reason for Iowa first.

Among other things, that vacuous drivel ignores the fact that candidates don’t spend nearly as much time in other states. Most residents (maybe 99.999%) in most other states have essentially no chance to look any candidate in the eye and ask anything. In states other than Iowa or New Hampshire, there is nothing to take seriously in person or any candidate eyeballs and heart to stare into. How many cozy town hall meetings have all major candidates held in California, Texas, Colorado, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Montana, Ohio, Nebraska or dozens of other states since last June? None is much closer to the mark than 20. Zero is probably the correct answer for every one of those of states.

Obviously, the feeble “Iowa is best rationale” says that since Iowans pay attention, that implies that no one else does and thus no other state deserve to go first. That’s sheer nonsense. And offensive.

Another Iowa first rationale rejects the obvious differences between Iowa and the rest of the country. An Iowan rebuttal to that argument is this: “Is it fair that Iowa goes first? What's fair in politics? I mean, seriously. Yeah, OK, we're like 97 percent white, and we're really rural, and we don't look like a microcosm of America. But so what?”

Ah yes, that’s the good old rock-solid “but so what” rationale coupled with the “politics isn’t fair” sucker punch. At least the admission of unfairness strikes a chord of reality. That’s one plucked string of the harp that rings true.

Yet another rationale is the good old, “if not Iowa then who?” argument. The obvious answer to that non-rationale is easy: Anyone but Iowa and New Hampshire. Who goes first and second could rotate among one or more states or regions of the country.

An indefensible, irrational process
The enormous impact of Iowa and New Hampshire on selecting presidential candidates is indefensible and irrational. In Iowa, it skews the process at the national via an indefensibly arcane caucus process. For Iowa, only 20-25% of the voting age population usually participate in its caucuses. With a population of 3.1 million and about 2.1 million registered voters, a grand total of about 420,000 to 525,000 Iowa voters get to significantly decide who the rest of us get to support or not. Some of those lucky few out of the over 150 million registered American voters have a chance to look into candidate’s eyes, see candidate hearts, ask their questions, follow-up questions and then decide in their cozy, small state comfort who the rest of us gets to vote for.

To be fair, many or most Iowa and New Hampshire residents may not feel superior about their unwarranted role. Americans are not always blinded by their ideology or morals. Some understand the unfairness inherent in our system of politics. With America’s corrupt two-party system, things usually are the way they are because that serves the two parties’ perceived needs. If Iowa forever goes first and New Hampshire forever second, that is because the two parties see that serves their own interests. Rationality and fairness have nothing to do with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment