Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Iowa Caucuses: Don't Forget to Take Your Gopiac

Last week, I was driving on the road out of the promised land – some refer to it as “Interstate 35” - through northern Iowa. It was the weekend before the Republican Iowa Caucuses, but because of some stellar luck, I got a sneak preview of the results. Out of all of the GOP presidential candidate bumper stickers I saw, most were for Rep. Ron Paul. The others, well....OK I only saw two...and they were both supporting Paul.

With this knowledge, I did pretty well in predicting the winner. Or, at least the third place finisher.

With the great predictability of my sample, I'm surprised the GOP even held any debates in the Hawkeye state or that the Des Moines Register spent the money to annoy the states residents with phone polls.*

*With some first hand knowledge (again, a robust sample size of 1), I learned that in the weeks leading up to the Iowa Causes Iowegians treat phone calls like they are transmitters of the bubonic plague. A phone call means a) Candidate X wants to see how you are voting b) Candidate X is encouraging you to go to the Iowa Caucus c) Candidate X thinks that Candidate Y's record is insufficient d) a Super PAC is doing black ops work on behalf of Candidate Y to counter Candidate X's claims or e) A polling group is asking about hypothetical hypotheticals.

The GOP Iowa Caucuses* are a staple to presidential politics. Like butter and corn. Quadrennially (how bout that for a vocab word?) people from across the nation criticize the fact that Iowa gets to have the first-in-the-nation shot at the candidates from one or both of the parties. The typical logic for this argument is that Iowa is too white, too evangelical, to corny (as in they like their corn subsidies...), and just generally doesn't reflect the nation so why should they have priority in narrowing down the field.

*Lets call it GOPIAC for short. Even though that does sound like a new prescription drug. But that could work too. “Gopiac is intended for Iowa Republicans who are sick of receiving incessant phone calls and having their small town cafes invaded by legions of media. Gopiac will cure these symptoms as well as narrowing down the list of candidates vying for the GOP nomination. It is not intended to chose the nominee nor is it recommended to be taken without first researching the candidates. It has also been demonstrated to prevent bubonic plague transferred via phone calls.” This could also work for the DEMIAC. “It is not recommended to take Demiac and Gopiac in the same year...”

While these points may be somewhat valid, this sentiment doesn't give Iowa enough credit for its diversity of culture and opinions. Iowa may not perfectly represent the US, but they do a better job than coasties give them credit for. Really, the coasties don't like Iowa having such an important position because, well, they want to be first.

The real problem isn’t that Iowa has a caucus on January 3rd, it’s that other states aren’t allowed to do the same. First, there are small town coffee shops in Montana and Minnesota* that need business, too. Second, babies in all states are deserving of kisses, holding, and awkward pictures (then again, all politician-baby pictures are all awkward...I still wonder why this happens). Third, and I suppose most importantly, every state will vote for and is affected by the president and his actions, so why give one state a disproportional say in guiding these outcomes?

*Given the brightness of the small-town-cafe spotlight that shines on Iowa during the GOPIAC and DEMIAC, there is probably some radiant heat making its way north to the Promised Land.

Picking one area to have such a great say in important matters does not happen in statewide gubernatorial elections – could you imagine what would happen if one county got to have a primary before all of the others? Having one state lead the way is like using my super-scientific sample of Iowa bumper stickers to determine who the nominee will be – it is not representative and gives arbitrary influence to a certain group.

My solution: have the state political parties agree to a single day for their caucuses or primaries. Currently, numerous states do this on Super Tuesday in early March the year of the election year. One vote (or voice, in the case of the verbal caucus set-up) per person. Ensures candidates have appeal to the citizenry from every state. Eliminates the jockeying that states do to move up their caucuses/elections.

This is not likely to happen any time soon. 

The parties will have trouble (← understatement) encouraging their state subsidiaries to fall in line and Iowegians will go through Gopiac and Demiac withdrawal. Then again, most of them probably wont mind being able to answer their phones every fourth December without fear of contracting bubonic plague.

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