While I know that the media is salivating because of the Iowa Caucus results, methinks they celebrate too early. What is the deal with Iowa, anyway? I mean, why on Earth does anyone put so much stock in this silliness? While it delights me that Hillary came in third, I am by no means confident that it means she won’t end up as the Democrat candidate. In fact, I’d bet the ranch on it, if I had one.
But this weird idea that Iowa is somehow representative of the rest of the country, that it is a microcosm of America is just wrong. Its population is approximately 2.9 million people, less than a third of the population of Los Angeles. The city. You know? It is 94% white, of those only about 3% hispanic and 2.5% black and primarily agricultural. How does that equate to being representive of the whole country? Answer: it doesn’t.
From the LA Times: If history is any guide, only about 200,000 of Iowa’s 3 million residents — or about half the population of Long Beach — will actually turn out for today’s caucuses. Will this handful of voters really decide the winner of the 2008 presidential race, as the media hype and furious campaigning from contenders in both parties seem to indicate? Of course not, though there’s a chance they could help determine the losers.
So, how good have they been at picking/prediction our next Commander in Chief? Since 1972, only once has a winner gone on to the presidency – George W. Bush in 2000. Jimmy Carter’s presidential victory in 1976 is said not to count because though he was the top Dem finisher in Iowa, more voters chose the “uncommitted” category (so, he won because the uncommitteds voted for him? I confused) therefore there was no clear Democratic winner that year. In 1988 George H.W. Bush, who went on to be the 41st president, finished behind Bob Dole and Pat Robertson. In 1980, George H.W. Bush beat out Ronald Reagan in Iowa Republican caucuses, but ended up as Reagan’s vice president. In 1992 Bill Clinton only got 2.8% of the Democratic Iowa vote, losing to Tom Harkin of Iowa and behind Paul Tsongas.
So, I’d have to say based on those statistics, they ain’t batting a thousand. In fact, based on my math it looks like they get it right about 3% of the time. Now, tell me again, why they are popping champaign corks and going wild all over the place?
The fact is, if you want a caucus such as the one held in Iowa to really measure anything, to really mean anything – it would have to be held in a state perhaps just a little bit bigger. Say, I don’t like…California, New York, Florida, Ohio…you know a place that actually has a population and a cross section of same. I’m loathe to use the D word but how does a small bunch of white farmer dudes have the pulse on the nation?
Frankly, I think the caucus tradition as it is practiced today is utterly worthless. It simply sets up certain geographical locations to get a buttload of money and tourism every four years and feel important.
And unfortunately, it’s not likely to change – it seems a pretty sure bet that Iowa won’t be letting go of that gravy train any time soon. So every four years we’ll be subjected to this false indicator of American politics.
Like so many others, it only serves to excite the media and rarely influences the rest of us.
Word of advice to the bass player and the rock star – your fifteen minutes may be up sooner than you think.
If you want to know a little bit about the history of the caucus, read this.