Sunday, August 12, 2007

Iowa Matters for Another 21 Weeks

There's been a lot of coverage lately on the Iowa Straw Poll, as meaningless as it is. For example, Mitt Romney just won it on the Republican side even though two major contenders (McCain and Giuliani) didn't attend the event. No matter--the caucus is still another five months away.

Here's the thing about Iowa. Many (especially candidates and news media) justify Iowa's early selection becayse Iowa is a wonderful cross section of the country. A lot of people know better. Sure, Iowa's typically a swing state but it's filled with farmers and very few cities (and zero metropolises). It has few immigrants and minorities. Educational scores are way above average. Incomes are way below average ($28,340 versus the national average of $40,000--though different costs of living distort this comparison somewhat).

Some say the reason we still have Iowa caucuses so early is so farmers can get candidates to support massive farm subsidies. That is certainly part of the reason. But most Iowans aren't farmers. Having grown up in Iowa, let me tell you the real reason we love being first: we like the attention.

Usually when Iowa makes the national news it's about the Mississippi flooding or another tornado showing up. There's little attention paid to the people of the state; all news has somber undertones. But once every four years, we matter. It has nothing to do with farming or our "amazing" representation of the country. It's all about seeing Wolf Blitzer reporting from Davenport or candidates debating at the University of Iowa. We like it when the state is mentioned in the same sentence not containing a reference to a disaster or corn. It's all about feeling special. This is why some of us get so angry when important states like California complain, even if it is justified. But at least we'll always have James Kirk.

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