Iowa is known for only a handful of things. Captain Kirk was from there. Dead baseball players wander its corn fields. It is the nation’s leading producer of ethanol. And it is known as “The Hawkeye State,” making it the only state in the nation that got its nickname from Alan Alda’s character on “MASH.”
And, oh yeah, they also get to vote for president before anyone else, shaping the race for the whole rest of the nation.
Well, maybe vote isn’t the right word. They caucus. If you thought caucuses were some mountain range in Europe, let me help you understand how this works:
Around 7 p.m., folks begin to gather in various facilities such as school gymnasiums and Dollar Generals to discuss the pros and cons of various candidates. It was pretty easy for the Republicans this year as Trump got like 99 percent of the vote, finishing well ahead of William Weld who fell to third place after Warren G. Harding mounted a late charge to take second.
It was a little harder for the Democrats, who had roughly 146 candidates to choose from. It came down to a neck-and-wrinkly-neck race between Bernie Sanders, who was supported primarily by those wanting single-payer health care, and Pete Buttigieg, who was supported primarily by those who think his name is fun to say.
At caucus sites, supporters of candidates assemble into several different groups. If a candidate’s group has too few members, they are not considered “viable,” sort of like one of my personal checks.
The groups with viable candidates then begin to recruit the supporters of non-viable candidates with tall, cool glasses of ethanol and chanting things like, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Tulsi’s folks over!” Whichever group prevents them from breaking through their arms gets to keep them. This gave Bernie Sanders a huge advantage as his supporters are the ones who’ve most recently played “Red Rover” on the playground, some earlier that very day.
By the end of last Monday night, they’d consumed so much ethanol that they couldn’t operate the apps on their phone that transmitted the results from each precinct.
“Did you send the correct total for Mayor Pete?”
“No, but I apparently ordered a new toaster from Amazon.”
Other than incompetence, Iowa has another problem: Like me, it’s way too white. There were so many old white folks at the Democratic caucus precincts that they looked like GOP conventions, who at least have Diamond and Silk. The state’s population is 90 percent white. That’s not exactly the kind of diverse crowd needed to pick a Democratic frontrunner.
Fortunately, the first actual primary vote of the campaign went a little smoother in New Hampshire, which is merely 94 percent white. In fact, New Hampshire’s African-American population is just 1.1 percent — or as they refer to it in the Granite State, Mr. Harold.
I can fix this problem. Each presidential election season should have five weeks of primaries. In each week, 10 states representing various demographics and geographic locations vote. These 10-state blocs rotate each presidential election year so that the same states don’t have too much power in deciding the path of our elections.
Meanwhile, Iowa and New Hampshire need to stick to what they do best and quit dominating presidential politics. Iowans should go back to chugging ethanol and imagining Shoeless Joe is talking to them in a corn field. And New Hampshirites can go back to not wearing seat belts as they are the only state without a seat-belt law. That’s because the most exciting thing that can happen to you in New Hampshire is being thrown through a car windshield.
Or being crowned your party’s nominee. And neither New Hampshire, nor Iowa deserves to hog that honor.