Political season is upon us, boys and girls! For junkies like me, this time of year is bigger than Halloween in Isla Vista. This past week, Iowans kicked off the 2008 presidential race by flooding community centers and government buildings, filled with hopes of delivering their presidential candidate of choice the nomination of their respective party. However, as with all politics, the Iowa caucuses are not without controversy.
Since 1972, Iowa has gained increasing attention for its selection of both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. However, this system seems inherently flawed. Those dissatisfied with the tradition point out Iowa is different from most other states. The state is far removed from the issues and candidates. They hold different values and place more emphasis on certain political topics than others. In addition, over 90 percent of Iowans are white and primarily reside in rural towns. Many feel these factors result in a nomination unrepresentative of the United States as a whole. So why is Iowa such a big deal? Because the state goes first, it’s widely believed Iowa’s results create a signal for other states, thus influencing the presidential nomination process by pointing voters toward specific candidates.
Some Americans feel the United States should do away with holding primaries and caucuses on different days, over the course of six months. It is believed that holding a national primary in which all states vote on the same day would give a more accurate indication of which candidate most Americans want to receive the nomination. The focus would shift away from tiny states like Iowa, who make their decisions in January, in order to give states like Oregon, whose primary isn’t until May, a bigger say. The idea is to give equal weight to each state participating and to ensure choices for the presidential nominations are not influenced by another state’s decision.
However, in the grand scheme of politics, Iowa has been relatively unimportant in determining who the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees will be. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush all lost in the Iowa caucuses, yet still went on to receive the nominations by winning races in other states. CNN reported that, over the last century, less than 50 percent of those winning the Iowa caucuses actually went on to win the nomination of their party. So while many feel Iowa exerts too much influence over the nomination process, in reality, the state’s choices rarely seem to have any sort of substantial impact. In fact, the only guaranteed benefit to winning the caucus seems to be more media attention. After winning in Iowa, news stations quickly turn their attention to those candidates performing particularly well. Even this media attention is not enough to affect polls in other states.
The main point: Lay off of Iowa. The state brought us Herbert Hoover, “Field of Dreams” and corn. Let poor Iowans keep thinking they’ll change the course of the presidential race. And for those of us who haven’t voted, if your first choice isn’t Mike Huckabee or Barack Obama, history has shown us there’s a good chance they won’t win in the long run anyway. Vote for the candidate you feel will do the best job, even if he or she didn’t do so well in Iowa. Bill Clinton came back to take the nomination and the presidency after earning only 3 percent of the vote in Iowa. So what’s to say “President Giuliani” is out of the question? For those of you who haven’t made up your mind for the California primaries on February 5th, it’s important we don’t let Iowa affect our decisions. The voters in Iowa certainly don’t have any inside information we don’t have, so make up your mind for yourself. I know the Internet is a big, scary thing, but Wikipedia the political positions of Mitt Romney, Bill Richardson or any of the candidates. Spend 20 minutes doing a little research – I promise you won’t regret it. The presidential race is far too important to simply get in line with the Hawkeye State. Get ready for 2008 – it’s going to be a big year!