For the first 21 years of my life, I lived in the state of Iowa.
Since most of the readers here are from the Coasts, I thought I would
give you a little background on the people who will be having a major impact on
who ends up becoming the next President of the United States.
Iowa is a very homogenous place. More than 94% of the people are
Whiteys. The more important part about its ethnic makeup is you are
pretty much the same type of person, as long as English is your first
language. (Less than 4% of Iowans are Hispanic.) People don’t wear
there ethnicity on its sleeve, which is why the food generally sucks.
If you want to experience exotic cuisine, go to Applebee’s. The
positive tradeoff is that there is little crime and most people get
along with each other pretty well. The stress levels are pretty low,
as traffic reports don’t truly exist, except in the state capital of
Des Moines and the Quad Cities.
Iowans rank number 1 overall in SAT scores and number 9 in ACT scores,
so there is a real tradition of emphasizing education. This goes
along with the homogenous theme of the state, as there isn’t as big of
range between the highly educated and uneducated that occurs on the
Coasts. It generally has the highest high school graduation rates in
the nation. The similar levels of education are probably why there is
also a smaller gap in wealth than what I’ve experienced in the rest of
During my formative years, citizens of the state were not as caught up
in pop culture as most Americans, but with the advent of cable
television and the internet, people under the age of 30 dress the same
way as people do on the coasts. While classic rock still rules the
airwaves in Iowa, it isn’t that much different in most other major
American cities, at least if you don’t include Hispanic stations.
While Iowa is a more religious place than is the case with you
heathens who live on the Coast’s, it is not a real bible-thumping type
of place. The citizens tend to keep their religious feelings to themselves..
I’m sure from the info I have listed, your stereotypes of Iowans are
still pretty much intact. Here are a few things I would mention that
you probably wouldn’t guess. The state is bordered by the Mississippi
River (East side) and the Missouri River (West). The topography is
rolling hills in the majority of the state. I have traveled
extensively and it’s my belief it is the least flat state in the
Midwest. While not as beautiful as upper Midwestern states like
Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, it still has some gorgeous places,
especially by Dubuque.
While agriculture is a major part of the overall economy for the
state, most Iowans have no experience with farming. I have never
touched a pig that wasn’t packaged first. I’ve never milked a cow,
though I am pretty familiar with the general motion which is needed.
The only time I’ve ever picked corn is out of a basket in the grocery
store. While it is true that Iowans have farms surrounding them, most
of them work the same type of crappy job that people in the rest of
the country have to do.
Hopefully that gives you a little bit of an idea of what Iowa is like.
I’m sure most of you hate the idea that this state (and also New
Hampshire) has so much say in what ends up happening in our political
process. Sure Iowa is filled with a lot of old white people in rural
areas to have this much impact on national politics, but some state
has to be first and I don’t think there are too many others that would
serve the Nation much better. The citizens are well-educated and take
their civic duties seriously. The state is generally a toss-up state,
as no party seems to ever control it. I do think one important thing
about the first caucus or primary state is that it should be small
enough that the candidates have to deal with rural voters and not just
market themselves to a major cities. By being forced to press theflesh on a daily basis, it causes these politicians to have to answer specific questions and not always stay on message. For all the negatives of the process, this is one of the good things about the Iowa caucus.
Now let’s get to the strange world of the caucus. My last year in Iowa, I went to a caucus and was for Bruce Babbitt (look him up) who didn't have the magical 15 percent needed to be eligible in at my site. The next step is for the people that are representing the candidates who are over 15 percent to tell you why you should come over to their side. This will be the case in most precincts in Iowa, with the Big 3 candidates trying to sell the Biden, RIchardson, Dodd, etc fans to come over and join them. Yeah, I know it's weird, but it really makes politics a much more interactive experience. Kind of like the Wii of political voting.
Here is my hypothesis of how the Iowa caucus will turn out. I haven't lived in the state since 1988, but I think I have a good feel for how the state works. Here are my capsule comments.
Barack Obama- He is the slight favorite, according to the polls. Didya notice what I wrote earlier about the state having very few citizens of color? When Obama won the senate race in the neighboring state of Illinois, he was running against a complete wackjob, Alan Keyes, who seemed to share only one trait. The same color skin. I know many of you are uncomfortable with the discussion of race here, but it is the most interesting feature of this caucus, as it will show if white people who most likely have had limited, at best, exposure to black people, will choose him over 6 other white candidates. Add to this, that the state is typical of the Plains states, with the average age of the citizens skewing older and I really question if the youngest person in the race can deliver the numbers he needs.
My personal beef with Obama is that he speaks in broad generalities about change and a new direction, but rarely do I hear him discuss what he will do to make this happen.
Hillary Clinton- Believe it or not, Hillary is doing better in Iowa than I expected she would. Considering that Iowans are bombarded by politicians and their ads during most of 2007 and you can really get sick of people. I always thought that this would be the downfall of Hillary, as no matter how substantive she is on the issues, she just doesn't wear well. The former first lady has done a great job overall of modulating her voice to not get into the shrill register that is an easy place for her to visit. Her wishy-washy answer on immigration during a debate in November really slammed the brakes on the inevitable belief that she would be crowned as the Democratic nominee. Let's be honest: The only reason she is in the position she is in is because the 22nd Amendment doesn't allow Bill to run again. He is also the only reason she has anywhere close to the amount of support that she has, as a vote for her is hopefully a vote for him. Our Democratic system is great, but the 22nd Amendment needs to be fixed, as the person I'm guessing 60 percent of the country would vote for is ineligible. If I was to tinker with the amendment, I would allow a 2-term President to run again, after an 8 year hiatus. Just thought you would like to know.
John Edwards- When I initially heard John Edwards speak on one of the Sunday news programs in 2000, I thought the guy was the Ken-doll that many still portray him as. By the time he started his first run for the Presidency in 2004, I changed my mind on the guy. He is one of the most charismatic politicians of my lifetime and the heartbreak of losing a son and his wife's battle with cancer gives him a depth that doesn't exist in a lot of other men who look like him. He has become much more liberal in his politics this time around, which was the only position for him to run in. No matter what the Right tells you, Hillary has followed the Clinton gameplan on being a moderate Democrat on most issues. Obama is harder to describe politically because he rarely freaking talks about concrete issues, but his constant stump speech of wanting to bring both sides together sounds like moderate politics. In his past, Edwards was right there in the Moderate camp, which is what you would have to be to win a Senate campaign in North Carolina. There is no way you could run as more moderate than Hillary or Obama in the caucus and win, so Edwards has tried to outflank them to the left on economic populism.
I believe that this type of economic populism will resonate after the obscene money grab by the top 1 percent of earners facilitated by the Bush tax cuts. It is true that globalization is here to stay, but the Lou Dobbs idea that NAFTA trade agreements have been bad for America in the long run seem pretty apparent, considering we manufacture very little and a large portion of our population is stuck in lower-paying service jobs. This also goes along with the Dobbs-type position on immigration. Until the age of 12, I lived in Newton, Iowa, which was proud to be known as the home of Maytag appliances. Like many other long-time American iconic brands, Maytag began struggling over the past years, trying to compete with cheaper labor in Mexico, China, etc. and ended up being bought out by competitor Whirlpool. After the buyout, Whirlpool announced that all the manufacturing jobs would be shipped out, leaving Newton just another Flint, Michigan like the one portrayed in Roger and Me. If you don't think an economic populist message will not work this time, you have spent too much time in Silicone Valley or the boardroom of an Investment Bank. See the elections of 2006 in the state of Ohio on how this issue has turned a generally more Republican state sharply into a mostly-Democratic controlled government. The massive distribution of wealth to the rich under Bush has created an atmosphere ripe for a Teddy Roosevelt-type who waves his fist at corporate greed. This doesn't just resonate with just Democrats and Independents, but with a portion of the Religious right, as some of these people have woken up from their slumber and realize that the Rove strategy left them with less money in their pocket. See the rise of Mike Huckabee for more proof.
I have not seen one pundit on television who predicted Edwards will win, but I think he will win by a couple of points in Iowa. Actually, I think the Iowa Democratic caucus system, where you have to stand up and announce you are for a candidate gives Obama the only chance of him winning. I have a hard time believing that the least experienced major candidate I can ever remember (Obama) would be able to win a national election, especially considering that when voters get into the booth with complete anonymity they vote at a higher percentage of who looks more like them, black or white. Obama might win the Iowa caucus and might even win the Democratic nomination, but I'm afraid that when it comes to being President, his lack of experience and the color of his skin will keep him from winning. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but it is what I believe. I think polling is off some on Obama because of these factors.
I've run out of time in trying to get up my thoughts on this group. Really quickly I'm predicting Huckabee will win. Despite Romney's money and far superior campaign structure, he has not worn well as time has went by in Iowa. Actually, I think McCain could have won Iowa, but his stance on Ethanol he knew gave him little chance, so he has concentrated his efforts in New Hampshire.