Monday, November 28, 2011

Do the Iowa caucuses represent American voters?

Iowa caucus

It is hard for me to write about the influence Iowa has over the national elections without a great deal of bias. If Iowa did not insist on being the first state to hold a caucus and/or primary, our country would not be so detrimentally forced to be dependent on corn and ethanol. It is only because every single politician who ever had the slightest amount of ambition had to kowtow to the desires of Iowan voters that the American diet is stuffed full of corn, paid for by government subsidies, while we lament the plot of the farmers who forced the politicians to pay them the subsidies. No politician would dare go against Iowa. And in no way, shape, or form, does Iowa represent a diverse cross-section of America. In fact, the interests of Iowa very rarely are the same as any other state. And yet, presidential hopefuls will spend more time and money in this state than any other state overall.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how often the Iowa caucuses, both GOP and Democrat, have accurately picked the national nominees, and the eventual president.

Iowa Democrat Caucus Winners, with national nominees highlighted in blue, and the eventual presidential winners in italics
2008- Barack Obama 2004- John Kerry
2000- Al Gore
1996- incumbent Bill Clinton
1992- Tom Harkin
1988- Dick Gephardt
1984- Walter Mondale
1980- Jimmy Carter (incumbent but contested)
1976- "Uncommitted" 37%, Jimmy Carter 28%
1972- "Uncommitted" 36%, Edmund Muskie 36%

Iowa Republican Caucus Winners, with national nominees highlighted in red, and eventual presidential winners in italics
2008- Mike Huckabee
2004- incumbent George W. Bush
2000- George W. Bush
1996- Bob Dole
1992- incumbent George H.W. Bush
1988- Bob Dole
1984- incumbent Ronald Reagan
1980- George H.W. Bush
1976- Gerald Ford

Iowa managed to pick the national nominees eight times out of fifteen times. But only managed to be indicative of the next president twice. (I am not counting 1976 when more people chose to not commit rather than vote for Jimmy Carter.) In fact, it is interesting to note that they managed to repeatedly pick candidates (in both parties) that didn't just lose, but lost by significant numbers. Cases in point, Harkin, Mondale, Carter, Huckabee, Dole, Dole again, and anyone who ran against Ronald Reagan (1976 and 1980). And yet, in spite of this historical trend to be completely not representative of the nation as a whole, candidates continue to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to woo Iowa voters. Not to mention all the things that happen in off-years when hopefuls quietly vote in favor of everything Iowa wants, just to create some goodwill for the future. 
Does anyone else see a problem with this?  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are always welcome here!