(The Curmudgeon awoke on Monday morning to a report on National Public Radio that tried to make the argument that the population of Iowa is more representative of that of the entire country than people realize– a case no one would ever consider making if it weren’t the morning of the infamous and undemocratic Iowa caucuses. Fortunately The Curmudgeon is not very energetic upon arising, because if that hadn’t been the case, he might’ve pulled the radio out of the socket and tossed it against a wall.
Of course Iowa is in no way representative of the population of the U.S. In thinking about those differences he suddenly realized that he wrote about this very subject, both Iowa and New Hampshire, in this space four years ago. (Has he really been writing this blog for that long? Egad!) So he arose as quickly as he can at that time of day, wiped the sleep out of his eyes while his computer booted up (the only way PCs are better than Macs is that Macs take forever to boot), and found his piece of four years ago about the people who call Iowa and New Hampshire home and have a far greater voice in the selection of our presidents than reason suggests they deserve.
So without further ado (because that was certainly enough ado, don’t you think?)…
The Curmudgeon hates Iowa and New Hampshire.
Actually, “hate” is too harsh and not entirely accurate: The Curmudgeon really, really resents Iowa and New Hampshire. While he imagines that the people who live in these states are as nice as people anywhere else, he definitely has a bone to pick with them.
Their outsized role in selecting presidential candidates is unfair. These two states, small and not even remotely representative of the country as a whole, get to make decisions that have a grossly disproportionate impact on the future of the entire country.
Think about it. Between the two states, they have a population of 4.3 million – or 1.4 percent of the overall U.S. population – yet they get to make the primary decisions about who will run for president.
These states look nothing like where The Curmudgeon has ever lived. They are overwhelmingly white – 93.9 percent in New Hampshire, 91.3 percent in Iowa – and don’t even remotely resemble the population of the U.S. as a whole. The Curmudgeon’s own two states are very different: Pennsylvania is 81.9 percent white, 10.8 percent African-American, and 5.7 percent Latino; New Jersey is 68.6 percent white, 13.7 percent African-American, and 17.7 percent Latino.
New Hampshire and Iowa also aren’t representative of how the country as a whole views its politics. 29.5 percent of New Hampshire’s registered voters are Republicans and 29 percent are Democrats (the rest are independent or make no choice); 29.1 percent of Iowa’s registered voters are Republicans and 34 percent are Democrats (with the rest independent or not choosing). By contrast, 32.5 percent of the country’s registered voters are Republicans and 42.6 percent are Democrats. The difference is even greater with The Curmudgeon’s home states: New Jersey is 20.9 percent registered Republicans and 33.6 percent registered Democrats and Pennsylvania is 37 percent registered Republicans and 50.6 percent Democrats. (Note: national figures are very sketchy.)
Every four years, New Hampshire and Iowa voters have a voice – the predominant voice – in selecting their party’s presidential nominations. Meanwhile, The Curmudgeon has voted in only two presidential primaries in which the identity of the nominee was not already a foregone conclusion on the day he cast his ballot: in 1980 (Carter vs. Kennedy) and in 2008 (Obama vs. Clinton); let us not forget, The Curmudgeon is a leftist.
Is this fair? Why are Iowans and New Hampshirites (New Hampshirians? New Hampsters?) more entitled than the rest of us?
Most discouragingly, even though the political parties know this is unfair, they consistently support these states whenever other states attempt to schedule their own primaries in a manner that does not leave their own voters disenfranchised.
And that’s what this is: disenfranchisement. Taxation without representation! (The Curmudgeon is summoning his inner Patrick Henry.) 4.3 million Americans have a huge voice in the selection of their party’s presidential nominee while the rest of us – the other 304.4 million – have much less of a voice or even no voice at all.
The straw polls conducted before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are even worse. While a leftist like The Curmudgeon wouldn’t vote for Rick Perry if he appeared on the ballot as a candidate for dog-catcher, did Mr. Perry really deserve to have his campaign run aground, never to recover, because of a poor showing in a Florida straw poll four months before even the Iowa caucuses? Perry’s demise was mostly self-inflicted – he doesn’t really seem to understand the issues or stand for anything other than being president (let’s call this “Mitt Romney syndrome”), but even he – and his supporters – deserved better. So did millions and millions of Republican voters.
Even those nasty and undeserving people in Iowa and New Hampshire.