Tyranny's ground zero. (Flickr/Tumblingrun)
Many years ago, when I was a fresh-faced lad eager to get my start in the political world, I worked on the presidential campaign of a certain recently-retired Iowa senator. While I was stationed in the frozen barrens of northern New Hampshire and thus didn't get to experience the Iowa caucuses from ground level, I did meet many Iowans, who were as a group friendly and wholesome.
But that kind of thing shouldn't blind us to the tyranny the state imposes on the rest of us. It isn't just that candidates and political reporters have to practically take up residence there every four years and treat the fickle opinions of every Des Moines-area waitress like they were pronouncements from on high, deserving of Talmudic scrutiny and contemplation. It's that the people who demand this of the political world don't just want our obeisance, they want us to like it. To wit:
An aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's national political operation resigned late Tuesday after drawing heated criticism from the head of the Iowa Republican Party for questioning the state's early role in the presidential nominating process.
Veteran Republican strategist Liz Mair told The Associated Press that she was leaving Walker's team just a day after she had been tapped to lead his online communication efforts, citing the distraction created by a series of recent Twitter posts about Iowa's presidential caucuses.
"The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse," Mair said in a statement announcing her immediate resignation. "I wish Gov. Walker and his team all the best."
You can read some of her tweets here, in which Mair criticizes Iowans, questions Representative Steve King, and, horror of horrors, mocks ethanol subsidies. So Walker had no choice but to show her the door. One is tempted to joke that if Scott Walker can't stand up to the Iowa Republican Party, how will he stand up to terrorists and freedom-haters?
Eight years ago, I penned a little rant about Iowa, that I think still holds up pretty well:
What no one involved in any campaign will acknowledge, and few commentators will either, is that this system is not merely curious or even unfair, it is utterly perverse. This isn't just because the rest of us get virtually no say in who the parties' nominees are. It's also because of this simple fact: No small group of Americans deserves this power, but if any does, it sure isn't the citizens of Iowa.
As you read this, some of the most important and powerful people in America are crawling through the Hawkeye State on their knees, pretending to know more than they do about corn, pretending that the deep fried Twinkie they had back at the state fair was just dee-licious, pretending that ethanol is the key to our energy future, and pretending that every precinct captain and PTA chair they meet is the very heart and soul of our nation, whose opinions the candidate is just dying to hear. And the good people of Iowa? They couldn't give a rat's ass.
If this is a typical election, somewhere between 6 and 10 percent of voting-eligible Iowans will bother to show up to a caucus. Yes, you read that right. Those vaunted Iowa voters are so concerned about the issues, so involved in the political process, so serious about their solemn deliberative responsibilities as guardians of the first-in-the-nation contest, that nine out of ten can't manage to haul their butts down to the junior high on caucus night. One might protest that caucusing is hard—it requires hours of time and a complicated sequence of standing in corners, raising hands, and trading votes (here is an explanation of the ridiculousness). But so what? If ten presidential candidates personally came to your house to beg for your vote, wouldn't you set aside an evening when decision time finally came?
I'd like to see a candidate who went to Iowa and said, "I'm interested to hear what you have to say, but you should know that I don't consider any American's interests more vital than those of any other American, wherever they happen to live. I'll tell you my vision for the future, but I'm not going to tell you ethanol is a wonderful thing just because you happen to vote first. If that makes you reject me, then so be it."