Question the Caucus: The Iowa Dilemma

Maggie Connolly ‘21

Opinions Editor

Trevor Noah combines stand-up comedy with political commentary, a duo that is more than necessary in American political culture right now. On Jan. 17, he released a five-minute Youtube clip of Jordan Klepper “fingering the pulse” of Iowa before the first caucus in this presidential election cycle. By the time this has been published, the caucus will have been held in all its glory amongst the corn fields.

The video clip shows Klepper walking around the city interacting with different voters and candidates, asking them one basic question: Why Iowa? Most of the answers seemed pretty standard, claiming that this was just the way it’s always been, or at least has been for most of their voting lifetime. Why change something that we seem to think is working? (For lack of a better word.)

            Just like the electoral college… right?

Wrong. There are lots of flaws with the presidential election process. That doesn’t mean that they’re entirely wrong or need to be completely dismantled, but it’s not something we shouldn’t question as American citizens.

Iowa and New Hampshire are the first two states to hold the Democratic primary. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, these two states’ combined total population is 87% white. That is by no means a representation of the United States as a whole, nor does it represent the Democratic Party in the United States. The Democratic Party is around 40% people of color according to a Vox article. Holding a primary in any two states – let alone these two in particular – makes up nowhere near the same kind of demographic as the Democrats and our nation in its entirety. It’s not a proper gauge for the election, and it shouldn’t have the influence it does on the election.

The Iowa Caucus gained traction in the 1970s when primaries became a bigger part of elections, and Jimmy Carter used the caucuses to build momentum in both of his campaigns. The importance placed on Iowa and New Hampshire has not been the norm in the history of American politics and presidential campaigns.

The influence of these two states, according to a New York Times piece, is huge in the election cycle. The results and the voters have 20 times more influence than other states.

The voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire aren’t always misinformed citizens who don’t appreciate their civic duty. They deserve every right to have an influence, but not a disproportionate influence just because they are first. On top of that, they shouldn’t be first just for the sake of being first. They know the kind of influence they’ve developed. “New Hampshire passed a law saying its primary always must be the first, and Iowa has been similarly protective,” claims an opinion piece in the New York Times.

The Iowa-New Hampshire dilemma gives some voters the same kind of apathetic attitude that the electoral college creates. Later states, like my home state of Indiana, have little to no impact on the attitudes of other primary voters. By the time we get to vote, most people have an idea who the candidate is going to be, or the field has at least been narrowed significantly.

Make voters care! Give other small states a chance, and move around to states that represent the nation and its interests. Iowa voters are important, but no more important than the states right next door.

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