I started this post about a week ago in the middle of a violent thunderstorm. Should have known better. Lost electricity, the unsaved post and all my research. Oh well, live and learn as my Great-Aunt Bertha used to say. Always save your work. Or is that always show your work? Anyhow here I am starting again.
I have always suspected that having two small, largely Caucasian, rural states; Iowa (IA) and New Hampshire (NH); be the first to decide the winners and losers in the Presidential beauty contest was not the most egalitarian of ideas but I decided to do a little research and see if anyone else agreed with me. Especially where it concerns farm policies like the ethanol credit.
There is a great sequence in the 6th season of the West Wing (episode “King Corn”) where all the presidential candidates are showing up to the Iowa Corn Growers’ Expo, and only one of the Republicans is willing to say “no” to the corn farmers when it comes to “taking the pledge” to support the ethanol subsidies. You can see that as a test of character or a peek into the making of the sausage that is our political process today, whichever you choose it still comes off as good campaigning/bad governance.
A political pollster/commentator on the local news after the NH debate was talking about the differences between how things get done in IA and how they get done in NH . He said that in IA, because it is a caucus format, things are decided by the activists in the party. Those activist are more conservative and religious (at least in the Republican party). Tea Party heaven! Which is a good thing if you don’t want the Repubs to take back the Whitehouse. Sit back, make yourself some popcorn and hope they nominate a Bachmann/Palin ticket. It will be pretty entertaining and we’ll get to keep Obama for another four years so maybe he can get the hang of the governing thing.
Whereas in NH, because it is a true primary, it has a tendency to be more of the party’s rank and file who turn out to vote. Either way it is “retail politics” at it’s best. That is a good thing. Your chances of meeting the candidates face to face and actually having some time to talk to them and access their character and their ideas is much higher in a state with a big stakes contest and a small population. The ability of rich IA corn farmers to force the candidates to take a pledge to uphold an unwise policy like the ethanol subsidy, however, is not a good thing at all.
So does NH have a similar Achilles heel? Is there something inherently wrong with NH being the first primary? Probably. But I haven’t found it yet. I mean beyond the fact that it is northern, industrial, liberal and white. All demographics that are not well represented in the current make up of our country. I don’t know where there is a state with the perfect demographics but Super Tuesday with it’s 24 states participating is a better cross-section of the American people than either NH or IA. Let’s wait and see who is still standing at that point.