Thursday, December 22, 2011

Iowa Forever

Josh Putnam has a nice post up pointing out that you can ignore any claims you hear that the Iowa Caucuses will be jettisoned if Ron Paul or some other unlikely nominee winds up winning. As Josh says, the job of Iowa is to winnow the field, not to pick a winner. He also goes through some of the technical reasons why it's difficult for the parties in practice to shift away from Iowa.

I think the shorter version is simple: if you're going to have a sequential system, some state has to go first, and there's no particular reason to suppose Iowa is worse than any other state would be. Yes, it's not a demographic match for the nation, but no state is. You can come up with plenty of other dimensions on which it's not descriptively representative of the US as a whole, too -- but again, that's true for any state.

I'm also mostly not impressed, on the Republican side, by claims that social conservatives are especially important in Iowa. They are important, no doubt -- but is that really atypical for the GOP? It sure doesn't seem like it to me.

It also seems to me that the GOP nomination process is basically working pretty well this cycle. To the extent that stability helps that happen, keeping the early schedule in place is probably the best way to go. But as Josh says, we're probably stuck with Iowa (and New Hampshire) whether we like it or not.


  1. if you're going to have a sequential system, some state has to go first

    True, but they don't have to go first every single time. Instead, why not rotate the privileged first-in-the-nation status among the states?

    With this ingenious solution, you'd still have the disadvantage of one state going before all the rest, but you'd also have the key advantage of not being patently unfair to all states not called Iowa!

    I'm not saying this is likely to happen; I don't expect it to. It's just frustrating to think that we're "stuck" with this relic of a system (like the filibuster, one which any 5-year-old can tell you is wrong and unfair) solely for the sake of tradition, or stability.

    In fact, it's more than frustrating - it's downright scary to think about what can happen to a society with a political system as calcified as ours.

  2. How can the process be working well when Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, etc. have in some sense already been eliminated while Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Michele Bachmann are still competitive?

  3. Ron,

    I don't think it's a sign of a problem with the system that the TX governor is still competitive -- and I don't think that Newt, Santorum, Paul, and Bachamnn are competitive.


    Meh. Iowa, New Hampshire, SC, and Nevada are helped by this. Other states are helped by the electoral college; others are helped by the Senate; others are helped by the way that House districting works. I don't see this one as all that big a deal. OTOH, I do think that stability is a plus; the process works much better when everyone knows what's going on. I wouldn't be all that upset with a rotating system, but I don't think there's any significant need for it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?