This obsession with Iowa needs to stop.
In the political realm, placing this much importance on a small state in which voter turnout has never been above 23% doesn’t provide political discussion, only political pandering.
The Iowa caucuses are responsible, in part, for the massive and oppressive corn subsidies in this country. If you’re a Congressman or woman, how can you campaign in Iowa for president if your record on agribusiness is less than favorable to Iowa Farmer Jim?
Let’s be honest, there are enough megalomaniacs in Congress to be constantly testing the political winds for a run at the Oval Office.
It’s the reason I’m somewhat astounded so many popular Republican candidates have pulled their names from the running.
More to the point, who really cares about Iowa?
Since 1972, Iowa has voted for the eventual winner of the presidency 7 out of 10 times. Interestingly, in those 10 elections, Republicans and Democrats have five victories each.
Nice balance right?
Except Missouri has voted for the eventual presidential winner in every election since 1904 except two (2008 was one of them).
If it isn’t because Iowa is important or somehow a bellwether for the election, then why Iowa?
Well, because it’s first.
Is it first because it’s important or important because it’s first?
The answer is the latter. The Iowa caucuses are important because they’re first. If the first caucuses were somewhere else, they’d be important.
While it’s true that the Iowa caucuses don’t mean a presidential run is christened (ask Mike Huckabee) or over, an unreasonable and unhealthy amount of time and money is spent by candidates in Iowa.
My problem with the system, however, runs even deeper and is why I love a particular movement so much.
First the problem: the field of potential candidates is decided more or less by the media. Jon Stewart famously made fun of the 24 hour news channels early in the Republican field-forming by noting that Ron Paul was rarely mentioned despite the fact that he’d won the straw poll.
Stewart chastised Fox News in particular, for failing to tout the small government message of Paul despite the fact that the libertarian ideals were already beginning to take root among a populace growing ever disenchanted with liberal mythology.
The New York Times famously endorsed John McCain as a Republican candidate then went out to brutally attack him once he was selected as the candidate.
My point is simple: we didn’t get to choose the candidates, simply from the candidates.
There is a self-selection process whereby a potentially qualified candidate decides not to run because he or she believes a win would be impossible.
This is where Americans Elect comes in.
The system is not without flaws, but it is a glorious step in the proverbial right direction.
Americans Elect’s message “Pick a President, not a party,” runs counter-culturally to the political machine created by the media.
We decide who we like as a candidate based on what the media tells us about each candidate. Unfortunately, the media tends to be biased and those biases have only gotten worse over time.
Americans Elect gives you a survey where you decide what issues are important and determine where you stand on the issues.
From there, you’re connected with candidates who fit what you believe.
Americans Elect has already gotten on the ballot as a third party in a number of states and continues to grow.
The idea, a sort of direct democracy being championed by the Occupy Movement, gives each voice more power to determine the pool from which we get to vote, not just who to vote for once a pool is established.
It’s a radical, albeit intuitive idea.
Even better? Americans Elect is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated simply to giving a voice to people who otherwise wouldn’t have one.
Obviously certain technological barriers exist, but most people likely to vote either have access at home to the internet, or are within manageable traveling distance to a library.
Much like one has to get to a polling place in order to vote, it isn’t unreasonable to hope someone would make it to a library to be a part of such a truly democratic process.
Don’t just pick a president, pick the candidates we get to choose from.
That way we’re not stuck deciding between terrible and awful, dumb and dumber (see: Gore v. Bush).
No, Americans Elect probably wouldn’t have prevented the candidacy of a figure like our soon-to-be-former President, but at least people would be able to see a group of candidates with whom they agree more closely.
As is the case with Obama, this won’t preclude a politician from failing to live up to campaign promises or changing stances for political gain.
On the other hand, a system giving more power, more knowledge, to all of the people involved has to be an upgrade over the way we do it now.