There is a scene in the 1989 film Field of Dreams where Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) asks “Is this heaven?” Ray (Kevin Costner) replies “No. It’s Iowa.”
While Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of his infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox teammates (more commonly known as the Black Sox) may view Iowa as heaven, the Iowa Caucuses are certainly not a “heaven” for politics. This is not because 72% of Republicans are saying “My candidate lost,” or that Republicans spend much of the run-up to the Caucuses fighting each other over small details. Rather, it is the way the political scene has unfolded in Iowa since 1972.
Many people have voiced their displeasure with the Iowa Caucuses, and have started to make the case that Iowa should be removed from its coveted top spot. The RNC’s post-2012 autopsy did not examine the order of states in the primary, according to former Bush White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer.
However, if you dare to challenge Iowa’s spot at the top of the primary list, you will be viciously attacked. Former Scott Walker aide Liz Mair had to resign for raising questions about the primary process. She tweeted, “The sooner we remove Iowa’s frontrunning status, the better off American politics and policy will be.”
Speaking of better policy, the Iowa Caucuses have traditionally forced Republicans to kowtow before the altar of Big Corn. Opponents of cronyism point to this as just another reason to remove Iowa from its pedestal. As Jim Geraghty asks, “Why does the allegedly small-government party hold first contest in a state where locals nuke anybody opposing ethanol mandates & subsidies?” Aside from being the perfect definition of cronyism, mandated ethanol has been a policy failure in every respect. It has caused prices to increase, even as ethanol as a fuel source has been shown to be bad for engines. Further, despite being sold as an environmentally friendly alternative energy source, the ethanol mandate is actually bad for the environment. (The fact that Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus while opposing the ethanol mandate makes Cruz’s victory even more impressive.)
The conventional wisdom is that Iowa sets the tone for the entire nation, but Iowa has an estimated population of about 3.1 million people. In a country of over 300 million, it would seem that when it comes to presidential politics, some people are more equal than others.
If the Republican Party is serious in its belief in limited government, then to avoid having to appease the corn lobby every four to eight years it should mix up the order from election cycle to election cycle. One year, a swing state like Colorado or Virginia could go first, then four years later maybe a smaller but reliably Republican state like Kansas or Oklahoma. Perhaps even Texas could go first as the biggest Republican state in the Union. The point is that there is no reason that there should be an unwritten amendment to the Constitution that states that Iowa shall always be first.
While a time traveling version of an outfielder from 1919 may think Iowa is heaven, David Burge (known as the blogger Iowahawk) asks “Is this hell?” More and more people are beginning to think so. For the sake of the Republican Party and the country, the RNC should give serious consideration to mixing up the primary process for the next competitive primary cycle. What the Democrats decide to do is their business, but the party that portrays itself as the party of limited government and the champions of free markets should kick Iowa off the political mountaintop on which it sits. The country and the party will be better as a result.