August 18, 2022

Economix: The Straw Man in Iowa

In The Des Moines Register, Kathie Obradovich takes me and others to task:

It’s time to press your bib overalls, bring out the straw bales and tidy up the pig pens, Iowans. Utah Republican Jon Huntsman’s decision to skip the first-in-the-nation caucuses means it’s time to dust off all the clichés about the Hawkeye state.

David Leonhardt … wrote that Iowa and New Hampshire “lack a single big city.” Therefore, he says, we don’t hear much in the first year of a presidential campaign about issues that concern metro areas, like quality of schools and deteriorating infrastructure.

Really? Good luck finding a state more fixated on school quality than Iowa. Ask around and see if anyone here is worried about deteriorating roads and bridges – Iowa has plenty of them. The last census continued a decades-long trend of migration to Iowa’s urban centers. Sixty percent of the population was urban in 2009, according to the State Data Center.

There are two basic responses to an argument along these lines. The narrow one is that Iowa is not nearly so representative as the defenders of its caucus suggest. Does anyone really think that the public-transportation and highway issues in Des Moines are identical to those in Atlanta or Chicago or Los Angeles? Does Iowa’s population — far less diverse than the rest of the nation’s — have the same range of educational issues as other places?

But the broader response is the more important one. Put simply, why does Iowa deserve to have the first, highly influential nominating event every single presidential cycle?

Iowa’s defenders like to argue against the notion that Iowans are inferior. But that is not what many of us who object to the caucus believe. We would be happy for Iowa to be treated exactly as well as every other state. Our question is: what makes Iowans superior to the residents of the other 49 states?

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