The Iowa caucuses may not have much predictive value, but they did a wonderful job of unmasking both elitist whingers on the left and incompetent whiners on the right.
As they do every presidential election cycle, progressives of pallor wore their indelible disdain for Middle America on their sleeves. Pale-faced University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom launched a 6,000-word jeremiad, littered with factual errors, against his home state’s residents. The abridged version: Raaaaaaaacists! Hicks! Christians! Argggh!
In the safe harbors of The Atlantic just a few weeks before Tuesday’s electoral event, Bloom sneered: “Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die.” The rest are “(a)n assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that ‘the sun will come out tomorrow.'” One of the poison-tongued prof’s own former journalism students, Kirsten Scharnberg Hampton, took him to task for citing faulty demographic statistics, derisively stereotyping hunters and falsely accusing a local newspaper of “splashing” the headline “He Is Risen” across its front page (it was a small, boxed quotation marking Easter Sunday).
But the damage was done; the bait dangled. And at the overwhelmingly white “NBC Nightly News” on Sunday, Andrea Mitchell swallowed the Iowa-bashing chum whole — and then dutifully regurgitated the attack on the state as, “Too white, too evangelical, too rural.” She was quick to slip in a “critics say” disclaimer, of course. But let’s not kid ourselves about the network’s prejudices.
This is the same news organization that attempted to conduct Islamophobia stings at NASCAR races to expose how racist racing fans supposedly were; whose “Meet the Press” host David Gregory smeared GOP leaders as “Grand Wizards” in November; and whose execs were forced to apologize last month for MSNBC goons who falsely linked GOP candidate Mitt Romney to the Ku Klux Klan.
One local Hawkeye State veteran journalist, David Yepsen, tried to correct the coastal myth of the redneck-hick-outlier Iowa voter by politely pointing out Barack Obama’s triumph in the 2008 Democratic caucuses at the hands of, yes, mostly white voters. Moreover, over the past four presidential election seasons, the Iowa popular vote has “closely tracked national preferences.”
Census statistics show that the majority of Iowans are urban, not rural; the median age is 38 (nationally, it’s 36.7); and out of a population of 3 million people statewide, some 90,000 are farming families. But snobs and demagogues on both sides of the aisle eschewed the facts and instead indulged in racial and class warfare. The Hispanic News website issued a clarion call: “In Diverse and Urban Nation, Time to Kick Iowa White, Racist Farmers to Curb.” GOP strategist Roger Stone, who spearheaded the bungled bid to turn statist, pro-bailout, eminent-domain abuser Donald Trump into a Tea Party/GOP “Mr. Everyman” candidate, also jumped ugly. He railed against Iowans as a “bunch of hayseeds” who are “not representative of America today.”
More Iowa sins according to Stone: “The food is awful, the people are stout, and a lot of them smoke.”
If only a utopian state of non-smoking, vegetarian supermodels and “Apprentice” reality-show contestants had first-in-the-nation status. Imagine how much better off we’d all be.
Joking aside, I’d have no problem with a rotating, kick-off caucus slot. But intermingled with the bi-coastal bigotry against Iowa is the distinct odor of sore-loser-dom. Split voters in Iowa simply reflected the wider discontent among grassroots conservatives and tea party activists with the current Pageant of the Imperfects.
Besides, Iowa caucus critics have had years to change the status quo. Like some of Tuesday’s big losers, the whingers and whiners who complain about the process have failed to get their act together. All talk, no follow-through.
Take Newt Gingrich. The vaunted intellectual field marshal of the GOP whose campaign bubble quickly burst under the weight of his own gross incompetence blamed his fall on money, staff, a “failed system,” negative ads and the electorate’s inability to appreciate “big ideas.”
But if you can’t convert a surge into an electoral win, if you can’t effectively rebut opponents’ charges without resorting to tears and tantrums, and — most damaging for Gingrich — if you can’t put people on the ground in places like Iowa and Virginia who can deliver votes and signatures when it counts, how can you win a general election? Frankly, to use a favorite Gingrich verbal crutch, the fault lies in just one place: on Gingrich’s shoulders.
When I was a kid, we took something called the Iowa Test of Basic Skills — a nationally standardized test of minimum competence in core subjects. The Iowa caucuses serve a similar purpose. When campaigns fail to meet the most elementary requirements of organizational politics, don’t blame the messengers. Blame the test-takers.