Posted on | December 22, 2011 | 10 Comments
Mob violence is rare in Iowa, but National Review‘s Jim Geraghty would be well-advised to avoid any gatherings of Hawkeye State Republicans after he blasphemed against the Sacred Caucuses this morning.
A special kind of prejudice causes pundits to disparage the campaign Holy Trinity of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — the crucial early states that have dominated the presidential nominating process for more than three decades now.
What the pundits want is an orderly system that delivers credible Big Name nominees quickly, so that the pundits can then cover the Main Event between the Serious Contenders. What the traditional process provides, however, is an extended, unpredictable and at times anarchic struggle in which Big Names often flop, while voters sometimes deliver enough votes to Obscure Underdogs to embarrass the Political Wizards who had predicted victory for the Big Names.
Let the reader do some research as to what the pundits were prognosticating in autumn 2007, and cite examples in the comments if you wish. My own memory is that all the Political Wizards were wondering which of the alleged GOP front-runners — Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney — would emerge victorious to take on the Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Oh, those damned voters!
Three months ago, right before those Florida GOP bastards wrecked Christmas by jumping their primary date to Jan. 31, I briefly stated the case for the early-state tradition in an American Spectator column:
. . . There are logical reasons why the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries, especially, have become sacrosanct as the first events of the quadrennial presidential campaign calendar. Both are states with small populations (Iowa about 3 million, New Hampshire about 1.3 million) where TV and radio advertising are relatively cheap. This permits little-known long-shots with small budgets to campaign on a fairly even playing field with better-known and better-funded candidates. Furthermore, Iowa and New Hampshire are states where retail politics — the old-fashioned business of shaking hands and meeting voters one-on-one or in small meetings — are a huge factor in the campaign. Barack Obama famously beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa four years ago because of Obama’s greater strength in grassroots organizing, and Jimmy Carter won New Hampshire in 1976 by bringing scores of Georgians (the “Peanut Brigades”) to go door-to-door for him in the Granite State. So unless we wish presidential campaigns to become all about money and what pollsters call “name ID,” having Iowa and New Hampshire go first looks like a good idea.
Yet we ought not confine ourselves to merely logical reasons for keeping Iowa and New Hampshire first. Aren’t Republicans conservatives, and don’t conservatives believe in the value of tradition? There is something wonderfully traditional — indeed, downright reactionary — about having presidential candidates go through the quaint custom of waiting for returns from tiny precinct caucuses in Iowa and shaking hands with voters in the snowy streets of small-town New Hampshire in February. Nor are these traditions merely sentimental. The pragmatic and utilitarian value of tradition is evident in that voters of Iowa and New Hampshire, long accustomed to their role in vetting presidential candidates of both parties, have become quite shrewd judges in these matters. A joke told by Tim Albrecht, spokesman for Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad, is quite relevant here: An Iowa Republican is asked whether he supports a certain presidential candidate and answers, “I don’t know. I’ve only met him twice.” Early-state voters are not over-awed by “rock star” candidates and media hype, because they’ve seen it all so many times before. Such is the real value of tradition. . . .
Read the whole thing. Either Jim Geraghty ignored that column or else his Fear and Loathing of Iowa is so profound he could not be persuaded to abandon his hateful vendetta against the Hawkeye State.
Iowans are a gentle and peaceful people, and it’s unlikely they would seek revenge against Geraghty. On the other hand, rural Iowa is a lonely place, and if a journalist were to make a wrong turn somewhere between Pella and Oskaloosa, he might find himself confronted by an outraged Iowan with a long memory: “Did you say ‘Geraghty’? Wait a minute, feller, whilst I fetch my hog-slaughtering knife . . .”
Out in the cornfields, they say, no one can hear you scream.