The Iowa Caucus is in the News
Remember the Iowa Straw Polls? They were hilarious.
Looks like Iowa is about to lose its First in the Nation status for 2024, and of course Iowa is fuming. I say it’s about time. There is nothing representative about Iowa and there never has been. It’s almost pure white in a country that prides itself on our diversity. It’s small, with more farmland than municipalities, and it’s far away from almost anything. Being First in the Nation was never more than a token. An undeserved gift.
I used to have a soft spot for Iowa, way back before it dispelled any notions I might have had about its enlightenment by turning blood red. It was such a lovely place once. Or so it seemed.
Iowa City is the home of the famed U of Iowa Writers Workshop. I’d heard about its magnificence from every corner of my writing world long before a trip down I-80 took us right to the spot where it all happens. We drove through campus at my insistence for no other reason than that I wanted to latch onto some of those writerly vibes. I half expected to see Raymond Carver or Marilynne Robinson or the ghost of Flannery O’Connor wandering along the pathways.
Further west through Iowa we came across the gorgeous hilly patchwork fields lining both sides of the freeway, and my images of Iowa as similar to flat, dry Kansas went right out the window. Iowa was beautiful. The people we met along the way were smart and well-spoken and seemed to personify the best of the Midwest.
I don’t know how it happened, but as I watched Iowa drift into Rightwingedness over the years, I felt a kind of grief. Then, after a while, I found I could laugh at them. Because so much of what went on there, outside of Iowa City and away from the patchwork quilt splendor, was just wickedly funny. No other way to put it.
This is an example. It’s a piece I wrote for my blog, Ramona’s Voices, first in 2011, and then as a reminder in 2015. (Link at end.)
No More Making Fun of the Iowa Straw Poll. Except This One Last Time
June 12, 2015: Just got the news that Iowa has decided to dump their traditional GOP fundraiser, their presidential-hopeful-quasi-indicator-of-nothing, their old-fashioned, hilariously awful Iowa Barbecue and Straw Poll . I thought I would be happy when they finally took my advice and got rid of that thing, but now I feel sad. I've laughed so much over their shenanigans, I feel the way I do whenever a favorite comedy show bites the dust. Sad, but so glad for the memories.
Here, then, is my memory of the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll festivities, first published the day after the Party's big party.
There will always be Iowa. . .
POLITICAL TIDDLY-WINKS IN IOWA. THE CORN DOG WON
Good God and Lordy, people, is there anything more ludicrous on the political scene than what happens in Iowa whenever the Republicans don't have a Grand Poobah candidate for President? This year it was a big barbecue in Ames where just under 17,000 people 16 1/2 years old and over got to pay their $30 to "vote" for a candidate and then party afterward. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul were the "winners". And, not surprisingly, the emperor wore no clothes.
The main function of the Iowa Straw Poll is to draw in money for the Republican Party and for the towns in Iowa that hold the straw polls. That should be enough for those folks, but even given proof of the historical insignificance of the poll and it's non-role in the winning of presidencies, the press falls all over itself to turn it into something it's not now and never will be. As a political forecaster, it's record is pitiful. Rarely if ever does the Straw Poll winner win the Iowa Caucus, much less the presidency. So let's just get over the "importance" of yesterday's vote in Ames, Iowa and have a little fun with it, okay?
Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker:
Calling the results of today’s Iowa straw poll “alarming,” Standard and Poor’s took the unprecedented action of downgrading Iowa’s IQ.
While the effects of such an extraordinary measure are hard to predict, experts say the IQ downgrade could result in Iowans having difficulty completing sentences or operating a television remote.
“This downgrade would be very upsetting to Republicans in Iowa,” said an S & P spokesman. “Fortunately, there’s no way they’ll understand it.”
At the Fairgrounds, where the Big Barbecue was going on, Ron Paul had something called the "Prosperity Playground", where you could slide down the "Sliding Dollar" slide and just be a kid again.
Ujala Sehgal writes about it and more in this piece in the Atlantic. Man, those kids had fun!
The Ames Patch took to judging the candidates' tent sizes. (Link no longer available.) Thaddeus McCotter's may have been the smallest, at an embarrassing 30x30 feet, but Tim Pawlenty's took the prize as the largest, at 200 sq. ft. over Michele Bachmann's 10,000 foot air-conditioned whopper.
I'm hearing rumors this morning that Pawlenty is already thinking of dropping out of the race, so I hope he had a great time there in Ames. Something should come out of all that effort, at least. (News flash: It's true. Pawlenty has dropped out. Of the entire presidential race! All because of the Iowa Straw Poll! Am I going to have to rethink this whole thing? Am I just not getting it??)
Okay, I started this out absolutely refusing to even consider including that truly awful, truly obscene un-Photo-Shopped photo of Michele Bachmann deliriously munching a very long corn dog, but I changed my mind.
No, wait. I can't. Just can't. You can Google it. You know that, right?
But I will say this: What happens in Iowa should have the decency to stay in Iowa. Really.
It should be noted that Iowa didn’t really end their straw votes. They’re still doing them. Chuck Grassley won this year’s State Fair Straw Poll. I’m not kidding.
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