Some­one needs to de­fend Iowa and its peo­ple

Antelope Valley Press - - OPINION - Mark Shields

We have reached that time in ev­ery pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing year when dis­tin­guished, na­tional opin­ion lead­ers beat up on Iowa and that ad­mirable state’s in­flu­en­tial role in de­ter­min­ing the two ma­jor par­ties’ even­tual pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees and, there­fore, the next pres­i­dent.

The USA To­day Editorial Board in­dicts Iowa for be­ing “one of the least eth­ni­cally di­verse states in the coun­try” and its sta­tus as the first-in-the-na­tion pres­i­den­tial test ev­ery four years as “un-Amer­i­can,” while Paul Wald­man writes in The Wash­ing­ton

Post that the Iowa cau­cuses “are a crime against democ­racy.”

It is time some­one stood up for Iowa and Iowans. It’s true that Iowa is nei­ther very rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the en­tire na­tion nor very av­er­age. Schol­arly stud­ies have ranked Iowa as tied for first place in per­cent­age of the adult pop­u­la­tion who are high school grad­u­ates.

Iowans are fourth high­est in ac­cess to health care (more “rep­re­sen­ta­tive” Florida and Texas rank 46th and 47th re­spec­tively in cit­i­zens’ ac­cess to health care); first in broad­band ac­cess; and third high­est in pub­lic li­braries per capita.

True, the Hawk­eye State leads the na­tion in pro­duc­tion of corn, soy­beans and pork, but Iowans are at the top of the na­tion in lit­er­acy and the state has the U.S.’s 14th low­est mur­der rate.

But Iowa re­mains a small, ru­ral state in the mid­dle of the coun­try. How rep­re­sen­ta­tive can its vot­ers be of the na­tion at large? The an­swer: Amaz­ingly so. In 1992, Demo­crat Bill Clin­ton won 43% of the na­tional vote and the White House; in Iowa, Clin­ton won 43% of the vote. In 1996, win­ner Clin­ton car­ried 49% of the na­tional vote and 50% of the Iowa vote. In 2000, Demo­crat Al Gore won the na­tional vote by one-half of 1% and Iowa by onethird of 1%. Repub­li­can Ge­orge W Bush won re­elec­tion in 2004 with 51% of the na­tional vote and 50% in Iowa. Demo­crat Barack Obama, in 2008, got 53% of the na­tional vote and 54% of Iowans. In 2012, Obama was re­elected na­tion­ally by a mar­gin of 4% and in Iowa by 5%. In 2016, the ex­cep­tion: Don­ald Trump, who lost the na­tional vote by 2% to Hil­lary Clin­ton, car­ried Iowa by a solid 10%.

Yes, Iowa’s 2008 Demo­cratic cau­cuses were 93% white, and those mid-Amer­i­can Cau­casians made his­tory by giv­ing le­git­i­macy and mo­men­tum to a fresh­man se­na­tor from Illi­nois, Barack Obama. In Iowa, the African Amer­i­can un­der­dog won an up­set vic­tory over the heav­ily fa­vored for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton and was pro­pelled to the top of the na­tional polls.

In fact, the rest of us owe Iowa our thanks. Iowans faith­fully and earnestly ful­fill their civil re­spon­si­bil­i­ties by show­ing up at cam­paign town halls and lis­ten­ing and ques­tion­ing the men and women who seek the White House.

They take their re­spon­si­bil­ity se­ri­ously and then, on a cold win­ter night, hun­dreds of thou­sands of Iowans leave their homes and go to the lo­cal church hall, fire­house or school gym and spend a cou­ple of hours declar­ing and de­fend­ing their pres­i­den­tial pref­er­ence openly in front of neigh­bors and friends. In the cau­cus, fire­fight­ers join shoul­der-to-shoul­der with nurses, teach­ers, re­tirees, stu­dents and small busi­ness­women in truly vi­brant democ­racy.

Here in Iowa, be­cause Iowans give them a full and fair chance, the un­der-fi­nanced, un­der­dog can­di­date has a real chance.

It was in Iowa that Jimmy Carter broke through and where Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s up­set win would lead to his be­ing cho­sen vice pres­i­dent. Thank you, Iowa, for serv­ing the na­tion so well.

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