IVN News

OPINION: The Irrationality of Iowa and N.H. Going First in Presidential Elections

Paid Advertisement

NPR and other media outlets have aired interviews with Iowans on why Iowa always gets to go first. Who goes second gets far less coverage, but the same logic presumably applies. If what some Iowans say is representative of at least half of its residents, most are an arrogant bunch. More disturbingly but not surprisingly, Iowans are not logical.

The Iowa is Best ‘Rationale’

Like most empty political rhetoric, there is usually a big disconnect between rhetoric and the real world. The rational for why Iowa and New Hampshire should always go first and second fits that pattern.

For Iowa, one politically active Iowan argues this:

“The real reason we’re first in the nation now is because of what we do. We take this real seriously . . . . You know, we ask really good questions. We ask follow-up questions . . . . We look them in the eye like I am you right now. It’s real. It’s one-on-one vetting of candidates. Are you for real? Not a TV spot, not money — what’s in your heart?”

Ah yes, that’s the good old, tried and true, being serious, asking questions and follow-ups and looking into someone’s eyeballs to see their hearts rationale.

Looking into eyes and hearts falls short of former President Bush’s more sophisticated looking into eyeballs and souls tactic, but it’s a good start. As Bush put it regarding his tactic as applied to Vladimir Putin: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. . . . I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

That worked out well, didn’t it? Anyway, eyeball and heart-looking is one reason for Iowa first.

Most residents (maybe 99%) in most other states have zero (0%) chance to look any candidate in the eye and ask anything.

Among other things, that vacuous drivel ignores the fact that candidates don’t spend nearly as much time in other states. Most residents (maybe 99%) in most other states have zero (0%) chance to look any candidate in the eye and ask anything.

How many cozy town hall meetings have all major candidates held in California, Texas, Colorado, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Montana, Ohio, Nebraska, or dozens of other states since last June? None is much closer to the mark than 20. Zero is probably the correct answer for every one of those states.

Obviously, the feeble “Iowa is best rationale” implies that since Iowans pay attention, no one else does, thus no other state deserves to go first. That’s sheer nonsense. And deeply offensive.

Another Iowa first rationale rejects the obvious differences between Iowa and the rest of the country. An Iowan rebuttal to that argument is this:

“Is it fair that Iowa goes first? What’s fair in politics? I mean, seriously. Yeah, OK, we’re like 97 percent white, and we’re really rural, and we don’t look like a microcosm of America. But so what?”

Ah yes, that’s the good old rock-solid, undebatable, “but so what” rationale coupled with the “politics isn’t fair” sucker punch. At least the admission of unfairness strikes a chord of reality. That’s one plucked string of the foul harp that rings true.

A third rationale is the good old, “if not Iowa then who?” argument. The painfully obvious answer to that non-rationale is easier than falling off a slippery log: Anyone but Iowa and New Hampshire, even if it is Hawaii, Mississippi, Pennsylvania or Delaware.

An Indefensible, Irrational Process

The enormous impact of Iowa and New Hampshire on selecting presidential candidates is indefensible and irrational. In Iowa, it skews the process at the national level via an indefensibly arcane caucus process.

For Iowa, only 20-25% of the voting age population usually participate in its caucuses. With a population of 3.1 million and about 2.1 million registered voters, a grand total of about 420,000 to 525,000 Iowa voters get to significantly decide who the rest of us get to support.

Those lucky few out of the over 150 million registered American voters have a chance to look into candidates’ eyes, see candidates’ hearts, ask their questions, follow-up questions and then decide in their cozy, small-state comfort who the rest of us can get to vote for.

To be fair, many or most Iowa and New Hampshire residents may not feel superior about their unwarranted role. Americans are not always blinded by their ideology or morals. Some understand the unfairness inherent in our system of politics.

With America’s incompetent, corrupt two-party system, things usually (not always) are the way they are because that serves the two parties’ perceived needs. If Iowa forever goes first and New Hampshire forever second, that is because the two parties believe that serves their own interests. Rationality or fairness has nothing to do with it.

Photo Source: AP

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


Learn More About IVN

136 comments
Jeff Maddux
Jeff Maddux

Parliamentary elections happen in 6 weeks. Hold one universal nationwide primary just before the national conventions. No State does or can represent all states, and no citizens should have any more or less say than any other citizens. It's called equality.

Dian Hammack
Dian Hammack

The Democratic turnout was low as well compared to 2008, but I'm sorry, can't remember the percentages.

Howard Macrae
Howard Macrae

Doesn't each state (or certainly one of them) have a law that requires it to go before anyone else?

Harry Miller
Harry Miller

Austin Bobo then democrats could flood republican primaries and vice versa causing havoc resulting with cries to stop the insanity.

Robert Bixler
Robert Bixler

Austin Bobo, eliminate all political parties and then what you advocate works, sort of.

Robert Bixler
Robert Bixler

Either have one national primary day or four regional primaries on consecutive Tuesdays.

Deborah Hughes
Deborah Hughes

You are right they are rigged both democrats and republicans don't want the people to pick who they want

Deborah Hughes
Deborah Hughes

The iowa results were rigged trump and Bernie should have won

Gary DeFilippo
Gary DeFilippo

The whole idea of people yell at each other to caucus with them is ridiculous. The fact that precinct winners are decided by a coin flip makes it even more absurd. Why candidates for president continue to perpetuate this nonsense is perplexing. 180k people yelling at each other is not an elective process that should be payed attention to.

Freddy Lent
Freddy Lent

That's not true, because candidates have lost both states and have gone on to become President.

Johnny Dean
Johnny Dean

They do that so the media can focus their coverage on a single event. That way they can try to convince us that anyone who isn't mainstream has no chance of winning and we should vote for a Republican/Democrat.

Fred Mehren
Fred Mehren

Iowa first is total BS, only about 20% of them even vote so why is this even worth all the media coverage. If you had 80% voting it might be worth talking about but as it is, a waste of time.

John Hurley
John Hurley

Why do any of this. Just vote in November. If there are 20 candidates on the ballot there are 20 candidates on the ballot.

Chris Costa
Chris Costa

I'm voting next Tuesday! First in the nation!

Mark Welker
Mark Welker

if they didnt go 1st,no one would give a crap about them.....we are talking 11 electoral votes total here.

Kevin E. Goodrich
Kevin E. Goodrich

Harry Miller, that is true but highly unlikely as to be statistically impossible. Better chance of winning the lottery actually. Unfortunately, in this day and age, just the opposite is far more likely and has come to fruition depending on what side of the issue you fall on when one candidate wins the popular vote but loses the election. Austin Bobo . . . Again, not if you have law. Yes, you would be correct in a pure democracy. No one has that outside of the playground. We are discussing nations here specifically the U.S. All democracies, whatever form they may take are bound by the rule of law . . . Germany, is a much fuller democracy and votes on nearly everything and still can not vote away rights protected under the law.

Jim Womack
Jim Womack

IT makes no sense. The Iowa caucus is just a cluster f##k.

Luis Barreto Lugo
Luis Barreto Lugo

Christian Cruz stole the votes away from Carson and Cruz would never have beaten Trump if he didn't steal Carson's votes.

Harry Miller
Harry Miller

Only for people that don't know we are a republic. A republic that's unique in this world. A republic set up to protect small states from being consumed by the large states.

Harry Miller
Harry Miller

No way. Too much power to big states. They should go last.

Austin Bobo
Austin Bobo

Mob rule is exactly what a democracy is. Rule by the masses. Where the majority by can vote away the rights of the minority.

Harry Miller
Harry Miller

Kevin E. Goodrich in a democracy someone could win 49 states by 1,000 votes each state. Then, let's say New York, that candidate loses by 50,000 votes. He would lose the election all due to 1 state. Small states need protection and large states need not have too much power.

Austin Bobo
Austin Bobo

Harry Miller, considering taxpayers fund the primaries, we should be able to vote in whatever primary we want without associating with any party. As soon as the parties want to foot their own bill, they can set whatever rules they want.

Harry Miller
Harry Miller

The electoral college helps protect small states from larger states.

Harry Miller
Harry Miller

The electoral college is still proper today. Protects small states from large states. Why people keep calling us a democracy when we aren't. We are a republic. In a democracy a candidate could win 49 states by 100 votes each and lose 1 state by 5,000 votes and lose the election. So a big state like New York or California could determine an election almost on their own.

Harry Miller
Harry Miller

Independents can if their party had candidates. They chose that party. If you let them vote whatever party they wanted then you'd have to allow republicans to vote in democrat primary and vice versa. That how Illinois does it and it's wrong. Crossover primary votes.

Robert Price
Robert Price

Larry Reinsch you really didn't explain or detail anything.

Kevin E. Goodrich
Kevin E. Goodrich

Further being a full democracy does not equate to mob rule. As a nation of laws you can vote on everything but could not say pass a law that said you could require every third ginger to become a jazz musician . . .

Kevin E. Goodrich
Kevin E. Goodrich

We are a representative republic. We are further a nation of laws. We the people can change those laws according to the constitution and the law. Further, we can and have amended or reinterpreted the constitution according to the law.

Russ Bischoff
Russ Bischoff

– Ted Cruz is a big time phony masquerading as a " constitutional conservative ", which doesn't mean crap, when he's just using it to distract conservative Americans from the fact that he's selling us out. Over the past several decades, all that our traitorous politicians from both parties have been doing is selling out the American People, by stalling, spending, removing protections and allowing illegal aliens to continue to pour in and American jobs and industries to pour out, and all while collecting their American tax-payer funded paychecks, benefits and whatever else they get on the side from their various lobbyist friends. Our Constitution is Great – Our Traitorous Trade and Immigration Policies are Not For the last 25-years our government has allowed and enabled our country's industries to get sucked out to countries like communist China, India and Mexico and allowed illegal aliens and foreign H1B / H2B visa workers to continue to pour into our country and take away income-tax-paying American's jobs and drive down wages. Good news for the American People would be more full time jobs without getting benefits taken away – And we all know that that's not happening. Politicians and media pundits masquerading as " constitutional conservatives " doesn't mean crap, if they’re just using it to distract conservative Americans from the fact that they're selling us out. Our huge trade deficits and indebtedness to foreign countries like communist China are obviously not in the best interest of our country or the American people. It's Not Rocket Science – Since the free traitors have had their way of it, our largest export has been American jobs and money. Bringing manufacturing back home to the USA is going to end up being not only a key to restoring our economy, but to maintaining our national security as well. We need actual loyal American leaders who will put the best interests of our own citizens and country first and foremost, especially our veterans. Let's face it, if it wasn't for Trump, our politicians and media would still be talking about peripheral social issues rather than the core issues facing the American people.

Rich Isaak
Rich Isaak

I live in NH & wish our state went later for a selfish reason. I am worn out from pollsters calling all hours of the day. Every election cycle it starts earlier & earlier. This time around we're averaging ten calls per day for the past six months!

Beverly Lawrence
Beverly Lawrence

They dont represent what is typical in the US, Maybe CA to NY should be first.

Donald Joyner
Donald Joyner

The whole process is stupid starting with the debates!

Rohn Wagner
Rohn Wagner

Yes it is. For IA and NH is all about money. They make a lot off being first. They know if they weren't first nobody would go there. That would be a serious hit to their small economies.

Austin Bobo
Austin Bobo

The electoral college is part of what makes us a constitutional republic. Pure popular vote is a democracy, it is rule by the masses, it is mob rule.

Kevin E. Goodrich
Kevin E. Goodrich

I am sure you are correct . . . but . . . if we are going to have a peaceful revolution and have a real voice in our government again . . . why not go big?

Austin Bobo
Austin Bobo

Sounds low considering record breaking numbers showed up by a large margin.

Austin Bobo
Austin Bobo

The solution is to put all states on Super Tuesday. Also it is states that decide when they are. For example, Alabama used to be in June... They did whatever the process involved is, and now it is on Super Tuesday (March 1st).

Austin Bobo
Austin Bobo

Putting aside the 24 hrs for a min. If all polls nationwide were open at the same time.... Let's say polls opened on the East coast at 7am, that puts Hawaii opening at 2am. If Hawaii closes at 7 pm, that puts the East coast closing at midnight. 24 hours would involve multiple shifts of poll workers.

Larry Reinsch
Larry Reinsch

I lived even on the wester coast than you ( Alaska ) and that is why news reports shouldn't be reported till all voting is done and all poles should be open for a 24 hr day and should all open at the exact same time.

Sonny Vargas
Sonny Vargas

Do them at the same time just like an election

Marge Miller
Marge Miller

Ben Hardin , anything to change the status quo