Both states have been criticized as unrepresentative of the country given their size and lack of racial diversity. Iowa — population 3 million — is 95 percent white; New Hampshire — population 1.3 million — is 96 percent white. Democrats tried to inject more diversity into the process by adding early contests in Nevada and South Carolina, but Iowa and New Hampshire moved even earlier.
The system became so scrambled last year that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner was prepared to move the primary into December to keep ahead of other states that scheduled their own early primaries and caucuses. If anything, the front-loaded calendar made Iowa and New Hampshire more important.
Gardner and other defenders of New Hampshire say the country — and the candidates — are well-served because the primary requires close contact with voters, not just a big advertising budget and name recognition.
I was in Des Moines and Ames in the early fall, and I must say that, as small and landlocked and white and rural as Iowa is, I would be happy to give an opening bid in our electoral process to its warm and generous and serious people. But this is not what the caucus racket actually does. What it does is give the whip hand to the moneyed political professionals, to the full-time party hacks and manipulators, to the shady pollsters and the cynical media boosters, and to the supporters of fringe and crackpot candidates. It is impossible that the Republican Party could be saddled with a clown like Huckabee if there were a serious primary in Iowa, let alone if the process were kicked off in Chicago or Los Angeles or Atlanta. (Remember that not Iowa but its “caucuses” put Pat Robertson ahead of George H.W. Bush in the race for the GOP nomination in 1988.) The process might be a good way for Iowa to pick its party convention delegates, though I frankly doubt even that. It is an absolutely terrible way in which to select candidates for the presidency, and it makes the United States look and feel like a banana republic both at home and overseas.
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