Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Iowa a lousy bellweather?

h/t Ezra Klein who links to this by Emily Thorson:

The TV coverage I've been watching has implied that New Hampshire is a crazy comeback surprise and Iowa is somehow the "real" result. I think they're wrong. Iowa is the anomaly, because of the bizarre public forum that is the Iowa caucus. You know why Hillary does worse in a caucus? Because women who are leaning Hillary go to the caucus with their husbands, and he says "Let's go for Obama" or "Let's go for Edwards" and she says "Well, all right then" because she doesn't want to spend the next hour sitting alone in the Hillary group. I've sat through a caucus. This is how it works.

I think Emily is really on to something here. The Iowa Caucuses, because they come first, are somehow given a special place in the discussion of electoral politics. But really, how often have they matched the results of the rest of the nation?

And my wife just made an excellent point to me when I read the above to her: What about people who simply don't want to express their political opinion in public? A lot of people don't like talking about politics, even if they feel strongly about it. A lot of people simply don't like speaking out in public at all. The Iowa caucuses are tailor-made to discriminate not just in the way Emily says but also against those who don't want to or can't (for practical reasons) participate.

I am actually a very social person as well as very political, so a caucus sounds like a lot of fun to me. But a lot of people don't like it and will never like it and thus Iowa is simply not representative of this country and is a poor bellweather for American politics.


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