Point of View Columns

United States of Iowa?

In Iowa in January of 2012 the G.O.Tea Party Cavalcade of Clowns gets about a serious as it can get. The Iowa caucus, an arcane series of mini-town meetings, will convene and tell us something about who the Republican Party may nominate as the next president of the United States.

This is so bizarre on so many levels it is hard to know where to start. During the past six months the right wing of the right wing has attempted to entertain us with visions of Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann as president. And just when we are able to catch our breath and stop laughing for a moment, here comes Herman Cain quoting Donna Summer quoting Pokemon – it is impossible to make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, with grim determination and perseverance Mitt Romney seems intent on proving that he can become president by saying anything and everything at anytime. And if that is not enough, while Ron Paul is advocating the virtual dismantling of the federal government, Newt Gingrich continues to try to convince someone other than himself that he really is the smartest person in the room.

The Republican Party will begin to sort out the winners from this bag of losers in Iowa. And that is, to be honest quite amazing. Iowa is about as representative of the United States as Disney World. The urban population of the United States is in excess of 75%; the urban population of Iowa is barely 60%. The minority population of the United States is estimated to be 37%, in Iowa the number is 10%.

Iowa is a state where 25.4% of its citizens classify themselves as white Evangelicals. Black Protestants account for barely 2% of the population of the Hawkeye state. This is hardly what America looks like in the 21st century.

That a state that is so out of synch with the rest of the country would have such a disproportionate impact on the 2012 presidential election would be ludicrous if it wasn’t true. But it is true.

As a result, the G.O.Tea Party virtually commands any viable Republican candidate to veer towards the right wing of the right wing to have any opportunity to be successful. Calling Barack Obama a “secular socialist” actually gets votes in Iowa. Referring to the federal government as “the enemy” can be a guarantee of support and endorsements.

Suggesting that a national health care system might be a compassionate solution to the wreckage of the current system of caring for the ill would be the equivalent of political suicide in Iowa. Proposing a bi-partisan approach to budgetary reform would only benefit the competition when campaigning in Iowa.

Of course Iowa is only one small state out of fifty, but it has an influence on the future of this country that is all out of proportion to its reflection of American opinions, ideals and perspectives. And, given that the next two primaries are in New Hampshire and South Carolina, it is clear that whatever common sense might have existed among the Cavalcade of Clowns will be squeezed out and washed away by the time February of 2012 rolls around.

Democrats will probably rejoice at the notion of pure, distilled, right wing ideologue being the eventual nominee of the Republican Party. On the other hand, we should all be concerned that, in the process of this train wreck of a presidential selection no good can arise.

Republicans, Democrats and Independents should be concerned that the views of the minority of the minority will have so much influence on the selection of a person who could be the next president of the United States. The Obama election team probably welcomes the imbalance – a more nuanced opponent would be troublesome.

However, as citizens we are disadvantaged by the lack of reasonable choices and the elevation of the bizarre and the radical to mainstream consideration.
It is difficult to imagine Ron Paul – he’s the one who would get rid of the Federal Reserve Bank (causing a global economic meltdown) and dismantle the
departments of Energy, Education and Commerce – is the leading candidate in Iowa.

Newt Gingrich, the sincerely damaged and personally compromised combination of bombast and self-promotion was the leading candidate last week. Mitt Romney, who never met a right wing idea that he couldn’t embrace because he has no moral compass is always there as a competitor.

Is this really the best that the G.O.Tea Party can do? Democrats may rejoice but the country as a whole can only be dismayed.

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