Tuesday night, as is the case every four years, this great nation looked to Iowa to kick off its most important political campaign.
Today, of course, as is also the case every four years, most folks will go back to forgetting about the existence of the land of tall corn and big pigs. Iowa, after all, is a place of sodbusters in a nation increasingly defined by urban bustle. Iowa is far more rural and far less diverse than the voters looking to it for guidance, meaning its advice isn’t necessarily meaningful to the rest of the nation.
The Iowa residents making decisions on which presidential candidates pass muster and should be passed on to the greater voting public nationwide are about as poor a reflection of that public as any of the 50 choices for the first state to vote in an election year. And, because being first can mean being highly influential, candidates each election season will fall from party slates because Iowans don’t fancy them.
That makes no sense. Which raises an obvious question: Why Iowa?
About all it has to recommend it as the kickoff state is a tradition of starting in the center of the country.
Which raises another obvious question: Why not begin this presidential melee in Missouri? Iowa, after all, has a measly 54.5 residents per mile, in a nation that averages 87.4. Missouri has 87.1.
Iowa’s biggest metropolitan area is the nation’s 88th largest. Missouri boasts St. Louis (18th largest) and Kansas City (29th largest).
Iowa’s African-American population is only 2.9 percent. But it’s 12.6 percent in the United States and 11.6 percent in Missouri.
And Iowa’s white population of 91.3 percent puts it out of touch with the national 72.4 percent. Missouri’s 82.8 percent is much closer to being a reflection of America.
Beyond that, Missouri voters accurately reflect a divided U.S. voting public. While Missourians did opt for Republican John McCain over Democratic winner Barack Obama in 2008, the margin of victory was 0.1 percent, the closest of any state. Despite that outcome, even the left-leaning Huffington Post suggests Missouri makes much more sense to start this presidential election process.
It also doesn’t help the process that after leaving Iowa, the presidential campaign moves to the even less-diverse and less-reflective New Hampshire.
The early days of the presidential primaries are too important to be governed by antiquated tradition. We suggest a rotating regional primary system that would best serve the nation. Certainly not a system of caucuses, because they are far poorer reflections of popular will than a vote.
But as the will for a complete overhaul seems lacking, at least Americans deserve to have a better bellwether to influence the process.
None of this is meant as an insult to our northern neighbors. Iowa is a wonderful place to set a fanciful baseball movie, or buy pork products.
But to get a good sense of what modern America is thinking about in electing the next world leader, Missouri makes much more sense. Let Missouri live up to its “show-me” status in a big way when the 2016 presidential election rolls around.
Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.