King Corn is all the reason we need for Iowa to not go first in 2016

posted at 4:01 pm on March 1, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

I’ve pretty much given up hope on the idea of our entrenched political system doing anything significant about this in my lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t remain a burr under my saddle. The subject, as you might have already guessed, is this baffling, illogical addiction that our political parties have to letting the same handful of tiny states exercise gravitational influence on our presidential elections far exceeding their mass year after year. This archaic feature of our presidential primary system has been in place since before many of our younger readers were born, and even though Iowa and New Hampshire achieved this enshrined status almost entirely by accident, they now hang onto it like bulldogs with a tasty bone.

Maybe it works for Democrats… maybe not. (It gave them Jimmy Carter, even though he placed second to “uncommitted” in 1976.) But it shouldn’t work for Republicans. And no matter how you may feel about “retaining the power of the smaller states” we should all be able to agree by now that the real power in Iowa isn’t the grassroots… it’s the cornfields.

The ethanol requirement, conceived to encourage renewable energy, has been sustained despite its counterproductive effects by the lobbying of a rising ethanol-agribusiness complex and the politics of those first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, held among the sprawling cornfields of the Hawkeye State. From 1988 to 2004, I was part of that process as an adviser to Democratic presidential candidates. I thought it was a no-brainer to stump for ethanol and a no-go zone to oppose it.

At the start, the campaign promises reflected not only strategic calculation, but arguably the best of intentions. By now, it’s painfully and patently clear — and it has been for a while — that the ethanol mandate may be good politics, but it’s a putrid policy that pollutes the environment, propels global warming instead of slowing it, inflates food costs and imperils food supplies.

We’ve known about this problem for a long time and it infects both parties. We’ve known about it since even before a long ago episode of the West Wing painted a painful picture of the hypocritical candidates who bowed their heads and trudged off to Iowa to “take the pledge” or face rejection. Al Gore, John Kerry, Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and, yes, Barack Obama all did it. Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani all did it. As the linked article notes, the only notable exception was Rick Santorum, who barely eked out a 34 vote win there, but failed to get any immediate traction out of it.

Ethanol mandates need to go, but as long as every candidate seeking the nomination is forced to bend a knee to King Corn or risk stumbling out of the primary gate, nothing is going to change. And until Iowa Republicans can muster the gumption to rid themselves of this boondoggle, they should forfeit the “honor” of going first every four years.


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Hear, hear!

ladyingray on March 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

The RNC is going to do whatever is best for the RINOS.

ConstantineXI on March 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

King RINO is all we need for New York, etc., not to go first in 2016.

steebo77 on March 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Since the GOP is effectively to the regressive left of the Democrats of 1976… I am wondering why you think it should not be acceptable to the party.
This is not your father’s GOP. It might be your Great Grandfather’s GOP though, the same one that brought you things like the 16th and 17th amendments which have enabled the regressive tendencies of this government for over 100 years running now.

astonerii on March 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

I’ve said this before, but here goes again…

Establish 4 or 5 Dates for primary elections. Let the states draw randomly for slots on those dates. Every cycle could have a different lineup of primary states. What we do now is undemocratic and unfair.

I don’t need to have my primary choices pre-screened by Iowa or New Hampshire.

trigon on March 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

I don’t need to have my primary choices pre-screened by Iowa or New Hampshire.

trigon on March 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

You do not. It is the choice of both the candidate and their donors as to whether or not they are still available for you to vote for on your state’s primary ballot.

astonerii on March 1, 2014 at 4:12 PM

trigon on March 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

My state legislature voted to move from Super Tuesday (in February) to some day in March, making us even less effective.

ladyingray on March 1, 2014 at 4:13 PM

the primary system is a complete mess. there is no reason to have the first primary votes in blue states.
the first votes should come in strong red states, Oklahoma, texas etc…..either that or have them ALL on the same day.

and all primaries should be closed primaries

the way its done now means its rigged for liberals to get early leads.

Garyinaz66 on March 1, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Hear, hear!

ladyingray on March 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Exactly.

AshleyTKing on March 1, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Every State should have their primaries on the exact same day. Having the primaries on different days is a relic of a time when it took weeks to travel from one State to another State. California should not be held hostage to the voters in Iowa, nor should Texas be held hostage to Rhode Island.

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 4:22 PM

I’ve pretty much given up hope on the idea of our entrenched political system doing anything significant about this in my lifetime

Good. Then maybe we can go another cycle before you again rail on the admittedly ridiculous boondoggle that is ethanol, and the effect it has on the primary system and candidate’s positions.

I swear I see a picture of corn on HA’s front page and anymore I automatically assume the byline is Jazz.

This is going nowhere and we have about 9,999 more things to do in tis country that need fixing first.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on March 1, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Every State should have their primaries on the exact same day. Having the primaries on different days is a relic of a time when it took weeks to travel from one State to another State. California should not be held hostage to the voters in Iowa, nor should Texas be held hostage to Rhode Island.

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 4:22 PM

I would argue that is a good way to go about it. Then I remember how much money is needed to get your name out there and advertise to the 300,000,000 people in this nation. In effect, a single day primary would give us only establishment regressive candidates, popular regressive celebrity candidates or big money regressive candidates.

astonerii on March 1, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Every State should have their primaries on the exact same day. Having the primaries on different days is a relic of a time when it took weeks to travel from one State to another State. California should not be held hostage to the voters in Iowa, nor should Texas be held hostage to Rhode Island.

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 4:22 PM

I would argue that is a good way to go about it. Then I remember how much money is needed to get your name out there and advertise to the 300,000,000 people in this nation. In effect, a single day primary would give us only establishment regressive candidates, popular regressive celebrity candidates or big money regressive candidates.

astonerii on March 1, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Then perhaps it should be rotated every cycle so all primary voters get a real say in selecting. Our primary is not until May 20. Its already decided by then.

shubalstearns on March 1, 2014 at 4:39 PM

The left has made elections a science, fraud means nothing to them, recount until you win.

mixplix on March 1, 2014 at 4:41 PM

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Then I remember how much money is needed to get your name out there and advertise to the 300,000,000 people in this nation.
astonerii on March 1, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Yet, oddly enough, it never occurs to you, that the same amount of money is required regardless of when the primaries are held.

In effect, a single day primary would give us only establishment regressive candidates, popular regressive celebrity candidates or big money regressive candidates.

Which is exactly what we are getting now. So in the end, your conclusion is, that forcing every State to hold their primaries on the same day, would not change anything.

A conclusion that is obviously wrong since as the system is now, the candidates are already chosen long before California or Texas even have their primaries. In effect meaning that California and Texas do not get any say in who the candidates are.

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 4:51 PM

Then perhaps it should be rotated every cycle so all primary voters get a real say in selecting. Our primary is not until May 20. Its already decided by then.

shubalstearns on March 1, 2014 at 4:39 PM

I do not have any good answers for it.
The small states are a good choice to allow the not already established but potential shining stars to come about due to the ease of access to their populations.
A rotation that would be fair to the many states’ voters would have to include big states, effectively leaving those potential shining stars out to pasture on those years that New York, California and or Texas went first.
I have also thought about a several primary elimination system where all states vote several times until a clear winner is left. It has lots of problems, I hope obvious ones I do not need to detail.
It is a tough nut to crack to come up with a robust, fair and vibrant primary system for selecting a person to run for president in the United States of America.
The real problem however is not the primary system, but the fact that the presidency holds so much power in a single person. Far beyond what the majority of the people who wrote the constitution ever would have allowed or imagined would have come about without a revolution.

astonerii on March 1, 2014 at 4:52 PM

I’ve said this before, but here goes again…

Establish 4 or 5 Dates for primary elections. Let the states draw randomly for slots on those dates. Every cycle could have a different lineup of primary states. What we do now is undemocratic and unfair.

I don’t need to have my primary choices pre-screened by Iowa or New Hampshire.

trigon on March 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

The whole idea of a series of primaries in small states is to allow a nobody to be able to afford media purchases and thereby become known. It’s a more democratic process.

Having early primaries in big expensive media states like Illinois or New York or Ohio is nuts, and it is LESS democratic. It would guarantee that the richest candidate wins, or if you want to put it this way, -the establishment candidate.

Do your draw but limit those drawing to the bottom 30 in population.

slickwillie2001 on March 1, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Every State should have their primaries on the exact same day. Having the primaries on different days is a relic of a time when it took weeks to travel from one State to another State. California should not be held hostage to the voters in Iowa, nor should Texas be held hostage to Rhode Island.

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Wrong again. Primary elections take place over a period of a few months so that losers can get knocked out and the field winnowed down. If all primaries take place on a single date we will end up with six candidates each getting less than 20% of the vote. Then what?

slickwillie2001 on March 1, 2014 at 4:56 PM

I’m not even sure we are going to have a 2016 presidential election at this point, I’m afraid the GOP will just roll over and let the current occupant have the job for life. :(

Mini-14 on March 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM

If all primaries take place on a single date we will end up with six candidates each getting less than 20% of the vote. Then what?

slickwillie2001 on March 1, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Then we have much more energetic and robust debates leading up to the conventions. Technically, each party’s candidate is not chosen until the party convention, in reality, the candidate is chosen by the third or forth primary, and the other 46 States are stuck voting for candidates that are chosen for them instead of having any say in who is chosen.

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 5:03 PM

What if it were done regionally. Lets say we group states by regions — New England, Mid Atlantic, Appalachian Highlands, Southeast, Midwest, Heartland, Southwest, Mountain, Pacific and Non-contiguous. Every four years the order is rotated as to who goes first, second and so on. Elections are held every two weeks in a new region, and the smallest state in the region gets to vote a week earlier than the rest of the region.

Hopefully it gives the lessor funded candidates a chance to make a splash in a smaller state that allows them to springboard to the region itself. If we rotate it, then all regions get to set the tone and not always just a couple of states. We are the United States.

Sorry Iowa and New Hampshire, but what you’ve been given us recently just ain’t workin’.

Just a thought.

CPRforAmerica on March 1, 2014 at 5:05 PM

It would guarantee that the richest candidate wins, or if you want to put it this way, -the establishment candidate.

slickwillie2001 on March 1, 2014 at 4:53 PM

This already is what is happening. The difference is that right now, 46 of the 50 States do not get any real choice in who their candidate is since the candidates are already chosen long before they have their primaries.

oscarwilde on March 1, 2014 at 5:07 PM

40 comments or bust.

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on March 1, 2014 at 5:15 PM

I agree that the ethanol mandate is a bad thing and would be less likely to remain in effect if Iowa didn’t have the first caucus. But that’s not the main reason why Iowa shouldn’t have the first caucus.

The main reason is that Iowa proved itself incapable of counting the caucus vote in a timely and proper way.

the only notable exception was Rick Santorum, who barely eked out a 34 vote win there, but failed to get any immediate traction out of it.

The reason he didn’t get any traction out of his Iowa caucus win is that he wasn’t even declared the winner until after the New Hampshire primary — 16 days after the Iowa caucus was held.

Oh, and here’s the best part — who got the most delegates from Iowa? Ron Paul, who finished in third place in the caucus vote.

The 2012 Iowa caucuses made the 2000 election in Florida look like a well-conducted election. I would say that at the very least, Iowa should be penalized in 2016 by not being allowed to hold one of the first caucuses or primaries. Let them wait until March like most of the states are expected to do.

J.S.K. on March 1, 2014 at 5:19 PM

40 comments or bust.

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on March 1, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Heh.

Bust it is …

ShainS on March 1, 2014 at 5:33 PM

This is going nowhere and we have about 9,999 more things to do in tis[sic] country that need fixing first.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on March 1, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Wrong. You will never fix anything significant if you cannot kill the ethanol mandate. It is emblematic of the political cogs that only turn in the direction of making government more corrupt, bigger, and corrosive of liberty.

The 9,999 things that you would prioritize all exist for the exact same reason that the ethanol mandate does: because our political structures have evolved to empower the political and bureaucratic class–and never to dis-empower them.

Come to think of it, you’re never going to fix anything until the wheels come of anyway.

PD Quig on March 1, 2014 at 5:42 PM

And until Iowa Republicans can muster the gumption to rid themselves of this boondoggle, they should forfeit the “honor” of going first every four years.

…there’s a couple of states in the northeast…that do not have to be in the top ten either!

KOOLAID2 on March 1, 2014 at 5:46 PM

Couldn’t agree more.

Large states like Texas have to sit and watch, every time, as tiny ‘moderate’ states decide who our candidate is going to be.

Pisses me off.

Midas on March 1, 2014 at 5:49 PM

the primary system is a complete mess. there is no reason to have the first primary votes in blue states.
the first votes should come in strong red states, Oklahoma, texas etc…..either that or have them ALL on the same day.

and all primaries should be closed primaries

the way its done now means its rigged for liberals to get early leads.

Garyinaz66 on March 1, 2014 at 4:16 PM

I agree. I vote for a different system of primaries:

1) Closed primares. All of them.
2) No primary goes first… or last… because they all happen on the same day.
3) Runoff System Primary. The Bottom half of a list of candidates goes away. If you get less than 5% of the vote you go away. Repeat until there’s one candidate left.
4) We do this early. We start in January, the votes begin in February and we have a candidate by the end of March.

Chaz706 on March 1, 2014 at 5:54 PM

And until Iowa Republicans can muster the gumption to rid themselves of this boondoggle, they should forfeit the “honor” of going first every four years.

There is no reason for Iowa going first. They don’t even do that. They hold the first caucus then hold the primary later. And neither they nor NH have proven accurate bellweathers of the pulse of the nation. Give the honor to Ohio or some other state that actually matters.

Happy Nomad on March 1, 2014 at 5:57 PM

I agree. I vote for a different system of primaries:

1) Closed primares. All of them.
2) No primary goes first… or last… because they all happen on the same day.
3) Runoff System Primary. The Bottom half of a list of candidates goes away. If you get less than 5% of the vote you go away. Repeat until there’s one candidate left.
4) We do this early. We start in January, the votes begin in February and we have a candidate by the end of March.

Chaz706 on March 1, 2014 at 5:54 PM

And reign in early voting. It’s absurd that people can cast their vote in the general election as early as September in some places. That leaves a system rife with fraud and abuse.

Happy Nomad on March 1, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Also watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wIq2xeyal8

Chaz706 on March 1, 2014 at 6:00 PM

And reign in early voting. It’s absurd that people can cast their vote in the general election as early as September in some places. That leaves a system rife with fraud and abuse.

Happy Nomad on March 1, 2014 at 5:59 PM

I would add this as point number 5 if this were a perfect world. Sadly… while I do respect this there’s the issue of military ballots…

If only I could lay down a rule that says thusly:

“If you aren’t dilligent at sending out ballots to citizens of your state serving abroad within the US military voices, your votes (whether it be in general elections, electoral collage, Senate AND Congress votes) don’t count.”

Chaz706 on March 1, 2014 at 6:10 PM

I agree. I vote for a different system of primaries:

1) Closed primares. All of them.
2) No primary goes first… or last… because they all happen on the same day.
3) Runoff System Primary. The Bottom half of a list of candidates goes away. If you get less than 5% of the vote you go away. Repeat until there’s one candidate left.
4) We do this early. We start in January, the votes begin in February and we have a candidate by the end of March.

Chaz706 on March 1, 2014 at 5:54 PM

You expect the states to pay for a neverending series of votes? Do you know how much an election costs a state?

slickwillie2001 on March 1, 2014 at 6:25 PM

And rein in early voting. It’s absurd that people can cast their vote in the general election as early as September in some places. That leaves a system rife with fraud and abuse.

Happy Nomad on March 1, 2014 at 5:59 PM

At last, a post that makes sense.

slickwillie2001 on March 1, 2014 at 6:26 PM

As a resident of Iowa I am supposed to be glad that we go first. I’m not. It’s BS that an Iowa voter has a greater say than a voter in other states. The stranglehold that ethanol has on our economy will never be broken as long as silly policies such as this exist. I am all for primaries being held for all 50 states over the course of a few days. Every voter deserves an equal say in how our candidates are selected.

rmkdbq on March 1, 2014 at 6:36 PM

we should all be able to agree by now that the real power in Iowa isn’t the grassroots… it’s the cornfields.

Well… we don’t. I’m sorry, but I think that the number of people who go to the polls in Iowa with the corn industry at the forefronts of their minds is exceedingly small. As proof:

As the linked article notes, the only notable exception was Rick Santorum, who barely eked out a 34 vote win there, but failed to get any immediate traction out of it.

And Rick Santorum’s failure to gain traction from it, as you’ll recall, was not because of the corn industry, but because Romney was initially declared the winner. Santorum wasn’t credited with the win until after New Hampshire.

Stoic Patriot on March 1, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Having early primaries in big expensive media states like Illinois or New York or Ohio is nuts, and it is LESS democratic. It would guarantee that the richest candidate wins, or if you want to put it this way, -the establishment candidate.

slickwillie2001 on March 1, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Like McCain and Romney?

HellCat on March 1, 2014 at 6:53 PM

First of all, let’s dismiss this utter stupidity of a national primary or a few large regional primaries.

All that would do in either case is ensure the candidates who can raise millions ahead of the first primary would be the only viable ones. No more dark horse candidates relying on “retail” campaigning in the smaller states to get attention. Heavy hitting preseason favorites only.

Iowa has been somewhat of an indicator for Democrats, only rarely does the winner lose in an open nomination contest. Iowa has picked the last three – Obama in ’08, Kerry ’04, and Gore ’00 (as if Bradley had a chance anyway). Before that it was different for Democrats, with Gephardt winning in ’88, Harkin in ’92, and Muskie in ’72.

Republicans don’t always follow Iowa. Santorum won last year, Huckabee in ’08, Dole in ’88 and G.H.W. Bush in ’80.

~~~~

Anyway, Presidential politics don’t determine farm policy. Without overwhelming support in Congress, none of this crap would pass no matter who is President, and that support comes from spreading the subsidies around. Corn gets the most, but there is plenty to go around.

We need to zero out all subsidies for everything, farm and otherwise. But in the ultimate analysis, that has little to do with when the Iowa caucuses are in the schedule.

Adjoran on March 1, 2014 at 6:54 PM

40 comments or bust.

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on March 1, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Heh.

Bust it is …

ShainS on March 1, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Comment #40.

Darn, premature again

ShainS on March 1, 2014 at 6:56 PM

Our primary is not until May 20. Its already decided by then.

shubalstearns on March 1, 2014 at 4:39 PM

This is the problem with my state as well. In 2008, McCain was the assumed candidate by the time of my state’s primary – we had no choice – this vile man was shoved on us.

Up to this point, I’ve been a reliable republican voter, so the big government types only had to get on the ballot. But, I’ve noticed that this approach hasn’t really worked well for me (or for liberty and small government).

So, neither I nor my husband are reliable R votes anymore.

LilyBart on March 1, 2014 at 10:18 PM

40 comments or bust.

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on March 1, 2014 at 5:15 PM

6 hours and about 48 comments? You were pretty close.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on March 1, 2014 at 11:16 PM

I’ve been saying this for 8 years now.

There is an imaginary diagonal line from the SW to NE corner of the state, above it is pretty much ethanol and below, except along the Mississippi River NOT ethanol. It’s the local farmers who actually own the majority of each individual plant, regardless of what company’s name is on the sign.

Kermit on March 2, 2014 at 12:13 AM

Get rid of the ethanol subsidy and see how important Iowa becomes…

Khun Joe on March 2, 2014 at 5:57 AM

That and a pro life democrat always seems to win in my state. A result that bleeds votes away from any competition to the rino candidate who will ultimately take the nomination.

jhffmn on March 2, 2014 at 12:18 PM

The Primary Election System we have today is set up so the the media makes money. The reason it takes so much money to run for office is in the fact that the media is selling that candidate. If we really were interested in campaign reform, all Primary Elections would be held on the same date. As it is, the State I live in has it’s Primary Election in June, by that time the States with earlier elections have cleaned out the field and all I have left is the media’s selected candidate. For a change, let all the voters pick the candidate, then let the Parties support that candidate.

savage24 on March 2, 2014 at 1:17 PM

The Republican establishment is too stupid to change tradition. Time to move on to another party…

Decoski on March 2, 2014 at 2:49 PM

What is the supposed proof that ethanol is a kingmaker?

Santorum won in Iowa in 2012, and had prominently called for an end to ethanol subsidies.

It is safer to say that Values Candidates drive the Iowa caucus, since Santorum, Romney, and Huckabee were the most prominent contenders in the past two cycles.

Iowa is a leading caucus state because its media markets are few and advertising is cheap. That permits a shoestring candidate an opportunity to build a campaign by doing well there. Put states like NY or FL first and all you will get is the candidates who line up the most money before primary season. It is important also to note that candidates who have elected to blow off the Iowa caucuses in recent cycles have not become president, either. Ask President McCain, President Jon Huntsman, and President Guiliani about that.

Caustic Conservative on March 2, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Caustic Conservative on March 2, 2014 at 6:30 PM

I think this bears highlighting. Perhaps in Democrat circles the Iowa caucuses only pick Big Ethanol candidates, but then, Democrats always pick the Big Anything candidates, so that’s no surprise.

For Republicans, the values voter is first in Iowa and has been for decades. It is they, not “King Corn” who determine the winner in Iowa, and I suspect that THIS is really what rubs Jazz “sodomy” Shaw the wrong way about Iowa. It gives Social Conservatives a shot at winning.

Does the Ethanol mandate need to go? Absolutely, but moving the caucuses away from Iowa is not the way to get rid of it.

Also, closing all the primaries is also a wise idea. Allowing Democrats to pick our candidate in any state is INSANE.

wearyman on March 3, 2014 at 8:43 AM