More than Voting in Iowa

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Iowa has more pigs than people. We also have the World Food Prize, the best creative writing program in the country and, every four years, the presidential caucuses.


Ah, the presidential caucus. CNN cameras roll, and reporters from New York to LA scurry to find hotel rooms in Des Moines. There are star sightings in local restaurants. Old-fashioned, town-meetings turned media circuses.

Everyone wants a photo-op with a farmer in overalls. Stereotypes about Iowans prevail. Mostly about how gosh-darn NICE Iowans are. Iowans have a reputation for common sense and politeness.They will not cut ahead of you in line nor beat you out of a parking space. (It is also true that we have fewer lines and a lot more parking.)

Iowa Caucuses may seem quaint. Certainly, in our world of digital technology, an electoral process of neighborhood coffees and church pot-lucks is grossly inefficient. All the hard work of campaigning. All that press. All the talk, talk, talk. Then – despite pollster predictions — the chancy element of surprise. 

Living in Iowa during any election season is an experience like no other. Over the years, I’ve listened to presidential hopefuls in auditoriums and backyard barbecues. In Iowa, almost everyone I know has met at least one person who has run for president of the United States. I’ve seen Barack Obama in shirtsleeves on the lawn of our campus quad. I’ve had the wife of a past governor in my living room. The mayor of my small city lives a few blocks away and sometimes stops over on her bicycle.

At my neighborhood bridge group the other night, the talk was politics. All of us women are registered voters; we find ourselves wooed by enthusiastic suitors as if we are the most popular girls in town. The phone rings off the hook. When I told one pollster how I was leaning toward one candidate, she invited me to have breakfast with him when he was in Ames – although I didn’t imagine it would be just the two of us. Like good Iowans, we have done our fair share of homework about the issues this election year. Maybe because as a state, we’ve been given a lot of responsibility, Iowans tend to be responsible, political savvy citizens. Even when there’s not a presidential election at stake.

But my friends and I can’t wait for the television political ads to be over. (We know where the mute button is on the remote). We’ll be happy when the phone stops ringing at dinnertime. (We don’t answer unless we check caller ID). We’ll be relieved when the computer generated messages stop clogging our inboxes (delete, delete, delete).

There’s big money spent on these political campaigns. I wonder if the millions of dollars spent on these ads make a difference. Isn’t there a better way to do democracy?

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