N.H., Iowa represent N.H., Iowa
Among the more irritating comments from national pundits during this early presidential primary season is that the first two states out of the gate are not "representative" of the nation. Iowa with is caucuses and New Hampshire with its primary d...
Among the more irritating comments from national pundits during this early presidential primary season is that the first two states out of the gate are not "representative" of the nation. Iowa with is caucuses and New Hampshire with its primary do not reflect the United States of the 21st century, say the experts. Don't buy it.
First, the people in Iowa and New Hampshire represent themselves, no one else. Despite attempts to define them by network news analysts, sociologists and political scientists, Hawkeyes and Granite-staters tend to define themselves.
Second, given the front-loading of the primary season and the huge number of states conducting primaries between today and March, Americans will have every opportunity to "represent" themselves in their own primary states. Factor in the dynamic of the presidential contests in both parties this year, and the notion that two early states will anoint the nominees is ludicrous.
Third, the quadrennial attempt to portray states like New Hampshire and Iowa as nonrepresentative of the nation as a whole is subtle racial politics - the politics of divisiveness. It only seems to matter to the practitioners of racial and ethnic politics that the populations of the two early states are mostly white. It seems to matter less to the people of those states, who - as demonstrated by Iowa Democrats - voted for Sen. Barack Obama for reasons that have nothing to do with his race. We suspect the same will be true today for New Hamphire voters, the vast majority of whom are white.
Whether one likes Obama or not, he has demonstrated his transcendence regarding race. He seems to have overcome the old racial mandate - as epitomized by former black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton - that race is all that matters. Obama certainly does not downplay his mixed-race heritage, anymore than former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee hides his Christian evangelical credentials. But Obama and Huckabee for Republicans seem to have reached beyond the politics of division (racial and religious) with messages that resonate with all but the most partisan voters.
Iowa and New Hampshire not representative? Of what? The primary season has just begun. The primary calendar is about individual state contests. Each state is unique. Some states have populations that might (to use the overused and getting-to-be-meaningless descriptor) be more "diverse." But, primaries in so many states expose credible candidates to tens of thousands of voters. They make decisions based more on the message in their state than on results from other states. For example, it's unlikely that today's results in New Hampshire will mirror last week's finishes in Iowa. And down the line results probably will be different in Michigan and South Carolina.
Dozens of state primaries showcase the nation's real diversity. The result is a pretty good reflection of the E Pluribus Unum that is supposed to bind us together.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.
N.H., Iowa represent N.H., Iowa 20080108