by Max Brantley
Heard about a recent controversy in Iowa? A long-time journalism professor there wrote a long piece about Iowa that listed quite a few unflattering stereotypes. It was part of a lament that echoes my own — the importance of Iowa caucuses in the presidential nominating process thanks to their opening position. The Democrat and Republican voters in Iowa tend to represent, not a microcosm of the American electorate, but the extremes of the two parties (though the Republican Party is rapidly becoming a monolithic extreme). I've heard about all I want to hear about the wisdom of the discerning Iowa caucus goers over voters in other states. When David Yepsen hits the TV screen, I change the channel. The j-school prof thinks it's crazy, too.
Whether a schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state like Iowa should host the first grassroots referendum to determine who will be the next president isn't at issue. It's been this way since 1972, and there are no signs that it's going to change. In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. Iowa's not representative of much. There are few minorities, no sizable cities, and the state's about to lose one of its five seats in the U.S. House because its population is shifting; any growth is negligible. Still, thanks to a host of nonsensical political precedents, whoever wins the Iowa Caucuses in January will very likely have a 50 percent chance of being elected president 11 months later. Go figure.
Maybe Ambrose Bierce described it right when he called the U.S. president "the greased pig in the field game of American politics." For better or worse, Iowa's the place where that greased pig gets generally gets grabbed first.
I imagine if an intrepid Arkansas prof or journalist wrote a similar treatise on shortcomings of Arkansas and its voters the reaction would be just about the same as what Prof. Stephen Bloom has experienced. "Frightening" e-mail. Vituperation. Sneers from homer newspaper columnists. And, if the writer originally came from New Jersey, as Bloom does, well .....
Jim Romenesko, the media blogger reported on the reaction Bloom has experienced (not all of it bad, by the way):
One person said he would “kick your ass if front of your family if you keep it up.” Another message:
I couldn’t help but notice the glaring hypocrisy in your article. You’re from New Jersey correct? I’ve been there. It’s a human cesspool. Please return there. You are not welcome in this state. Go back to New Jersey where you can surround yourself with the other pretentious pseudo intellectuals and leave us “Pale skinned meth addicts” in peace. Fuck you sir.
Here's a Des Moines Register blog item that rounds up other Iowa links.
My mailbag over the years (including last night) has included some FUs and similar. I'll not stereotype the correspondents, but you could guess.