I remember years ago talking to a working colleague who hailed from a certain Midwestern American area. He had moved to the Bay Area with his family after leaving the Army and was now homesick for the little town on the Minnesota/Iowa border he once lived in.
He asked me how it was I could stand living in California permanently, with its congestion, bustle and hordes of people. I asked him how he could stand living in a state where the weather was so inclement in the Winters and so little changed. He said the point of the rural areas of the Midwest was that it didn't change.
"The town I live in I can go back to," he said, "and I know the town will be the pretty much the same as it was when I was growing up. A lot of the same folks will be there, too."
I guess that's the draw of the Midwest for those who live there. Besides the fact that the people who live there--in my anecdotal experience--are generally more kind and modest than west coast Americans, they are also more sedate and resistant to changes. As a one friend of mine I grew up with in San Jose, California, with me but had family he was close to in the Midwest once told me:
"California is great, Doug, but the Midwest won't break your heart."
I believe he meant that a more rural and harsher climate in a place like Dubueque or Sioux City, Iowa, will deter growth. Unlike California or Florida or any major metropolitan-dominant states, populations will not explode. Demands of commerce and new industries will not remake the landscape. Boon towns like San Jose's Silicon Valley won't remake real estate markets so quickly you won't need a a degree in computer engineering or a doctorate to stay in the lifestyle your parents enjoyed. One can even return to an area like Iowa after a few years absence confident that it will remain much the same.
Same ness is attractive for a lot of people. It just isn't how the country as a whole can afford to be.
For as long as I can remember--well, at least since 1968--- the American presidential election have begun in two states--Iowa and New Hampshire-- that are hardly representative of the United States as a whole, but which have "remained the same" A recent editorial by Gail Collins in the New York Times pointed out that Iowa, a largely rural state that is 91 percent white and predominantly Christian, skewing fundamentalist, has never elected a woman to serve in Washington, DC, or as governor.
Think about that. Only Mississippi shares the same dubious claim.
It also has largest brain-drains of college graduates leaving the state, according to Professor Stephen Bloom of Iowa State University.
Iowa is a largely rural state, one in a nation where the voters are largely in a urban and suburban corridor in the General Elections. Just among Republicans, many of the people who have done well in the past in Iowa Caucus--people like the xenophobic reactionary Pat Buchanan, the evangelical-hardliner Pat Robertson, and the amiable but gravitas-free Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. At least Huckabee actually had a public job--he was governor of Arkansas, but he fizzled out soon after leaving the corn fields and coffee shops of the Hawkeye State.
As did George H.W. Bush (Senior) in 1980, who claimed he had big momentum or "big mo" after he won the Iowa Caucus.
Bush's "Big Mo" meant nothing--a few weeks later Ronald Reagan, who finished behind in Iowa, became the unstoppable force for the nomination that year.
For the Democrats, it can be said that future President Jimmy Carter of Georgia launched his successful Presidential campaign there when he received 22 percent of the caucus-goers in 1976. That was probably a few thousand votes for Carter at best, and "None of the Above" came in ahead of Carter. But it did propel the under-experienced one-term Georgia governor Carter upwards---and he went into a tailspin of muddled leadership in the last two years of his Presidency that helped usher in 30 years of "trickle down conservatism" and fanatic federal government deregulation of financial powerhouses on Wall Street-led economic meltdown.
And then you have New Hampshire, the first Primary State, whose citizens will cast ballots on January 10, a week after Iowa. One of the most conservative and, yes, nearly all-white states in the Union, New Hampshire is notorious for being a state that prides itself on being a refuge from the cosmopolitanism of the people and cultures of New York and Massachusetts. The state slogan "Live Free or Die", embossed on its license plates, promotes an 18th Century ethos that is anti-federal, anti-tax, anti-diversity and less than representative in comparison to its other neighbors of the nation as a whole.
Here is demographic breakdown of New Hampshire, which ranks 42nd of the fifty states in population. Blacks in the United States makes up about 14 percent of the population with Hispanics at similar numbers. This is not reflected the demographics make-up of "The Granite State".
- 93.9% White (92.3% Non-Hispanic White)
- 2.2% Asian
- 1.1% Black or African American
- 0.2% Native American/American Indian
- 1.6% Two or more races
In addition, a major media source in New Hampshire is the Manchester Union-Leader, an ultra-conservative publication of one William Loeb, a man who endorsed the crackpot old political influence-peddler and former failed House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, for the highest office on the land.
Are these two states really the best we can do for our first presidential testing sites? Maybe we should have some Miss America just pick two states out of a hat for the quadrennial General Election. We might accident-ly get a state that actually reflects the USA of today, not the one that we've left behind.