Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
I am sick and tired of reporters from other states and countries asking me why Iowa should have the first major presidential political event since the state is comprised of “whites and Christian conservatives that don’t represent the rest of the country?”
First of all, Iowa is diverse and we are proud of our long and continuing history of being a destination for people from all over the world seeking freedom, peace, and opportunity including Native Americans, Germans, Czechs, Italians, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Hispanics, African Americans, Vietnamese, Hmong, Cambodians, Bosnians, Irish, Somalis, Sudanese, and others ethnic minorities. (I bet you didn't know that the oldest Mosque in the United States is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.)
Second, politically Iowa is very representative of the United States. We are a really competitive state in which Democrats and Republicans take turns in political office. We have a very balanced Congressional delegation and Iowa swings back and forth between voting for the Democrat and then the Republican for president of the United States. That’s a far better record than the politically barren and homogeneous single-party states of the Northeast and West Coast where Democrats rule and the South and Southwest where Republicans dominate.
Third, Iowans march to their own ideological drummer with a hefty dose of no-party independents, a Democratic party that is considered to be more liberal (and pacifist) than the average and a Republican Party that is more conservative. Vive la difference!
Where else could Barack Obama have gotten his start except by winning the Iowa Caucuses and where else could Pat Robertson been given a chance to even try for the toughest job in the nation? Nowhere, I say!
In 2011 there is a mistaken notion that the GOP in Iowa is homogeneously Christian conservative. That’s obviously completely incorrect when you scrutinize the field of GOP presidential contenders who have been successfully competing.
First there are two genuine Christian, faith-based conservatives, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum. They have received substantial but not impressive support and have split this GOP base between themselves.
Second, there are many libertarian conservative Republicans in Iowa who share some concerns and positions with the former group but who are attracted to Ron Paul who could not be more different than Bachmann and Santorum in his main emphasis and especially his foreign policy positions.
Third, is another substantial chunk of Iowa Republicans who have yet a different set of values, issues, criteria, and strategic interests and they have flocked to Newt Gingrich.
Fourth are the pragmatists who likely see Mitt Romney as the most electable in a general election and whose numbers are roughly equivalent to the other three segments described above.
Fifth, are floaters who have been looking for a good candidate and have toggled between Donald Trump, Herman Cain and are now distributing themselves to Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.
And sixth, a small number of moderate to liberal Republicans like Jon Huntsman.
Now tell me that Iowa Republicans are homogeneous!
The same Chris Christie cheerleaders, prominent Republicans who made the pilgrimage to New Jersey to lure the Governor into throwing his hat in the ring, are now endorsing different candidates.
I am pleading with the national and international news media to report more accurately the diversity of Iowa as well as this year the astonishing diversity even within the Republican Party in the state.
Of course if you’re a liberal or a reporter from the coasts, Iowa will look pretty hard-core conservative to you. But if you take the time to examine the facts, Iowans are very selective, individualistic, and picky when it comes to finding the candidate who’s just right for them. That’s why there are still seven ambitious individuals vying for their support on January 3.
What other state will be able to claim so much diversity of choices on Super Tuesday? None!
©2011. An earlier version of this article appeared in the Des Moines Register on 12-27-2011