This May Be the End of Iowa's Political Clout

Many predicting the end of the state's first-in-the-nation voting status
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2020 10:25 AM CST
This May Be the End of Iowa's Political Clout
People wait for results at a caucus night campaign rally for Joe Biden on Monday in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

If you thought people were fed up with Iowa's first-in-the-nation voting status before Monday night's chaos, it's nothing compared to the sentiment surfacing Tuesday morning. Examples:

  • The overview: "Iowa's outsize role has faced attacks for decades, along with periodic failed attempts by other states to take the first-in-the-nation slot," notes Steve Kornacki of NBC and MSNBC. "But criticism has been louder than ever this past year, and now those critics may have the ammunition they need to kill it."
  • A prediction: From here on out, "Iowa won't go first," writes Tim Alberta at Politico. "It can't go first. Not anymore." At best, it might keep some "ceremonial capacity" in the early stages of the nominating season, but "Monday night will go down as the self-inflicted knockout punch, and with it, the end of a political era." He adds that the state's refusal to use a simpler voting method is one reason it has become a political "punch line."

  • RIP, I: Responding to a tweet praising esteemed Iowa political journalist David Yepsen for predicting this mess, Yepsen himself replied, "Sorry I was right. RIP caucuses." Later he added, "This will probably be the last caucus we'll have to worry about."
  • RIP, II: The headline of a piece by Eric Levitz at New York has a similar sentiment: "R.I.P. the 'First-In-the-Nation' Iowa Caucuses (1972-2020)." The influence of Iowa's "wildly anti-democratic" nominating process has always been "indefensible," but not even its biggest critics "dreamed it would subject the country to something like this," Levitz writes. He's skeptical Iowa will be able to recover from the damage.
  • Shaky ground: "Iowa has found itself—more this year than ever—in the position of defending its perch," write Matt Flegenheimer and Sydney Ember in the New York Times. "Why should a state so disproportionately white take such a leading role, especially for a Democratic Party that prides itself on its diversity? Why is a hodgepodge of gatherings in school gymnasiums the pinnacle of American democracy?" Now, the state's "precarious standing" just took another hit.
  • In defense: The state's GOP senators, Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, are standing up for Iowa, saying its caucus system "encourages a grassroots nominating process that empowers everyday Americans," per a statement cited in the Washington Post. Its first-in-the-nation status "has the full backing of President Trump," they added. "We look forward to Iowa carrying on its bipartisan legacy of service in the presidential nominating process.” But fellow Sen. Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and the Senate minority whip, said Tuesday the caucus system is no longer practical for modern voters. "I think the Democratic caucus in Iowa is a quirky, quaint tradition that should come to an end," he said on MSNBC.
(President Trump does indeed want to keep Iowa's first-in-the-nation status in place.)

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