Why the Iowa caucuses don’t matter

 

By Bethany Chambers | Digital Operations Manager

 

If you believe the headlines today, the Iowa caucuses matter now more than ever since elections are decided based on consensus opinion measured by the second via social media.

But the fact remains: We don’t elect our 45th President of the United States until Tuesday, Nov. 8.

And nine months is a long time from now.

The average voter has a pain point—that one thing that our new president must improve—and they vote for the candidate who is deemed most likely to champion that cause. What will that cause be? It could be the economy or national security, the environment or equal rights, healthcare or taxes or hundreds of other issues.

The thing is, most voters are going to choose the candidate who best addresses their current concerns. That’s where all bets are off.

Fictional presidential candidate Peter Florrick got only his family and friends in his corner at the Iowa caucuses.
Fictional presidential candidate Peter Florrick on TV’s “The Good Wife” got only family and friends in his corner at an Iowa caucus.

 

A Quinnipiac University poll from December showed the economy and terrorism as the issues that mattered most. Both are volatile and subject to significant changes in the coming months.

Nine months doesn’t seem like much, but consider where we were nine months ago.

Nine months ago the mainstream media wasn’t talking about the bear market or global recession. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen significantly since May 1, 2015, when it closed at 18,024; now it’s hovering down around 16,000. Consumer confidence is still high, but whether it stays that way remains to be seen.

[ RELATED: Iowa Caucus History | Does Iowa really matter? ]

 

Nine months ago a barrel of oil was still $59.15 and environmentalists were predicting a drill-baby-drill future. Today at $31.65 and with states declaring home rule to block the growth of fracking operations, the tables have turned. We don’t know what the future holds for oil prices.

Nine months ago the idea that we might see a woman president seemed possible, if not probable. We had only scratched the surface of Emailgate and accusations that Hillary Clinton wasn’t the feminist she purported to be weren’t being slung—perhaps because Donald Trump hadn’t even announced he was running yet.

Nine months ago San Bernardino was just a town in California. The mass shooting at a government office there—the worst terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001—happened only two months ago. The coordinated strikes in Paris? Those were only three months ago. In nine months ISIS has become part of the national discourse and foreign policy has become paramount to voters of both parties.

At the 2012 Iowa Caucus Mitt Romney lost to Rick Santorum, in itself an upset considering that Michele Bachmann had won an early straw poll in the state. Santorum ultimately didn’t get the Republican nomination, and leading up to the general election pollsters were predicting a likely Romney Administration. And that was just days before Americans turned out to vote.

So tonight, while all eyes are on Iowa, I’ll be turning on basketball instead. It’s true that the road to the White House leads through Iowa, but Iowa isn’t a harbinger of our country’s future; it’s just one quick water break in the marathon that is a presidential campaign. Sure, our future president is probably in Iowa. So, too, are a lot of also-rans whose names you won’t remember nine months from now.


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