The Iowa primary was a mess — that’s probably one of the only points of national consensus. However, despite all its flaws and problems, Iowa (along with its younger sibling, New Hampshire) does deserve some credit. Not only did these early primaries reveal why we shouldn’t have early caucus primaries, they are also a reminder of why we should.
Political scientists and journalists, myself included, have recently and adamantly argued against the caucus system, and especially against primaries starting off in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, These states tend to be disproportionately white, which unfairly disadvantages candidates with large African American and Latinx support bases.
That said, there is a reason why Iowa has always defended its right to go first, which is that it provides a careful and smoothly run vetting process for the candidates that would be impossible to do on a national scale. In fact, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman, Donna Brazile, told The New York Times, “While it doesn’t look like America, when they take into consideration the qualities and values we’re looking for in a candidate, I believe that they represent what is truly best about our country ... They’re smart and they take this seriously.”
This year’s election proved Brazile both right and wrong at the same time.
On one hand, the turmoil on election night — where Iowa failed to produce results in a timely manner due to multiple system-wide failures — discredits Iowa as a trustworthy representative for the American public. Iowa was supposed to be smart and take this seriously, but instead they made the Democratic Party the laughingstock of the country. The situation was so chaotic that the chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, was forced to step in and address the anger of the population at large.
On the other hand, Iowa and New Hampshire did serve their purposes in that they selected candidates who were not expected to stand out in the national race. The two front runners in Iowa and New Hampshire, who stand one delegate apart, were Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders — a young, gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist. Both of these labels are ones that not very long ago would have disqualified any American from being a front running candidate.
Iowa and New Hampshire did the country a service by overlooking these labels and truly voting for the candidate of their choice, rather than the candidate that was most electable, or with the most money or national clout. Perhaps this was most evident in candidate Joe Biden’s polling results. The former vice president entered the race with overwhelming popular support but left Iowa and New Hampshire with only six delegates, placing him in fifth place of all candidates.
Furthermore, the New Hampshire caucus gave the opportunity to Amy Klobuchar to surge in the polls. Following a nationally commended debate performance at the New Hampshire Democratic debate, Klobuchar leaped to third place in the states’ caucus results. Again, had the primary been conducted nationally, it is uncertain whether less known candidates like Klobuchar would have been able to earn comparable recognition.
This is the opinion of Veronica Backer-Peral, a sophomore film and television production, history and computer science triple major from Pasadena, CA. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.