Deceiving Des Moines: Hijacking the 2012 Iowa Caucus

Flipping pancakes, judging cattle, husking corn.

Each year, Americans in forty-nine states wonder, "Why is the first (and arguably most heavily scrutinized) political contest of the presidential year in Iowa?"

Folks in the Hawkeye State don't wonder. They know.

Located near the middle of the country, Iowa is more than simply a convenient metaphor for middle-class America. Every four years, Iowans drag prospective presidential hopefuls out of the expensive Italian suits and $10,000 per plate "dinners" of high-minded society and put them into something more comfortable: a pair of jeans and a bucket of corn-on-the-cob.

Iowa gives America the chance to see a side of their candidates that money (literally) can't buy: character, warmth, authenticity and down-to-earth American goodness. In a political season where billions (!) of dollars will be passed around hands, Iowa cages the process and reminds deep-pocketed politicians that the presidency is about the people (,stupid).

Which makes this year especially frustrating. In previous years, candidates have walked into living rooms, barns and gymnasiums to talk of what they can do for average Americans--to convince caucus-goers that promises made in denim won't be broken in polyester.

Yet instead of bold pledges to American families and farmers, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Pery, Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin have instead used their Iowan venues to make a promise to their real benefactors: we will destroy President Obama.

Instead of defining themselves as Americans, parents or good citizens, GOP candidates have made a game of "who can hate President Obama more."

Here is how front-runner Mitt Romeny makes his case to Iowa: "If you believe the disappointments of the past few years are a detour, not our destiny, then I am asking for your vote.”

And Newt Gingrich: "The president is a 'Saul Alinsky radical' and 'the best food stamp president in history.'"

And Michele Bachmann: "It's Obama who has the immigration problem – because of 'his uncle and his aunt who have been allowed to stay in this country despite the fact that they’re illegal.'"

Texas Governor Rick Perry: "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion."

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum: "This president, for every thug and hooligan, for every radical Islamist, he has had nothing but appeasement."

And non-declared saber-rattler Sarah Palin: "It doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t make sense."

Many words, all saying the same thing:

Dear Iowa,

We Don't Care (unless you have some money we don't know about).

To be fair, in 2004 and 2008 the tone of Democratic arguments was sharply negative against President George W. Bush, largely due to his administration's commitment of hundreds of thousands of young American men and women to combat in Afghanistan and Iraq on arguably false pretenses.

Yet, in 2012, rather than an argument for greater peace, Republicans are staking their electoral hopes on the belief that the rich should get richer, and the poor should get poorer, and that nobody should mind the man behind the curtain controlling the switches.

What we have seen throughout Iowa is an America still clinging to the high-minded ideals of fairness, equality and family being roundly chastised and told by GOP candidates to "sit down and shut up" and take what their corporate counterparts dish them.

All Americans seek a better way forward for their children and their future. What we do not seek is the destruction of one man at the expense of forward progress. In Iowa, a cherished American political process has been hijacked by people eager to make a quick buck at the expense of their fellow countrymen. Let us hope that Iowa in November will help vindicate the country from this shameful political opportunism that will culminate in January.

 

(Cross-posted from The Journeying Progressive)

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