It is time to abolish the Iowa Straw Polls in order to preserve democracy. 16892 people out of a country of 308,745,538 people, should not have a say in winnowing the field for President of the United States. Are we really saying that we want to outsource the work of democracy to .005% of our population?
People tend to forget that the Iowa straw polls are not enshrined in the Constitution. They were only created in 1979 as a fundraiser for the Iowa State Republican Party. The national media, which comes out in full force for it, has kept it going. It seems that they would rather cover this manufactured event instead of real issues.
Iowans themselves do not care about the straw poll. With the vote tally at less than 17000, only slightly more than .5% of the state’s population of 3,046,355 showed up to cast their vote. The low turnout occurred despite the fact that the voters are heavily bribed to show up. Campaigns usually pick up bus fares and tickets for the event. They also offer free entertainment and food during the day of voting.
Even more disturbing, the population of Iowa does not reflect our country. Iowa is 91.3% white while the whole country is 72.4% white. The state has 1/3 the black and Hispanic population as the rest of the country. Doesn’t the Iowa straw poll effectively disenfranchises them?
There does not seem to be any point to the straw poll because it has not been an accurate predictor of the winner Iowa caucuses or the Republican nomination. Winners of the Iowa Straw Poll include fringe Presidential candidates such as Pat Robertson and Phil Gramm. This year, Michele Bachman won by defeating Ron Paul by 157 votes. Bachman may morph into a mainstream candidate but she still has a way to go. Are we serving democracy by giving a megaphone to these fringe candidates?
The argument for the straw polls is that it is a test of organisation. The Presidential electoral race is already too long. Is it necessary for them to be fully organised a year and three months before the election? With Rick Perry getting into the race the same as the Iowa straw polls, the answer seems to be no.
Do we help ourselves by allowing voting for a candidate so long in advance of the actual election? Iam not sure. With a rapidly changing world, the issues that are paramount in August 2011 may be on dimmer in November 2012. Before the 24/7 news cycle, the national press may have needed time to vet candidates. This is now happening at a lightening speed.
Let’s rethink the straw polls before 2015. For a country that exports democracy, we seem to have forgotten what it is.
As Colin Quinn so aptly put in his new show, “The Long Story Short,” “Americans look down at countries with dictators, which is a choice of one person. Yet, we only offer one more choice and call it democracy.”
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