It happens every four years. Complaints that a state that looks nothing like the rest of the nation has such a disproportionate impact on how this nation picks its leaders. Of course, I’m talking about Iowa. And the lengths the Republican candidates are going to appeal to the more socially conservative caucus-goers there is nothing short of frightening. But before folks get a little too giddy about beating down the Hawkeye State, I want to remind them of something. This was the same wildly unrepresentative state that added instant legitimacy to the presidential ambitions of then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Sure, there were plenty of white people who were 100 percent behind hope and change. My ex, Giuseppe, was one of the first on board. But African Americans were unconvinced. “They” wouldn’t vote for “one of us.” Despite the favorable polls, “they” would never really vote for him. That refrain was as common among blacks as it was constant in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses four years ago.
But on Jan. 3, 2008, “they” spoke. The Democrats of this predominantly white state handed 38 percent of their votes (and a victory) to the biracial senator with the funny name and super-cute family. And because “they” spoke, black people like my mom seemingly overnight went from being ambivalent, disbelieving or for then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to being resolutely behind Obama.
New Hampshire would snap Obama and his supporters back to reality. Clinton, who came in third in Iowa with 29 percent of the vote, won the Granite State five days later with 39 percent of the vote to Obama’s 36 percent. But the genie was out of the bottle. History was to be made — and it was the people of Iowa who set the wheels in motion. So leave them alone.