The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Iowa is the right place for the first presidential nominating contest

A sign for the Iowa caucuses in Des Moines in February 2020. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
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I live and teach in Iowa and dislike the Iowa caucuses as much as anyone, but it’s naive to say that Iowa Democrats should “step away” from their privileged position in the presidential nomination, at least for the reasons implied in the April 24 editorial “It’s time to dethrone Iowa.”

The caucuses are about more than nominating a presidential candidate, and any good state party will be thinking about its own interests.

Iowa Democrats know all too well the heavy lifting asked of party activists. They know that much of the caucus revenue stream never makes it to the party and that merely setting up the caucuses is a high-cost proposition borne by the state’s Democrats. Even the once-cherished belief in a positive spillover effect for state Democratic politics appears implausible, with those newly energized activists carrying the weight of intraparty tensions.

Iowa Democrats are no fools, and they’re in it for the long haul. They’re hardly basking in the sun, but offering up a spare bedroom or couch to one of the hundreds of young campaign workers who make Iowa their temporary home, forging connections that could pay off in the future — it might be worth the inconvenience.

As much as I’d like to see the caucuses go away, I get the value they hold for Iowa Democrats. If they “step away” voluntarily, I hope it’s because they’ve determined it’s in their interest to do so, not because of clamoring from the sidelines.

Barbara Trish, Grinnell, Iowa

It cannot be overstated or excused that the Iowa Democratic Party failed horribly when it was unable to report timely results in the 2020 caucuses. That problem, while inexcusable, can be fixed. But there is a balance of representation in the four first states that supports keeping Iowa in the mix.

Early states should be accessible (small) and affordable (reasonable media markets) so new candidates can compete before big states command attention. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are accessible and affordable. Equally important is geographic balance. New Hampshire is the Northeast; Nevada represents unions, Latinos and the West. South Carolina has the critical Black and Southern constituencies. These are important voices that need to be heard in the Democratic Party.

But where is the party speaking to the Midwest and its White, rural, small-town or small-city voters — the constituencies that left for Trumpism? They, too, are important to the party’s future. It’s not big states such as Michigan, Ohio or Wisconsin. Barack Obama won 53 counties of Iowa’s 99 in the 2008 general election. Hillary Clinton won six eight years later. The party should be investing in getting those voters back, not abandoning them.

Bradley Knott, Kensington