Election 2020

'New York Times' Despairs of Iowa's Turn to the Right

Trouble in River City (Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald via AP)

What’s the matter with Iowa, a once-blue state that voted for Trump last year? The New York Times thinks it has the answer:

There is little to suggest a future for the party here in this once reliable Democratic stronghold, at least in races on the national level. President Trump easily carried this county in the 2016 election, and Iowa as a whole; the only counties Hillary Clinton won were in metropolitan areas or university towns.

Iowa’s dramatic change has been both abrupt and a long time in coming. In 2008, the state propelled Mr. Obama to the White House. A year later, it was the first in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage. But last November, Mr. Trump won Iowa by a larger margin than he won Texas. And now Republicans control the governor’s office, the Legislature, both Senate seats and three of four in the House.

“Is Iowa still a swing state?” said J. Ann Selzer, who has conducted polling here for 30 years and was almost alone in forecasting the size of Mr. Trump’s victory. She took a moment to answer and seemed skeptical. “You know, potentially. Pundits will probably treat it that way for another cycle.”

The explanation, according to the Times, is that Iowa simply isn’t retaining enough of its college graduates. The state’s industrial base has cratered, forcing the smart kids to seek their fortunes elsewhere, and leaving the dumb ones without degrees at home to vote Republican. No — seriously:

Pundits might think otherwise, but places like Clinton and dozens of other small towns like it along the Mississippi River have already gone red, the result of a long economic decline that changed their makeup and eventually their politics. Like many towns in Iowa, they have been losing more college-educated voters than they retain, leaving a less educated and less mobile group of voters more likely to vote for Republicans, whom they see as more in touch with their lives and beliefs.

Democrats hoping to put the state back in play have a difficult challenge. Jean Pardee, who led the Clinton County Democrats until March and has been on the state central committee for four decades, said she feared that her party no longer connected with the working-class voters of her town. Last fall, she asked the Clinton campaign for yard signs, knowing that they still mattered in her area. The response, she said, was “a little too East Coast.”

Well, yeah. If “East Coast” is synonymous with “Clintons,” what Real American in his right mind would want to vote for that? Until the Democrats understand the deep and abiding contempt in which most of the country holds their political principles, they will keep hemorrhaging seats in Congress and the state houses. Meanwhile the GOP should realize that they’re almost equally despised, “almost” being the operative word in our current two-party system. But that could change, fast.