Guest Column: Iowa Republicans are not homogeneous, unrepresentative

Steffen Schmidt

I am sick and tired of reporters from other states and countries asking me why Iowa should have the first major presidential political event since the state is “white and Christian conservatives that don’t represent the rest of the country”?

First of all, Iowa is diverse with American Indian, German, Czech, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Hispanic/Latino, African American, Vietnamese, Hmong, Cambodian, Bosnian, Irish, Somali, Sudanese and other ethnic minorities. I apologize for leaving someone out. We are proud of our long and continuing history of being a destination for people from all over the world seeking freedom, peace and opportunity. By the way, the oldest mosque in the United States is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Second, politically, Iowa is very representative of the United States. We are a really competitive state in which Democrats and Republicans take turns in political office. We have a very balanced congressional delegation, and Iowa swings back and forth between voting for the Democrat and then the Republican for president of the United States. That’s a far better record than the politically barren and homogeneous single-party states of the Northeast and West Coast, where Democrats rule, and the South and Southwest where Republicans dominate.

Third, Iowans march to their own ideological drummer with a hefty dose of no-party independents, a Democratic Party that is considered to be more liberal (and pacifist) than the average and a Republican Party that is more conservative.

Vive la difference!

Where else could Barack Obama have gotten his start except by winning the Iowa caucuses, and where else could Pat Robertson been given a chance to even try for the toughest job in the nation? Nowhere, I say.

In 2011, there is a mistaken notion that the GOP in Iowa is homogeneously Christian conservative. That’s obviously completely incorrect when you scrutinize the field of GOP presidential contenders who have been successfully competing.

First there are two “genuine” Christian, faith-based conservatives, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. They have received substantial but not impressive support and have split this GOP base between themselves.

Second, there are many “libertarian” conservative Republicans in Iowa who share some concerns and positions with the former group but who are attracted to Ron Paul, who could not be more different than Bachmann and Santorum in his main emphasis and especially his foreign policy positions.

Third isĀ another substantial chunk of Iowa Republicans who have yet a different set of values, issues criteria, and strategic interests and they have flocked to Newt Gingrich.

Fourth are the “pragmatists” likely who have steadily liked Mitt Romney as “the most electable in a general election,” and whose numbers are roughly equivalent to the other three segments described above.

Fifth are floaters who have been looking for a good candidate and have toggled between Donald Trump, Herman Cain and are now distributing themselves to Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.

Sixth, a small number of moderate-to-liberal Republicans like John Huntsman.

Now tell me that Iowa Republicans are homogeneous.

The best proof is that while the national news media has for months been following and interviewing Bob Vander Plaats and touting him as the “kingmaker” of the Iowa GOP, he in fact has proven to be, as one old-time GOP friend and former legislator said to me, a “Paper Tiger.” None of the frontrunners were vetted and approved by him and he ended up endorsing Rick Santorum, who may fit the Family Values litmus test but who seems to have very little chance of making it out of Iowa and surging anywhere else in the country. Most think Vander Plaats can’t actually bring many voters to precincts on caucus night.

The Chris Christie cheerleaders, prominent Republicans who made the pilgrimage to New Jersey to lure the governor into throwing his hat in the ring, are now endorsing different candidates, so they are a diverse group unto themselves.

I am pleading with the national and international news media to report more accurately the diversity of Iowa, as well as this year the astonishing diversity even within the Republican Party in the state.

Of course, if you’re a liberal reporter from New York or Oregon, Iowa will look pretty hard-core conservative to you. But if you take the time to examine the facts, Iowans are very selective, individualistic and picky when it comes to finding the candidate who’s “just right” for them. That’s why there are still seven ambitious individuals vying for their support on Tuesday.

What other state will be able to claim so much diversity of choices on Super Tuesday? None.