This post was inspired by an infographic someone posted on my Facebook newsfeed, and, yes, I do have the actual answer.
As I was born and raised in Iowa, it never really occurred to me to ask this question, because the answer seems so obvious. It’s ingrained in my brain, my personality, and my values. Maybe it’s not so obvious to outsiders, though, so I will endeavor to explain the why below. Before I do, however, let’s look at some other theories, because they are hilarious.
First, there’s this slideshow, which claims that Iowans vote democrat simply out of spite. Because that makes total sense. Let’s not build our entire culture and belief system around what’s good for us and good for our children. Instead, let’s just devote ourselves to pissing other people off.
Then there’s this discussion thread, and it’s just brilliant. Here’s a sampling of hypotheses from this one: Memphis from Tennessee (durr) says, “The Mississippi River.” That’s all. Just the Mississippi River. Devils30 from Florida says, “I think the scandinavian influence explains it well. Fewer scotch-irish.” Again, no additional explanation, though I suppose Scandinavia is relatively progressive. BlondeArtist from Alaska says, “Iowa is a dairy farming state like wisconsin. nebraska texas ranching.” If there’s anything to this, BlondeArtist doesn’t bother to explain. I have no problem believing you are a blonde, sir/ma’am. Zing!
Okay, ready for the real answer? Here it is:
Most Iowans, like much of the country (I suspect), are actually socially liberal while being fiscally conservative. Whether you vote Democrat or Republican depends on which of your day-to-day concerns most fall under these two categories: social liberalism or fiscal conservation. For Iowans, being socially liberal is more important than being fiscally conservative for two big reasons:
The first reason is that, historically (and recent history has been no different), the state of Iowa has not been hit terribly hard by economic recession. Yes, our unemployment rate goes up, but not nearly as much as it does in more urban areas. Yes, we tend to make less money during an economic downturn, but, again, our average cost of living isn’t that high, so we can tighten the belt without worrying that we’re going to starve to death.
Second, we don’t have time for a lot of nonsense. In 2008, the Iowa Supreme Court declared that gay marriage was protected by the constitution. Some people grumbled, some of us were happy (Ha! Eat it, California! We beat you!), but I think most Iowans simply didn’t care. These are the people who said, “Gay people want to get married? Will this interfere with me bringing my crop in on time? No? Then I really don’t care. Now bugger off, I’ve got hogs to feed.”
Or homework to do or housework, walking the dog, etc. Live and let live. Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you. Oh, you want to smoke pot and read about Marxism? Fine, just do it over there and don’t bug me about it. I’ve got my space and you’ve got yours.
Obviously, this is a simplified answer. Someone could actually write an entire book on all the reasons Iowa votes Democrat, including things like small towns = more concern for neighbors, etc., etc. (About ten years ago, we increased our sales tax by 1% and gave that extra funding to our schools. While we don’t like taxes any more than any one else, we said, “Damn it… but, the schools… well, I guess I just won’t buy the big TV. I’ll get the next smallest size instead.”)
And I suppose this could have something to do with the Scandinavian influence, which may be the same reason we don’t have many urban areas. We like our space, and we’ll be damned if anyone’s going to tell us what we can and can’t do in our own space.
Sorry this post didn’t have any fun pictures. Here’s a photo of that freaky South American bird everyone’s talking about on reddit.