A Snooty Article about Iowa in The Atlantic

 

Stephen Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, offers some snooty observations about Iowa and the upcoming Iowa Caucus.  Here, for instance, is a representative passage:

I live in Iowa City, a university town 60 miles west of the Mississippi, along Highway 80 (known as The Interstate to younger Iowans, just The Highway to older Iowans). Eighty is America’s Main Street, bisecting Iowa, connecting the hallowed-out middle of Corpus Americana to the faraway coasts. Granted, I’m a transplant here, and when I lit out almost two decades ago for this territory, I didn’t quite know what to expect. The first day I arrived from San Francisco, wandering about Iowa City during spring break, billed as a bustling Big Ten University town, I kept wondering, “Where is everyone?” I thought a neutron bomb had gone off; there were buildings but few, if any, people.

Today, I still not quite sure what I’d gotten myself into. I’ve lived in many places, lots of them foreign countries, but none has been more foreign to me than Iowa. …

Friday fish fries at the American Legion hall; grocery and clothing shopping at Wal-Mart; Christmas crèches with live donkeys, sheep and a neighborhood infant playing Baby Jesus; shotgun-toting* hunters stalking turkeys in the fall (better not go for a walk in the countryside in October or November). Not many cars in these parts of America. They’re vehicles, pronounced ve-HICK-uls — 4X4’s, pick-ups, snowmobiles). Rural houses are modest, some might say drab. Everyone strives to be middle-class; and if you have some money, by God you’d never want to make anyone feel bad by showing it off. If you go to Florida for a cruise, you keep it to yourself. The biggest secret often is — if you still own farmland — exactly how many acres. Ostentatious is driving around town in a new Ford F-150 pickup.

The reason everyone seems related in small-town Iowa is because, if you go back far enough, many are, either by marriage or birth. In Iowa, names like Yoder, Snitker, Schroeder, and Slabach are as common as Garcia, Lee, Romero, Johnson, and Chen are in big cities.

David Burge (of Iowahawk) has responded with a funny spoof.

Powerlineblog’s John Hinderaker provides some brilliant analysis.

My biggest problem with the article is the following passage: 

In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. Iowa’s not representative of much. There are few minorities, no sizable cities, and the state’s about to lose one of its five seats in the U.S. House because its population is shifting; any growth is negligible.

Yes, I suppose that Iowa is more agrarian and rural than average America.  And maybe the state has fewer racial minorities.  But politically Iowa is extremely representative of America.  In 2008 it voted 54-44 for Obama over McCain, while America voted 53-46.  In 2004 it voted 50-49 for Bush over Kerry, while America voted 51-48.

In my book, Left Turn, I estimate the average “Political Quotient,” or PQ, of voters in each state.  Judged by PQs, Iowa is the most centrist state in the U.S.   Specifically, while the PQ of the average American is 50.4, the PQ of the average Iowan is just a tiny bit more liberal, 50.7.  

Maybe Iowa is a great place to hold the first presidential-nomination contest.

(New Hampshire, by the way, has an average PQ of 51.7, making it the third most centrist state in the U.S.  In case you’re curious, here you can compute your own PQ.  And here [scroll down to the bottom] you can see the average estimated PQs of all 50 states.)

There are 27 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @MelFoil

    Those are the “stupid people” who got plopped down somewhere on America’s empty endless prairie, and then had to build healthy wholesome peaceful communities from scratch, with little or no help from outside. That’s how stupid they are.

    • #1
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    @DrewInWisconsin

    “the hallowed-out middle of Corpus Americana”

    I assume he means “hollowed-out,” because I’ve never heard the expression “hallowed-out” before, and I can’t seem to make it work as a clever neologism either.

    So if I can only get to the third line before I write off the whole thing, it’s because I expect a university professor — especially a journalism professor — to subject himself to more rigorous adherence to proper spelling.

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    @midnightgolfer

    The only thing us people from the coasts fear more than disappearing into the anonymity of flyover country, is that we’ll like it.

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    @user_83937

    I read this after I read Iowahawk’s spoof and it was even funnier when I realized how much he actually used, verbatim; the original really was that bad!

    • #4
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    @DavidFoster

    Many academics suffer from high status-anxiety, and they seek to ease their pain by putting down vast swaths of their fellow citizens.

    I note that snobbery seems to be higher among those academics who are in the less-intellectually-substantive fields. You are more likely to find intellectual snobs among journalism professors (or even more, “communications” professors) than among those who teach classics or medieval history or aeronautical engineering.

    • #5
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    @flownover

    The most telling link to this academic onanism was the chart of recent Iowa farmland prices. At an average of $6700/acre for the state,this poor schoolmaster is surrounded by provincial princes. Maybe it’s just a yearning to be rich like the yokels ?

    But hey I bet he can deconstruct that homophobic agricentric construct based on some inner bestial demons he has wrestled with.

    Go Iowahawk, this guy was your mince pie!

    • #6
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    @GeorgeSavage

    Well, I just discovered that my personal PQ is 0.6. So I guess I’m not an average voter. But, somehow, I already suspected as much.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @MrDart
    George Savage: Well, I just discovered that my personal PQ is 0.6. So I guess I’m not an average voter. But, somehow, I already suspected as much. · Dec 20 at 12:31pm

    My PQ is 3, George. Knowing that you attained a lower score is all the inspiration I now need to strive harder to be more conservative.

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    @GeorgeSavage
    Terry

    George Savage: Well, I just discovered that my personal PQ is 0.6. So I guess I’m not an average voter. But, somehow, I already suspected as much. · Dec 20 at 12:31pm

    My PQ is 3, George. Knowing that you attained a lower score is all the inspiration I now need to strive harder to be more conservative. · Dec 20 at 12:35pm

    Don’t worry, Terry. I’m more than happy to reach across the aisle and embrace those more liberal than me; all the way up to, say, Jim DeMint’s “5.1.” So you’re in the Savage mainstream.

    • #9
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    @AmishDude

    A “journalism professor”. Sigh.

    Why do we even have journalism schools? It’s a wimpy version of an English degree.

    • #10
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    @TommyDeSeno

    Where I live in New Jersey sounds exactly as he described. From the Friday night fish fries, to the trucks and even the hunting right on the street where I live.

    That fact that I only have to drive 30 minutes to go punch Snookie in the eye at some fist pumping nightclub doesn’t change that. She’s still 30 minutes away.

    This guy should know that there are a great deal more of us proud rural people living along the coasts in places like New Jersey than he thinks there are.

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    @GiveMeLiberty

    Thanks for the link, it makes a lot of things clearer to me now. It explains why many in my extended family who still live in the state of my birth, Nebraska (19.9 PQ), look at their neighbors in Iowa as a bunch of socialist hippies. Of course, my home for most of my life has been here in Hawai’i which beats out Massachusetts and is second only to Vermont with a 74.4 PQ (sigh).

    • #12
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    @Kervinlee

    I read Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street years ago, and I wasn’t all that impressed with it then. The prof’s studied contempt for the hoi-polloi is a tired old act by now, and doesn’t awe me with the spectacle of his self-proclaimed worldly sophistication. Everything he condems as vices I regard as virtues.

    • #13
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    @MTS

    A minor observation –

    “There are few minorities…”

    I love when peopled are surprised by tautologies.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @Roberto
    Today, I still not quite sure what I’d gotten myself into. I’ve lived in many places, lots of them foreign countries, but none has been more foreign to me than Iowa. …·

    That once sentence pretty much tells me everything I need to know about Mr. Bloom’s writings.

    • #15
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    @DrewInWisconsin

    Gah! I’ve read large portions of this snotty diatribe now, and it makes me want to back up a manure spreader to this idiot’s taxpayer-funded house and turn it on full-blast.

    • #16
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    @TheNewClearOption
    CJRun: I read this after I read Iowahawk’s spoof and it was even funnier when I realized how much he actually used, verbatim; the original really was that bad! · Dec 20 at 12:23pm

    I noticed that too, CJ. It makes it that much funnier when you consider iowahawk’s parody practically wrote itself. This opening paragraph, however, was only loosely based on the original, but takes it just that much farther out:

    IOWA CITY — On January 3, Iowans will trudge through snow, sleet, sludge, mud, ice, corn, beans, pig feces, flaming lakes of ethanol, gale-force blizzards — whatever it takes — to join their neighbors that evening in 1,784 living rooms, barns, community halls, recreation barns, silos, wigwams, and public-school Corn God sacrifice altars in a kind of Norman Rockwell-meets-HR Geiger old timey bygone-era past-that-never-was town-hall folksy-regular-folks go-to-town-meeting at which they’ll eat and debate, and then battle with corn hoes and pitchforks to choose their presidential candidates along party lines. The local tribal elders call this “Kaukkassqaatsi,” the Iowa word for “run on sentences.”

    A classic!

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Member
    @Sisyphus

    Why would anyone send their beloved child to this vain, egregious troll for “education”?

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Member
    @PeterMeza

    The parody was just hilarious!

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Percival

    Maybe the reason that the slack-jawed peasants that Mr. Bloom portrays aren’t into ostentatious displays of wealth is because they are saving their money. For what, I don’t know; perhaps to send their children to school or some such foolishness.

    And on that subject, Mr. Bloom misses the biggest blight on the region. It’s not the fish fries, or the tractor pulls, or the stultifying effect of being surrounded by people who actually believe in God or anything like that. It is the problem we have maintaining a level of quality amongst the teachers in the state schools. Certainly there are quality teachers (most of them are excellent, in fact), but every once in a while a real dullard manages to get tenure and spends twenty years or so yammering on and on about nothing in particular.

    Maybe Mr. Bloom can help us out with that.

    • #20
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    @AaronMiller

    I was sure Conor would be here by now to defend The Atlantic‘s judgement in publishing this. Perhaps later.

    • #21
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    @RandyWeivoda

    Wow, I didn’t realize what I hick I am. I thought every town had it’s name painted on it’s water tower. Furthermore, I’m not a Christian and I’ve been too dumb to be offended whenever someone wishes me “Merry Christmas”. I’ve even said it myself!

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    @

    Des moines is actually a decent size metro area and they get some good music acts through Des moines and Iowa city. Also it is cheap to live in Iowa and they still live by traditional values there generally. Which are both great reasons to move there. Des Moines has a pretty sophisticated insurance industry too.

    • #23
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    @SeverelyLtd
    Peter Meza: The parody was just hilarious! · Dec 20 at 4:57pm

    I can’t agree with this or the other comments on Iowahawk’s recent effort. He’s a major league slugger by any standard, but this was a bunt at best. The parody couldn’t make Bloom look much sillier than Bloom had already managed himself.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Member
    @PeterMeza
    Severely Ltd.

    Peter Meza: The parody was just hilarious! · Dec 20 at 4:57pm

    I can’t agree with this or the other comments on Iowahawk’s recent effort. He’s a major league slugger by any standard, but this was a bunt at best. The parody couldn’t make Bloom look much sillier than Bloom had already managed himself. · Dec 20 at 6:50pm

    Oh, jeez lighten up. OK, I qualify my previous comment.

    My own subjective impression of the parody was that it was hilarious.

    • #25
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    @DaveCarter

    Professor Bloom reminds me of a quote from Churchill, …something about, “… a self made man who worships his creator.”

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Member
    @MrTall

    I also read Iowahawk’s send-up first, and was later startled to discover it wasn’t made up from scratch. I read the original, and was staggered by how much pop-n-fresh parody was already baked right in.

    BTW, I’m an Iowan myself, from the seriously benighted (i.e. deeply conservative) NW corner of the state, not all that far from Iowahawk’s ancestral village, and I would like to support his nomination for at least a cabinet position in the next Republican administration.

    • #27

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