December 19, 2011

Iowa professor expatiates on why Iowa's not fit to play such a big part in deciding who gets to be President.

Here's Stephen Bloom's long article in The Atlantic. It's clever and funny.

And now here come the earnest, humorless boosters of the state, such as University of Iowa president Sally Mason: "As president of the University, I have the opportunity to travel far and wide across this great state frequently, and the Iowa I see is one of strong, hard-working and creative people."

And as I have the opportunity to read far and wide across the blatherings of Iowans reacting to Bloom frequently, the Iowa I see is one of earnest, boring people.


dbp said...

iowahawk rather thoroughly and entertainingly fisked the whole thing already.

Andy said...

It appears that Ron Paul is surging into the lead in the caucus, so that doesn't speak so well of them.

Although I don't think I would consider wanting Ron Paul to be president necessarily means they are "earnest" and "boring".

Scott M said...

It appears that Ron Paul is surging into the lead in the caucus, so that doesn't speak so well of them.

Ron Paul and Iowans have nothing to do with that. The poll reflects exactly what the Illuminati want you to think at this point.

MadisonMan said...

It seemed more whiny than clever/funny to me.

I was surprised he didn't explain the IOWA acronym.

MadisonMan said...

The Iowahawk takedown is hilarious.

And if you don't merit a mention by the New Yorker, it's time to take the Greyhound back to Des Moines and live with the humiliation, Elmer.


D. B. Light said...

Iowahawk is never boring.

Jim said...

"the Iowa I see is one of earnest, boring people."

In other words, a lot like Wisconsin.

hawkeyedjb said...

Mr. Bloom makes some clever remarks that follow in a very long and mostly worn-out tradition of condescension. As a Hawkeye, I have been reading the same stuff for many decades - since long before Bloom discovered the strange land he now inhabits. If you want to read the original (and much more insightful) versions of Bloom's essay, see if you can find the old writings of Donald Kaul or Gordon Gammack; they explained the seeming oddness of Iowans much better and with a bit more humility. Like a lot of things, Bloom's story was done better forty years ago.

Iowa has much in common with areas that are losing people because the primary industry doesn't employ as many people as in the past. In Iowa's case, it is productivity on the farm that has vastly reduced the rural population; in other parts of the country, it is mismanagement, greed and stupidity that have wrecked whole industries. I have much more hope for the future of Iowa, simply because it has generally been well-governed by honest people. I have no hope at all for other hollowed-out regions, because their residents cling to the religion of bad government, more strongly than any Iowan every clung to a Bible.

Anonymous said...

If you've driven from, say, Colmar, France, across the Rhine, to Freiburg, Germany, you will notice the differences between the two nationalities. If you've driven from McGregor, Iowa, across the Mississippi, to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, you will find no differences in the populations.

By the way, if you're in Colmar, check out the Isenheim Altarpiece. Visceral Gruenewald. If you're in McGregor or Prairie du Chien, check out the Effigy Mounds Park. Old Indian burial sites in a beautiful park that overlooks the Mississippi (photo here).

Econophile said...

Bloom's article is "clever and funny"?!

It's not possible to exhibit cleverness and contemptuousness simultaneously, as his piece proves. I'm surprised you would care for it, Ann.

Unknown said...

"In other words, a lot like Wisconsin."

...without the exceptional self-regard.

Bob_R said...

I didn't find Bloom's article terribly clever or funny, and I don't think he made a very good case. This distresses me since I think it is crazy that we let the same few states act as the first filters of our Presidential candidates. I think the basic idea of using small states that are relatively cheap to campaign in is a good part of the process. But why Iowa and New Hampshire all the time? There is no small state that is going to be representative of the whole country. We ought to at least pass the honor/burden around so that we see different mistakes made once in a while.

Franklin said...

Best line from the Iowahawk parody is where he calls Obama's quip about bitter clingers an "insightful burn" and laments that Obama didn't get credit for it.

edutcher said...

Nobody paid attention to the IA caucuses until '76, when Jimmy Carter placed in the money (barely). Since he was David Rockefeller's boy, that got him (surprise!) a lot of column inches.

Craig said...

"Iowa is the roughest place I've ever been."

Stevie Ray Vaughn

Joe said...

Bloom vacationed for twenty years in Iowa without ever living there. This is more than a bit like the condescending travel writer who stays in the nicest hotel in the capital city for a few days and tells us all about the country.

I lived in Arkansas briefly, hated it and moved, and while I may joke about my experience, I didn't understand Arkansas any more than Bloom understood Iowa. Unlike Bloom, I'd never attempt to do any sort of serious or semi-serious analysis of Arkansas or its residents.

Craig said...

Tin Pan Alley is the name of the song and the official lyrics are transcribed as "Alley is the roughest place I've ever been." But when Vaughan sang it it always sounded like Iowa, as though he'd done some prison time there.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Bloom might have substituted Wisconsin for Iowa I guess and then Althouse would have been the one offended.

GLB said...

As a native and recently repatriated Hawkeye, I found Bloom's column full of flyover country sterotypes held by residents of both coasts, that Iowa is full of meth addicts, hicks, etc. Earnest and boring. I suppose, is accurate, if by "boring" you mean "not overly-filled with themselves," or "not attention whores."

Yes, there's not much excitement in Iowa. The earthquakes are small. There are no hurricanes. Forest fires are rare. There is the odd catastrophic flood, but how many stories of looting did you see after the 2008 flooding? How many people waiting to be rescued by some government agency?

We pay our mortgages, raise our kids, take them to church, and feed a great portion of the country, if not the world.

As a resident of the neighboring state of Wisconsin, I expect better from you, Ms. Althouse.

Talking With said...

Here’s our show about Bloom’s article:

“Four native Iowans talk about the depiction of them and the state they call home in Stephen Bloom’s scathing and controversial article in The Atlantic Monthly, his motives for publishing it, the response its generated across the state, and its national implications with regards to Iowa’s first in the nation voting status.”

JohnJ said...

Ernest & boring, eh?

Got all that from reading reactions to Blooms' article, did you?

I grew up in Iowa. Left for twenty years and then returned to raise a family.

I didn't find Bloom's article either particularly clever or funny. But anyone who has lived in Iowa for any length of time would immediately recognize it as mostly exaggeration ...or complete fiction.

But, then, Bloom does cite Keith Olbermann as an authority on our congressional delegation and there is his morally justifiable sniff-sniffing about the state's ambivalence toward gay marriage—which admittedly does reflect poorly on us given that all of the other 49 states have sanctioned same-sex unions (I think that's correct, isn't it?). So maybe I'll give him those two.

But that story about his dog…

(My comments in parentheses.)

Bloom: "I can't tell you how often over the years I'd be walking Hannah (Bloom's Labrador retriever) in our neighborhood and someone in a pickup would pull over and shout some variation of the following:
'Bet she hunts well.'
'Do much hunting with the bitch?'
'Where you hunt her?'
(I bet I can tell you how often that's happened: Once, maybe, or even twice. But most likely, never.)

"To me, it summed up Iowa. (Really?) You'd never get a dog because you might just want to walk with the dog or to throw a ball for her to fetch. (Really? That's what we do with our berner.) No, that's not a reason to own a dog in Iowa. You get a dog to track and bag animals that you want to stuff, mount, or eat. (I literally have never met a single person in all my years in Iowa, east and now west, who has "bagged" an animal simply to have it stuffed or mounted.)
That's the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president."

There are lots of valid reasons that Iowa should not have such a large impact on the presidential race. But the slander that its citizens are a bunch of rubes is not one of them. Good schools, good communities, friendly & civic-minded people, and virtually non-existent violent crime, that's the Iowa I know. (We moved from Baltimore and early on got a kick out of a local TV newscast's warning about a serial bike thief. A serial bike thief?! In Baltimore, they were finding pieces of bodies in public parks and abandoned buildings!)

Des Moines and its suburbs (and occasionally, Cedar Rapids and the "Quad Cities") regularly are rated by business and financial magazines as among the best places to live. Religion certainly is a hallmark, but I have never known it to be nearly as intrusive as Bloom characterizes it. Lots of folks here believe in God and go to church; get over it.

Really disappointed in Ann's naïve distain for our state's citizens. Maybe we should organize a takeover of our Capitol; that would gain her respect.

ricpic said...

Most Iowans are rugged-individualist-socialists and the contradiction, even when pointed out, barely puts a hitch in their gate.

BarrySanders20 said...

Ann needs to recalibrate her usually accurate BS detector. I am surprised she thinks Bloom's essay is clever or funny. It's a narrow-minded perspective and anyone who actually knows the subject matter knows enough to see through the stereotypes. Ann doesn't know the subject matter, but because her stereotypes fit Bloom's stereotypes, she sees them as witty.

This take by Bloom is anything but clever because it is unoriginal. That makes it boring, other than as a window to who Bloom is. While he may often think great thoughts about himself, I don't think he intended this essay to expose his lack of awareness. Failure to observe this exposes the one who thinks it's witty as ignorant. You may think this reflects a "humorless" reaction, but Iowans are too polite to laugh at the ignorant.

And yes, I lived in Iowa for 10 years, followed by the last 10 in Wisconsin. I don't consider myself "from" either state. I have lived among, worked with, observed, and had and raised kids in both states. I do not know what would be the best first-caucus state, but there is no chance that Wisconsin, with its dysfunctional political culture, should ever displace a state like Iowa in the political winnowing process.

Sure, Iowa democrats were rubes when they fell for Obama, Bloom probably included (stereotpye!), but then lots of people who think they are smart did that in the general election, right Ann?

Speaking of humorless, I've noticed a hard edge here lately. Not quite meanness, but cool rationality. I do hope all is well.

Patrick said...

I found the article odd. Sort of like a scat version of writing.

mythusmage said...

Is Iowa really that big a deal, or is it just because it's the first? And if it really isn't all that important to the process, what will it take to wake up the chattering class?

Rebecca Anderson said...

"And as I have the opportunity to read far and wide across the blatherings of Iowans reacting to Bloom frequently, the Iowa I see is one of earnest, boring people."

Ah! I feel betrayed! Blatherings? Earnest, boring people? I have always urged others to tune into the various Althouse online ventures, SPECIFICALLY because you have "appeared" to be such a fair-minded, thoughtful author. I can take criticism of Iowa, but your language---you sound like some arrogant academician. What happened? Is the Madison world finally getting to you? Please respond, Ann!

jvc said...


I don't know which Quad Cities you are referring to, but Quad Cities in which I live is a toilet. Being dirt cheap is not the same thing as a quality place to live.

If you enjoy being 3-4+ hours from real cities, but with the chain linked fence neighborhoods of the inner cities of larger places, the Quad Cities are for you.

Bert said...

Of course Prof. Althouse is contemptuous of Iowans. Cut from the same cloth as this article author Bloom (whom I've met--pretty good guy), I am convinced from reading her blog and especially her take on the throngs at the capitol last February that she and this carpetbagger Meade look down their noses at Wisconsin natives.