You Don’t Diss an Iowan!

Maybe I talk about this too much, but it’s amazing to me how many regular political observers don’t seem to get how early-state activists think about their role in American politics and what they have to do to defend it. The former is about money and influence and self-regard and all sorts of things that motivate people to be selfish by other people’s standards. New Hampshire activists think they are performing a sacred national civic rite by rudely examining presidential candidates. Iowa activists cannot imagine life without the state-of-the-art infrastructure they enjoy thanks to the constant subsidies they receive from people who might want to run for president someday. And early-state folk understand that if they don’t aggressively defend their prerogatives via carrots and sticks and sometimes actual threats, they will at some point go away, since, after all, they aren’t particularly rational, are they?

So the instincts of the early state activist are on perpetual hair-trigger alert, which leads to incidents like this one involving right-wing Iowa radio host Steve Deace (per TPM’s Caitlin MacNeal):

Iowa conservative radio host Steve Deace tore into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) last week when the presidential candidate called in late for a scheduled radio interview.

“Well, I was told we were going to have Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. In fact, they told me that before we went on the show today. And they were adamant,” Deace said in the third hour of his Thursday radio show.

“You know how I feel about late guests,” Deace continued. “Ted Cruz was late to this show once. I doubt he’ll ever be late again because I made him sit there for 10 damn minutes while I talked and went through the entire commercial break.”

Deace, who plays a large role in Iowa conservative politics, made it clear that joining his show for an interview would help Republican presidential candidates in Iowa.

“We’re interviewing people for a job. That’s what we do. Are you late for your interview? I’m not late for mine — not if I want the job. So, yeah, I’m upset. I’m not doing much here — just a national radio show. You told us you want to come on, we set the time aside for you to do so,” he said. “There’s only a few thousand potential voters and activists you’d probably want to talk to.”

What a self-important little jackass, eh?

There are some who might say that about Deace, but in this instance he’s just being an Iowan. That’s ironic, since Iowans are some of the nicest people on earth, but you don’t disrespect them politically. If you do, they’ll feel honor bound to take you down to the boneyard and dispatch you violently, because their families and friends and neighbors depend on them to keep the First-in-the-Nation-Caucus industry alive and well. Over time, most national political folk learn to just go along with it all, and not take it personally. Perhaps once they are safely beyond the quadrennial contest, they can quietly make fun of Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina or Nevada (though not entirely, since all but SC are general election battlegrounds, too), but not in the thick of the fray. That’s when it’s very important to pay close attention to when you are scheduled to go on Steve Deace’s radio show.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.