Living on the Edge

It’s upon us. About one half of one per cent of all registered voters in the United States—ninety-six per cent of them likely to be white, a hundred per cent certain to live in Iowa or New Hampshire—will now exercise their inalienable, God-given, legally mandated right to choose the Presidential nominees of the two parties. Since the advent of the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus as we know them, in the nineteen-fifties and seventies, respectively, no one has been elected President without winning one or the other—except Bill Clinton, whose second-place finish in New Hampshire, in 1992, amid various scandals, was a victory over expectations, and proved that he was indefatigable. So is the political hegemony of these two smallish, non-representative states. If the Presidential-nominating process were an international sports competition, one would assume that top officials of both parties were taking envelopes of cash from town chairs in Durham and precinct captains in Waterloo.

But, amazingly, all this outsized clout comes free.