Michelle Bachman’s plan to return America to prosperity is simple: we must repent. Speaking to some evangelicals recently in Iowa, Ms. Bachmann said the following: “If we humble ourselves, and pray and confess our sins … [God] will heal our land. And we will have a new day.” To be fair, the crowd often determines the speaker’s message, especially when the speaker is a presidential hopeful. If, however, Ms. Bachmann wants to be taken seriously, she will have to present a practical program, which need not be at odds with her religious one. God helps those who help themselves, as the saying goes.
If all the primaries were condensed and held over the space of the month, it would be impossible, or at least extremely unlikely, for candidates to be all things to all people. Every four years we hear the religious rhetoric because of Iowa’s central role in the primaries. And then, once the primaries move on to the secular east and west coasts, this rhetoric dies down, as the audience for it dwindles.
The problem with our primary system is that it almost supposes that the states are sovereign. When commentators speak of Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina, I sometimes forget they are talking about states, not countries with their own potentates. The outsized influence of the early primary states has already received much comment, and I won’t belabor the point here. The cynical campaign politics we all decry is not so much the fault of the candidates, as it is of the itinerary they are obliged to keep.