One hundred years ago today, I—William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States—signed the state of New Mexico into the Union. It was one of the proudest moments of my presidency. Despite a tumultuous history up that point, New Mexico possessed some of the most generous, decent, and patriotic citizens this great nation could hope to have. I have traveled there recently on my campaign, and I happy to report that it still does.
Sadly, I have come to understand that, in this 21st century, New Mexico is considered by many on the coasts to be a “flyover state.” Obviously, the term had no currency during my term in office, with Kitty Hawk still a fresh memory. Now, I understand that the term isn’t always meant derogatorily. But recently, another state has been lumped into this category with the most dismissive of intentions.
I speak, of course, of Iowa.
I will admit, the Republican caucus in Iowa earlier this week was a frustrating experience for me. I was, after all, once the leader of the Republican Party. I know all too well what a messy affair the nomination process can be. And the winners of the caucus (if I may be so presumptuous to declare it a tie), Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, are my opponents, ones I plan on defeating as the Taft Party candidate. One thing struck me, though, as the national media—based mostly on the East Coast, of course—descended on the Iowa to report on the caucus’ proceedings: the condescending tone with which Iowa itself was spoken of.
Do not take me the wrong way. I am not of the mind that there is such a thing as the “media elite.” I value and respect our free press, and I celebrate it as the essential component of democracy that it unarguably is. However, many pundits have slung much slander in regard to the state of Iowa—often while sitting there, a welcome guest in that very place! It has been called, at best, a poor indicator of the political mood of the country. At worse, the great people of Iowa have been accused, implicitly or explicitly, of being ignorant and of poor moral fiber—and unworthy of the responsibility of hosting the nation’s premier caucus.
If have news for all these scoffing libelers: Iowa is the United States. You may fly over it in the course of your travels, looking down your nose as you pass, landing there but once every four years to sample its indomitable hospitality. But the people who live and work there do not constitute some blob of generic, homogenous electorate. They are individuals who vote their conscience. Just like you. And just like anyone you deem more “qualified” to have a say in the course of this country.
Of course, every state considered today to be “flyover country” is noble and noteworthy in its own way. One such state that immediately springs to mind: my home of Ohio. It is a beautiful state, both industrious and enlightened, and one whose sensibilities helped shape my bedrock notions of justice, thrift, and moderation (that is to say, as long as the dinner table is not concerned!). And yet, as I have come to learn, its vital position as a bellwether in national elections—to the point where many in politics claim to win Ohio is to win the White House—has often drawn scrutiny and scorn from those on the Coasts.
Ohio is not perfect. The recent passage—and subsequent recall—of the state’s disastrous anti-union bill is a prime example. Although, I must proudly admit, that the recall itself exemplifies the self-corrective functions of democracy, an inalienable right I’m proud to say my fellow Ohioans are unafraid to exercise.
Which only reinforces my point: To determine the state of our great Union, look no further than the states of the Union. New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, all of them. For it is within these states that the American people dwell—and it is each American’s vote, individually and equally, that truly determines the course of this great nation. From sea to shining sea—and everywhere in between.