"Ray, people will come, Ray," implores the character Terence Mann to landowner Ray Kinsella in perhaps the greatest movie ever set in Iowa, "Field of Dreams." "They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up on your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it."

In the scene, Mann is beseeching Kinsella to keep his magical baseball field, which, while magical, is also bankrupting the Kinsellas. For those not familiar with the movie, however, it is entirely conceivable to assume the two characters in the scene are dreaming up an idea just as absurd: the Iowa caucuses.


The Iowa caucuses were moved to the front of the presidential primary calendar by accident in 1972 and have remained there ever since. In 1976, a dark-horse candidate by the name of Jimmy Carter waged an aggressive campaign in Iowa and won the caucus that year. The press started romanticizing the farming state as an election soothsayer and the rest is history — or should be history.

The resultant attention and modicum of prominence Iowa garners in our presidential nominating process simply by being first in line are laughable. The idea that a state with only six electoral votes in the general election, and a Republican caucus system run by conservative evangelicals, is at all predictive is also laughable. There is no constituency less reflective of the American experience, the American political and social climate, and most importantly less capable of winning national elections, than conservative evangelicals.

Yet, late last month, speaking to a packed house of evangelicals at a church near Des Moines, Iowa, nine (nine!) Republican presidential candidates tried to outdo each other in a game of who could oppose same-sex marriage more. There was, in fact, a certain irony to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition sponsoring a forum in which Republican presidential hopefuls take the stage to show just how anti-freedom they can be. Rather than addressing diverse issues, candidates in Iowa are thrown into a theological test tube and asked by a hardcore-right constituency, that is anything but diverse, to address religious liberty, abortion and same-sex marriage. Good luck chiseling a moderate Republican like former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman from the stones of time and expecting him to ever compete in Iowa. A moderate Republican would have to alter his position so much to compete in Iowa that he would spend the rest of the primary moonwalking from his pandering, extreme rhetoric.

"We have become a party that is extraordinarily judgmental about people's lives, almost moralistic in our tone," former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) said in an interview last week. "Instead of talking about jobs and the economy, we're putting far too much emphasis on something that shouldn't be at the epicenter of our national agenda."

For most of America, the sentiment surrounding these social issues, while representing both support and non-support and often touching on moral boundaries, has generated a momentum of progress and respect for the rights of all Americans. Most Republicans would like to move beyond the issue of gay marriage. The problem with Iowa and its homogenous, largely evangelical caucuses is that they use the spotlight of being the first stop on the election train to champion the candidate who is the most convincing bastion of "traditional American values," not the candidate who is most fit to lead.

"Marriage as an institution existed before even government itself," trumpeted Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help MORE (R) to the Freedom Coalition summit attendees. "The institution of marriage as between one man and one woman existed before our laws existed."

The same, of course, could be said about slavery.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) played even more to the base, declaring that "The United States of America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America." He nearly brought down the house.

Iowa's caucus members will tell you they are first on the electoral calendar because they are essential in providing the most representative look at the coming primaries, when, in truth, Iowa is only essential because it is first. The emotional disconnect between Iowa's small population and the majority of America is stark. Yet, every four years, we prop Iowa up as the vanguard for our national elections, and spend the months thereafter cleaning up the mess.

But as the great Terence Mann would say, "People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."

Spatola is a West Point graduate and former captain in the U.S. Army. He currently serves as a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports and SiriusXM radio.