Today marks the start of voting in the Iowa Caucus, a crucial stage in the great and bloody pageant that is our Democratic process. And while the tallied results will doubtlessly dominate the news over the next days (until the New Hampshire caucus steals the spotlight) it should be remembered that, while important, the results are far from deterministic. Plenty of presidential hopefuls have won here only to ultimately lose the nomination. All of which is to simply say that we will not (I repeat, not) be making any foolhardy attempts at predicting the outcome here.
That’s not our job.
What we will be doing is- now that the dust has finally started to settle- is count up the casualties and figure out what the numbers say about us.
The Head & The Heartless
As of the writing of this post, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders are neck and neck for the hearts and minds of their devotees in the Hawkeye state. And that alone should be of note, seeing as how a year ago Hillary’s nomination was being treated as a given, with some even dubbing the primaries more of a “coronation” than a contest.
Why It’s A Good Thing:
Look, it’s no secret that yours truly is an avowed Leftist. And as such, I’m still not entirely certain what to make of Bernie Sanders. Part of me, of course, wants to like the guy. I do want to see Universal Healthcare, free higher education, drug legalization, and the like. I don’t want the massive, bloated, intrusive pseudo-socialism of Scandinavia. There’s a lot that goes into it, and maybe we can explore that another time, but for the here and now, I’m just happy that it’s a conversation we can even have.
If you had told me, just a couple years ago, that a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist would have a significant chance at a major nomination and the presidency, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here we are, and for better or ill, we’re the people that have to deal with that. The issues of the working class, of income inequality, of the failures of run-of-the-mill liberalism- these have all found their way to the forefront of our national dialogue and they cannot be dismissed. Even if Sanders fails to clinch the nomination (and that’s still very up in the air), his supporters and sympathizers will certainly not go quietly into the night. From here on out the Democrats (and ostensibly, any major candidate) are going to have to address the increasingly vocal demands for a more equal society.
That, and I love that the eternally smug former Secretary-o’-State is being forced to actually work for this nomination.
Republigeddon: Fury Road
In our warm-up to covering the presidential race this year, I wrote a post on the Republican party, or mostly, about the catastrophic heat-death of the Republican party.
The apocalyptic state of the Republican party lends itself to some striking (if less than flattering) comparisons. Namely that of so many belligerent, bloodthirsty warlords, spewing twisted Bible verses and threatening to “nuke the sand until it glows” (that’s an actual Ted Cruz quote). Factor in the crazy hair, misogyny, and unquenchable thirst for natural resources, and you’ve got a wasteland that’d give Mad Max’s Australia a run for its money.
Why It’s A Good Thing:
Yes, a good thing.
I do my fair share of railing on liberals- even to the point where some folks might get the impression that yours truly is some breed of conservative. That’s definitely not the case. There’s plenty we could submit to demonstrate just how psychotic the Republican Party has been over the past… well, century, but nothing stands more clearly than the recent waves of open bigotry that the party has spouted and touted as it’s by-line.
But all that bellowing- as repulsive and dangerous as it is- it’s all still a dying moan.
The already splintering conservative base has utterly failed to find a banner to unite behind. The extremes of religious conservatism have alienated the fiscal conservatives. The “amoral” principles of the free-market have put off plenty of evangelicals. The zealotry of the Tea Party disciples has created a rift with their establishment brethren, and attempts at finding a common enemy in Latino immigrants and Arab refugees, has served only to drive the crazies in and the few remaining sane people out.
Again- ultimately a good thing.
Of course, the Iowa caucus did technically see a Republican winner in Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz has (again, as of the time of this writing) managed to pull out a surprising 4 point lead, largely attributed to a last minute push by his campaign.
Now plenty of folks might be tempted to breath a sigh of relief at the thought of Trump finally being pushed back, but again, caution is going to be needed here. As we stated above, the Iowa caucuses aren’t king-makers, and billionaire Donald Trump is still sitting in a comfortable second over his lackluster competition.
More importantly, it needs to be remembered that Cruz isn’t exactly all that much better than his flaxen-haired counterpart.
Indeed, in some areas, Cruz is even more psychotic than Trump is.
Cruz, unlike Trump, has steadfastly stood against gay marriage, even going so far as to state that the recent Supreme Court decision on the matter “undermines the constitution”. Cruz has favored drastically slashing corporate taxes. Trump has stated favor in actually increasing taxes on the wealthy. For all of Trump’s blustering rhetoric, he and his counterpart are almost identical on most every other major issue– hardly something that should be inspiring confidence in the winner in Iowa.
Why It’s A Bad Thing:
Beyond this “defeat” really being more of a minor setback for Trump, the simple truth of the matter is that even if the public did decide to turn on the bellicose gentleman from New York, his replacement is standing on pretty much the same platform of twisted faith, xenophobia, corporatism, and general goose-step-ery. Trump’s been accused by many for being a demagogue, but tonight’s results would suggest that he’s a symptom, not the cause. Whether Trump stays or goes, the virulent madness that he’s tried to harness is still going to have to be dealt with.
It would be remiss of us not to end here on a positive note. Regardless of the final outcome of the Democratic nomination- whether or not you’re even a Democrat- I think that every tried-an’-true believer in democracy can take hope that the little guy still has some push.
In what has already become the most expensive election in history, many folks have long despaired of the ability for actual voters to compete with SuperPACS and billionaires. Yet in a nomination dominated by millionaires and billionaires, a crotchety 3rd party Senator has made ’em all sweat and bleed for every voter, and has done so wholly without corporate backing. Regardless of where you land on the guy, that in and of itself, should be cause for hope for folks of any political bearing.
Maybe even a broken system can be right twice a day.