Last night, I found myself quite interested in the Iowa Caucus. This came as a surprise to me.
I am deeply divided on the idea of a caucus. On the one hand, I like how interactive it is. On the other, people have busy lives. A lot of working people are tired at night and don’t have the energy to go and mess with the whole process. But then you add on top of that the fact that it is done in the dead of winter in a state that is quite cold. And you finish it off with the fact that Iowa is a ridiculously homogeneous state, with a population of about 3% African American and no Latinos to speak of.
So put it all together and you have a prescription for a “democratic” process that leads to oligarchy. Thus, I’ve never thought that much of the Iowa Caucus.
Republican Iowa Caucus
Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus, but really, it was a three way tie with Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Obviously, this makes the Republican establishment very happy. And maybe Rubio will get a big bump out of this. But the fact remains that the Iowa Caucus format helped him. In New Hampshire and South Carolina, Rubio is barely out of the single digits. We will see. (For the record: Ted Cruz is doing almost exactly as well as Rubio in these next two states.)
There is something else, though. Even though I think presidential elections are primarily about economics, I do know that candidates matter. And despite what the common wisdom is on Rubio, I think he’s a terrible candidate. I know some people say that Hillary Clinton seems fake, but that is nothing compared to Rubio. This is a guy who will turn on a dime based upon the political winds. And the entire focus of his campaign is that he’s young. Well, he does come off as young — as in not prepared, not serious, not anything. And as I’ve discussed, his ideas are old.
Rubio being the great hope of the Republican establishment is based on their boneheaded notion of identity politics. By their theory, it doesn’t matter what a politician thinks, so long as they are the right demographic. After years and years of running African American candidates who do not appeal to African Americans, you would think the Republicans would learn. But no.
We’ll see what the next week brings. The only real concern I ever had of the Republican field was that it might nominate Kasich. If Cruz, Trump, and Rubio are what the Republicans have to offer, then Clinton or Sanders will be running against the economy and only the economy.
Democratic Iowa Caucus
This one surprised me. Or it did until I read this headline in The Washington Post, Early Democratic Entrance Polls Show Big Liberal Turnout in Iowa Caucus. I wrote in my Recycled Genius post (which is turning into a kind of announcement space) that my two greatest fears were that Hillary Clinton would win and that Hillary Clinton would lose. And I more or less got my wish, because this election was amazingly close: 701 SDEs (State Delegate Equivalents) for Hillary and 697 SDEs for Bernie. (Martin O’Malley got 8.) That gave Sanders 21 delegates and Clinton 22 delegates, but I guess Clinton gets one more for winning the state.
You need to remember, however, that this is all much more complicated than it looks. If Clinton and Sanders were evenly divided by the DNC, Clinton would win. Right now, Sanders has 13 super delegates and Clinton has 347. Of course, right now in New Hampshire, Sanders is dominating with a lead of upwards of 20 percentage points in the polls. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Clinton is crushing it with a polling lead of over 30 percentage points.
This is crazy. But exciting. And as a Democrat, I hope this goes on. Martin O’Malley has suspended this campaign. That leaves just Clinton and Sanders, who I think have been very good and very respectful. It’s not like in Life of Brian, “The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f@#king Judean People’s Front!” I’m not so sure that’s true on the Republican side.
I think it is important to remember that just as we are right about the Republicans, they are right about us: there isn’t much difference between the candidates. The three Republican at the top in Iowa all think that we need to lower taxes on the rich, cut spending on the poor, get rid of regulation, and “drill, baby, drill!” On the Democratic side, both our candidates want to tax the rich more to provide a more equal distribution of wealth and to invest in the future of this country. They both want to do something about global warming. Neither are planning to take us to war with Iran.
There is a clear decision between the parties — not so much inside the parties. What continues to boggle my mind is that roughly half the nation will vote for the Republicans. I don’t say that as a partisan. I can well see a conservative party that is worthy of people voting for. But not this one.