04 January 2012


Not all of my readers are Americans, and not all of the Americans are political news geeks, so I thought it a good time, the day after the (in)famous Iowa caucuses, to take a look at the process, and what happened yesterday.

First, a "caucus" is different from a "primary" in that instead of private, confidential balloting, the participants are gathered in rooms where they can see each other, and where they have to declare their choice. This is the stuff of grass roots democracy -- pick a candidate, defend your choice, reconsider it (one can move from group to group) and finally stand by it. It is also rare in America where we mostly conduct secret ballot elections, but Iowans seem to like it -- periodic attempts in their legislature to change the system have never prospered.

So, about 120,000 Iowans, a fraction of that State's population; a fraction that in no way represents the demographics of the country (more about that below;) gathered, talked, divided as they saw fit, and delivered some results. This morning, winners and there were several, are offering answers, and loosers several others to the question: What are those results?

I think there are several visible:
  1. In Iowa, among a mostly white, middle and lower middle class constituency, there is a significant body of voters who are not happy with the available choices. These folks, mostly self-identified as "Christians" but in fact members of domionationalist fundamentalist, faith communities, tend to vote an odd theology over their own interests. They do not see a candidate who is both viable and acceptable.
    The most extreme of the candidates in support of their view, Congresswoman Bachmann and Governor Perry are completely unable to appear even marginally competent to campaign against Mr. Obama, let alone govern. Of course if we assume that one need govern only long enough to "trigger the rapture" the lack of ability is less important than it might otherwise be. But, one still has to actually defeat Mr. Obama: a formidable task. Neither can be seen as able in that contest.
  2. What was the traditional Republican base, those who believe in small and constrained government, are now marginalized. Those voters, who sent Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, and unfortunately Richard Nixon to the White House, and offered candidates like Senator Goldwater now are dismissed as, "Ron Paul's libertarians." Representing about twenty percent of the voters in Iowa, which would work out all other things being equal, about ten percent of the vote, they were once the dominant Republican voice. I think there is an opportunity for someone there, be it Congressman Paul or another, to re-state and revive the structurally conservative (and often socially liberal) voice.
  3. The big winner yesterday is probably Governor Romney. It is unlikely in my view that either Mr. Santorum or Congressman Paul can find significantly higher percentages of the vote in another State. While that may be the "anyone-but-Mitt" vote, it is not unified, is not centered around a viable candidate, and regardless of his obvious hopes, won't adopt former Spearker Gingrich as its standard. Absent Gingrich, and I think we are about to see him become absent, Romney need only gather the remnants.
  4. Yes, I am dismissing Gingrich. I think Iowa did exactly that and that New Hampshire will put an exclamation point on that dismissal. I could be wrong, and he could surge as New Hampshiremen get to know Mr. Santorum. But, I do not expect that to happen.
On the subject of process, yes we do vest a lot of this choice in relatively small, rural, and Southern States. Whatever is left of the contest after New Hampshire votes will be settled in large part on "Super Tuesday" when a large number of Southern States vote. We actually like this, and given the fact that the largest single constituency in the country is white, middle and lower middle class, and unhappy, we actually do have to pay some attention to their concerns. Unfortunately, no one is paying attention to their need for jobs, except Mr. Obama whom they dislike. I told you, they vote against their own interests and for an odd theology. Mr.Paul thinks he offers an alternative economic model that might help -- very few voters think it will work, and no one in Congress seems to support it. "Rapture" is not, I think the answer. We shall have to await events to see if I am correct.


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