The personalities and events of the Republican Primary have tended to overshadow the Democratic Primary, but the 2016 Democratic Primary has a promise to be just as dramatic, and long, as the Republican contest. It does, however, having fewer players: going into Monday night's caucus, there were only three candidates, Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. Very little media and voter interest seemed to surround O'Malley, and the contest was seen to be between Clinton and Sanders.
The contest between them is a contest between the establishment and activitist wings of the Democratic Party. Clinton is a well-entrenched figure in Democratic politics, having served as a Senator and in the Obama administration, and also is the wife of a former president. Sanders is a Senator who identifies as an independent but caucuses with the Democrats. He also is a Senator from Vermont, a small state that often finds itself out of the political mainstream.
As with many elections, its hard to say what this one was "about". In my view, one factor that played an important role was not so much how Democrats viewed their own party, as how they viewed the Republican Party. The bombastic rhetoric coming from certain figures in the Republican Party probably made some Democrats eager to embrace the candidate most likely to win: which would presumably be the well-known Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, some voters, especially the young and liberal members of the party, were more interested in promoting the Democratic agenda than defeating the Republican one. It was hard to gage each candidates support, in part because conventional media tended to exaggerate Clinton's support, while social media tended to exaggerate Sander's support.
Which is why we actually need to have elections.
And in this case, more than one: the Iowa election ended with a virtual tie, with Clinton winning about 50% of the vote, Sanders winning 49%, and O'Malley getting 1%. This could be interpreted many ways, because as the presumptive front runner, Clinton barely managed a win. However, given that Iowa may be one of the easier states for Sanders to win, he would have to do very good there to be competitive in states that might not be demographically favorable to him. There was definitive piece of news from the night: O'Malley suspended his campaign, leaving a true two-person race.
So much as with the Republican contest in Iowa, this race gave us a hint of the shape of the race, but things are still unclear.