By some chance or pattern, every time the primary season kicks off, I am either travelling or just returning from travelling, which injects some gonzo raggedness into what is a very ragged procedure. And the day that caucus goers were gathering in Iowa to select delegates to the Democratic Convention, I was wandering around Vancouver, Washington, trying to figure out how to get things out of storage. Storage being perhaps an apt metaphor for where things are. For the past four years, most of the political attention has been focused on who I call The New York President, and the Democratic Party has had a hard time coming up with a message beyond "We aren't openly and gleefully corrupt!". Which, to be fair, should be an adequate message.
The reason the Democratic Party can't find an adequate message to give to the voters is glaringly obvious. They are ignoring what the voters want. And what the voters want is obvious:
- They want a party that pays attention to the needs of normal people, by eschewing radical politics. Most Americans are focused on kitchen table issues, are happy with the structure as it is, and are afraid of the radical leftists who are filling the Democratic Party with socialism and class warfare.
- They want a party that will take strong stances on providing better health care and education, and that realize that American society has fallen under the sway of the billionaire class, and that social mobility is disappeared, and we have to restructure society to deal with them.
These things are glaringly obvious, and also in contradiction. Joe Biden is a centrist corporate pawn who will make no changes, or Joe Biden is a radical socialist who wants to turn the United States into Venezuela. There are people who believe both, and beyond just believing both, think that these are obvious facts that the average Joe also believes.
So this brings us to Iowa: through an accident of history, Iowa has the first caucus. Its demographics and politics are not representative of either the Democratic electorate or the United States population as a whole, but for historical reasons, it votes first. After some pre-season winnowing, the candidates going into the Iowa Caucus were representative of the divide: former Vice-President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg represented the "moderate" position. And the reformers and radicals are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (although according to Sanders supporters, Warren is a centrist stooge who will try to redirect the populist revolution that they are ensured will happen at any moment). It was up to the electorate of Iowa, meeting in school gymnasiums, to say which message was the "real" message.
Only due to technical difficulties, perhaps involving an app that the precinct chairpeople were supposed to report to the central office with, the results are still...not in, 24 hours later. What results seem to exist seem to show a lead for Buttigieg and Sanders, but the lead is both narrow and clouded by the technical glitches. So. The dialectic is frozen. A winner will probably emerge this week, but the confusion has undercut the strength of the result. The next stop will be New Hampshire, which, while it shares the same problems with a non-representative demographic, will at least have a primary election that should run smoother.