February 3, 2020

Iowa Caucuses Preview

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

On Monday, the Iowa Caucuses, the first contest in the Presidential nomination contest, takes place. Polls give Bernie Sanders a narrow lead, followed by Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. RealClearPolitics

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From the Left

The left is critical of Iowa’s role as the first primary state and divided about Sanders’s surge.

“The Democratic Party is a collection of diverse groups — young people, liberal whites, conservative-leaning African Americans and Latinos, non-religious Americans, city-dwellers, and so on. By contrast, Iowa’s population is roughly 90 percent white, uncommonly old, and heavily rural. In other words, it doesn’t really look like America and isn’t representative of the Democratic base. And yet a 2007 study found that a voter in Iowa or New Hampshire (where the first primary is held) has about 20 times more influence than someone who votes in a later primary. That doesn’t seem fair by any standard.”
Sean Illing, Vox

Supporters of Sanders posit that “In Iowa, a vote for Warren is a vote for Biden… To prevent a Biden nomination, the time [for progressives] to unite is now. Warren had a chance: Sanders amassed more volunteers, got more donations and is doing substantially better in the polls. Now that the actual voting is starting, progressives cannot afford to split their bloc. They need to unify behind Sanders… We have an unprecedented opportunity to throw [Trump] out and replace him with something far, far better. How tragic would it be if that opportunity was destroyed because some clung to a losing candidate, dividing the movement and squandering precious votes?”
Nathan Robinson, The Guardian

“If Sanders actually does win both [Iowa and New Hampshire], then the more mainstream wing of the Democratic Party may indeed go into full flip-out, panic-room mode, as advertised, and unleash its lab-grown clone hybrid of Biden, Hillary Clinton and Mike Bloomberg. But anything less than that — and perhaps even a narrow victory in one or the other state, accompanied by a ‘surprisingly strong’ result by someone else — and you can expect to hear a lot of chatter about how the ‘Bernie boomlet’ that absolutely nobody predicted is now over, and the natural order of politics that has conclusively been proven to no longer exist is reasserting itself…

“As Dave Weigel of the Washington post recently observed on Twitter, you have to wonder about the viability of a political party that sleeps on the same outsider candidate two cycles in a row.”
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon

Critics of Sanders write, “Give Sanders credit for moving public opinion along on a living wage, higher taxes on the rich and the need for immediate action to stem the immolation of the planet. Most great ideas start on the fringe and move to the middle… [But] just 39 percent of Americans view socialism positively, a bare uptick from 2010, compared with 87 percent who have a positive view of free enterprise, Gallup found last fall. What’s more, American confidence in the economy is now at the highest level in nearly two decades. That’s hardly the best condition for overthrowing the system…

The United States has never been a socialist country, even when it most likely should have been one, during the robber baron tyranny of the Gilded Age or the desperation of the Great Depression, and it never will be… Bernie Sanders can’t win.”
Timothy Egan, New York Times

Regarding the Democratic Party’s messaging, some note that “Sanders seldom talks specifically to nonwhite voters. His message to them is the same as his message to everyone: universal health coverage and student-debt relief, more redistribution from rich to poor, reducing the power of money in politics. The latest CNN poll showed Sanders erasing Biden’s lead among nonwhite voters—perhaps in spite of Sanders’s indifference to identity politics, or maybe, just maybe, because of that indifference…

“There are many ways to divide the Democratic field: by ideology, by gender, by ethnicity, by age. But perhaps the most important is this: For Buttigieg, for Bloomberg, as for me and very likely for you, reader of The Atlantic, one of the most decisive days of our lives was the day we received the fat envelope of acceptance from a selective educational institution. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden speak to Americans for whom the fat-envelope/thin-envelope decision means little, if it means anything at all. It’s not accident or name recognition that explains why they lead the field. They are both being carried by something big and real. The challenge for the person who will succeed in beating Trump in 2020 is not merely to ride that force, but to guide it.”
David Frum, The Atlantic

Regarding Biden, many note that “Something about [his] Iowa presence feels soft, and his rival campaigns certainly feel it. His crowds can’t match those of his top rivals; he’s having trouble filling his precinct captain slots; he’s had to rely on paid canvassers rather than volunteers to knock on doors. His team is pitching schemes with other, less-viable candidates… perhaps this is another episode of the cyclelong pundit error of anticipating doom for Biden. But his campaign is giving off scrambling vibes.”
Jim Newell, Slate

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right defends the caucuses and discusses Sanders’s surge.

From the Right

The right defends the caucuses and discusses Sanders’s surge.

“The best argument for the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and even South Carolina primaries, is that most of their campaign settings are focused on meeting candidates one-on-one… while most candidates for president are typically comfortable raising money at donors’ favorite wine caves, I’d argue that forcing them to share Jello salad with caucus attenders from Sioux City, or Apple Wine with voters from Franconia -- voters who otherwise won’t get near the occupant of the Oval Office – is a necessary obstacle to throw in their way…

“[Furthermore] Iowa, New Hampshire, and even South Carolina provide the few opportunities for a candidate with a compelling message, but limited access to the money required to campaign nationally, to build a following and make a success of their campaign… In a political campaign that skips small states and starts either with large states, or regional primaries, the only candidates who will emerge will be incumbents or those who can arrive at the starting gate with access to the hundreds of millions of dollars that a modern national campaign requires. That’s why Iowa is important and will always matter.”
Arnon Mishkin, Fox News

“Sanders wins in Iowa and New Hampshire would make him hard to stop. Biden’s current national and Nevada poll leads could vanish overnight. His candidacy would depend on heavy support from blacks in the Deep South and industrial north. Democratic professionals who fear that Sanders’ liabilities — age, socialism — are too much to overcome may find it as difficult to defeat him as their Republican equivalents found it difficult to stop Donald Trump four years ago. Or as difficult as it was for Britain’s New Labour establishment to stop the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn from leading the party to a record defeat last month.”
Michael Barone, New York Post

“Bernie has a large, dedicated, loyal following, especially among Millennials, and tens of thousands more small-dollar donors than any other Democratic candidate. He is flush with cash. He has a radical agenda that appeals to the ideological left and the idealistic young. The rising star of the party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is campaigning alongside him. And say what you will, Sanders is no trimmer or time-server. He has consistently voted his values and views. He voted no to Bush 41’s Gulf War, no to Bush 43’s Iraq War, no to NAFTA, no to GATT…

“If… Bernie’s last chance at the nomination is aborted by an establishment piling on, party super PACs running attack ads against him, and major media taking time out from trashing Trump to break Sanders, the Democratic Party will have the devil’s time of it bringing Bernie’s backers home in the fall. Bernie’s believers might just conclude that the real obstacle to their dream of remaking America is neither the radical right nor Donald Trump, but the elites within their own party.”
Patrick J. Buchanan, The American Conservative

Some argue, “I don’t think Bernie is the Democrats’ most formidable general election challenger, but I think he can win… every single factor that caused reluctant Republicans to hold their noses and vote for Trump will apply to reluctant Democrats. ‘Binary choice,’ they’ll hear. ‘Judges,’ they’ll declare. And, unlike 2016, when a host of people on both sides of the aisle thought there was no way that Hillary Clinton would lose to Donald Trump, not a single member of the Democratic coalition will be complacent…

“We’ve reached a point in our national polarization when both parties can nominate previously unthinkable candidates and still enter the general election with a real chance for a win. Primary voters rule American politics, and the lesson many of them have learned from the last three presidential elections is clear—compromise loses. Devotion wins. And of all the Democratic candidates in the field, nobody inspires devotion quite like Bernie Sanders.”
David French, The Dispatch

British police seek “rightful owner” of the One Ring.
TorYet “Looming over them all is a candidate not even running in Iowa – Mike Bloomberg, the multibillionaire former New York City mayor. Bloomberg has focused his campaign on the 14 states that hold nominating contests on Super Tuesday, March 3 – including delegate-rich California and Texas… To win the Democratic presidential nomination at the party’s national convention on the first ballot a candidate will need 1,990 delegates. Voters in the Iowa caucuses will select 41 Democratic delegates. But that’s a tiny number compared to the 1,357 delegates who will be selected by voters on Super Tuesday in the 14 states, plus American Samoa and Democrats abroad…

“If Biden performs poorly in the first four nominating contests – in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – expect moderate Democrats to turn to Bloomberg to keep Sanders from winning the nomination.”
Jessica Tarlov, Fox News

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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