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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

US: political realities « Previous | |Next »
January 2, 2008

Matthew Yglesias in an article inThe Guardian says that a year after the Democrats gaining control of Congress has not achieved much.

The hoped-for dramatic expansion of the child health insurance programme S-Chip? Didn't happen. Transformation of American energy policy? Didn't happen. The "carried interest" loophole that lets private equity billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries? Still open. No Child Left Behind? Unchanged, despite the hubbub. Surveillance? Same as ever. And, of course, the war in Iraq continues despite its steady unpopularity.

Others agree with the not much judgement. The reason Yglesias puts forward for this is that the combination of George Bush's veto pen and the Republican party's unprecedented use of the filibuster has made it essentially impossible to pass much of anything that's worthwhile. The Republicans are playing movement loyalty.

Yglesias adds that this kind of Republican resistance is:

something worth keeping in mind as we look at the presidential race. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama are all running on substantively similar domestic policy platforms, and primarily arguing about who has the best chance of getting things through. Looking back on 2007, one important thing to keep in mind is that tactics and "theories of change" can't overcome basic math - you either have the votes to pass your bills or you don't, and with all three candidates promising much, much, much more than the Democratic Congress ever did, there's real reason to doubt that the votes will be there.

Rather sobering isn't it. What I currently find most troubling about the US is the religious absolutism of a fundamentalist, and anti-intellectual Protestantism that is pitted against, and out to destroy, liberal modernity. Bush and Rove used this sectarianism to deepen the culture war, to Republican advantage. Consequently, I have little time for a Huckabee or a Romney.

Will the Democrats change this? In an interesting article in the New Atlantic Andrew Sullivan says yes, but only Barack Obama, as he alone is capable of bridging the religious secular divide:

You cannot confront the complex challenges of domestic or foreign policy today unless you understand this gulf and its seriousness. You cannot lead the United States without having a foot in both the religious and secular camps. This, surely, is where Bush has failed most profoundly. By aligning himself with the most extreme and basic of religious orientations, he has lost many moderate believers and alienated the secular and agnostic in the West. If you cannot bring the agnostics along in a campaign against religious terrorism, you have a problem. Here again, Obama, by virtue of generation and accident, bridges this deepening divide.

Obama has the capacity to uphold religious conviction without disturbing or alienating the secular voters, especially on the left.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:32 AM | | Comments (8)


I just do not understand the Iowa caucas system. It is not just going down to the local community hall and voting as we do in an election. The rules for voting for the candidates in each of the two main parties are different! It's real odd.

This article by Paul Waldman in The American Prospect says that:

If this is a typical election, somewhere between 6 and 10 percent of voting-eligible Iowans will bother to show up to a caucus. Yes, you read that right. Those vaunted Iowa voters are so concerned about the issues, so involved in the political process, so serious about their solemn deliberative responsibilities as guardians of the first-in-the-nation contest, that nine out of ten can't manage to haul their butts down to the junior high on caucus night.

Despite this he adds:
So though we might not be able to predict what the Iowa results will be, we can say with relative certainty what will happen after. The press corps will invest those results with titanic meaning and import, and we voters will select from our remaining pre-approved choices, one of whom, on each side, will become his or her party's nominee.

I don't really understand it either. With a turn out rate as low as 6 percent, and a population that's 95 percent white, then Iowa's gargantuan impact on the nominating process can hardly be called democratic. Still they are keeping John Edwards alive; a campaign based around the populist anger at the American political establishment after 8 years of the Bush-Cheney regime.

Is there a populist uprising on against the Big Money elite in Washington?

The Iowa caucus is an electoral fraud. The caucuses were designed to conduct party business and to talk over local concerns—not help to elect Presidential candidates in the primaries. Its the Democrats who need to change the way they do things.

Huckabee, the anti-Darwinist, is doing well in Iowa because:

About 45 percent of 85,000 or so Republican caucus voters are evangelical Christians. Roughly half of them automatically vote for the most socially conservative candidate in the race, and it looks like they have decided that's Huckabee. The other half can be won over, too—if they think he's electable.

This stuff is taken seriously in selecting a Presidential candidate?

De Tocqueville would be laughing into his ink well.

What's that saying about the seeds of destruction being in the beginnings of something?

After the scandal of Florida and global disappointment at Bush's re-election, and the awful consequences, the world deserves better than a handful of unrepresentative Iowans deciding where we all go from here.

Last night we watched the filibuster episode of The West Wing. Couldn't believe that either. And this is the greatest democracy the world has ever seen?

the news reports in Australia don't tell us that it just a few thousand Iowans relying on their gut feelings. We are treated to hype and hoopla surrounding this caucus----its townhall democracy etc---without it being put into context of being largely unimportant in the overall scheme of things or that it is a distorted lens. The American spokespeople--eg., academics--on Radio National Breakfast this morning really hyped the significance of Iowa. 'Iowa has a big influence in the presidential race' etc. It often sounds like a beatup for Iowa, without mentioning the significance the presidential candidate campaign has for the local economy.

Anne Davis in the SMH gives an argument, when she says:

A loss for Clinton might not be fatal - other presidential candidates, including Bill Clinton, have gone on to win New Hampshire and the nomination - but a loss for either Obama or Edwards would be far more serious as they need the win in Iowa to overturn the trend towards Clinton in the later states.On the Republican side, the former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee has surged in the polls and is leading the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. A win by Huckabee would confirm him as a viable candidate. But coming second, third or even fourth will be important on the Republican side, as it means the candidate is still viable and the vote is likely to be split several ways.

John Cain is not even running in Iowa. Why use the word 'fatal' for Clinton---she wasn't even going to run in Iowa because it is a conservative farming community unsympathetic to Washington liberals. Even if a candidate corners the evangelical vote in Iowa (eg., Huckabee) he or she would not necessarily win the primary in New Hampshire, as that state is more balanced between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. Huckabee cannot win Hampshire as his evangelical conservatism will not play well there. So its between Romney in a head-to-head with McCain.

Some even say that the free world depends on Iowa, it's that significant. It must be tongue in cheek.

apparently the significance of Iowa and new Hampshire is that it can deliver what pundits call the Big Mo---political momentum. That's the reason for all the money being spent and all the sound and fury of the frenzied media commentary.

But we need a dose of political reality about the Big Mo --even if John Edwards does very well in Iowa, he will falter in New Hampshire, as he has invested little time or money in the state. It is between Clinton and Obama who have the resources and nationwide strength to absorb a narrow defeat. Edwards has had to stake almost everything on a win in Iowa to gain the Big Mo. So Iowa this year has the potential to end the John Edwards campaign, but not the potential to crown a winner.

Iowa is all about farm and energy subsidies to some very wealthy Americans.This is the ethanol-from-corn state with the US taxpayer subsidising ethanol production, and erects a tariff to keep out cheaper sugar cane-produced ethanol from Brazil.

Free trade is a no no in Iowa---its all about agricultural protection. Everybody has a conversion on the road to Iowa.

as expected Huckabee wins in the Iowa caucas. Now his evangelical Christianity, his social conservatism on abortion, gay marriage, guns and immigration and his rag-tag organization will hit the political reality of bitter class warfare in New Hampshire next week.The economic liberals intensely dislike his anti-business message of economic populism and his record of raising taxes in Arkansas. The Reagan coalition is fracturing, as the neocons can't like him much either.

Poor Romney. He spent a pile of money and a year of his life in Iowa. He now moves on to fight Cain in New Hampshire.

Obama wins in Iowa---a black man has won a white state. Clinton fails to head off Edwards, who just takes second place. Edwards, however, is running a distant third in New Hampshire. If Obama won New Hampshire what would stop him? Would it trigger a nationwide movement that could overwhelm the establishment support for Clinton? Will the Clinton legacy be repudiated?