The arduous process of picking a new President of the United States begins today in Iowa, as it quadrennially does for some reason or another, so there’s nothing we can do about it now. While at church on Sunday morning we offered up a humble prayer of gratitude that America still has some say in the matter and a plea that it choose wisely, and we suppose that’s the best we can do at this point.
Watching the returns will likely test our faith, however, as any sort of providential outcome seems unlikely. The Iowa Democrats are choosing between former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most thoroughly corrupt and incompetent crony capitalist of our time, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose most admirable quality is his willingness to admit that he’s an outright socialist bent on eradicating capitalism altogether, and that at least he’s not charging big speaking fees to those evil Wall Street types and isn’t under the scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Meanwhile the Iowans of our Republican party are reportedly choosing between front-running Donald J. Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul who prides himself on his unabashedly corrupt and inarguably competent crony capitalism, and underdog Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose more red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and strict constitutionalism and unabashed evangelical Christianity have suddenly made him the target of both the “establishment” and “anti-establishment” wings of the party, although there’s still a chance that a conservative-but-more-pragmatic sort such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio might at least do well enough to alter the storyline somewhat through the next less-noticed 49 rounds of the party primary process.
The Democrats’ descent into this madness has been going on at least since George McGovern’s nomination back in ’72, and except for a few brief moments of political sensibility during times of war as far back as Woodrow Wilson’s administration, but the Republicans’ situation seems rather all of a sudden.
Until last summer, Republican presidential nomination races always had a comfortingly familiar feel to them, with us more rock-ribbed and ideologically-grounded conservatives out here in the hinterlands squabbling with those pointy-headed and lily-livered country club types back east over matters of tactics, but eventually uniting for a shared disdain for those outright and all-but-in-name socialists and multi-cultural bullies over on the Democrat side, and if we lost we squabbled over the blame and if we won squabbled over both the credit for what went right and the blame the for what went wrong despite the victory. In any case we all at least paid lip service to the non-crony sort of capitalism, we all grumbled about the breakdown of the constitutional order, and even the most secular country club types acknowledged a certain necessary Judeo-Christian underpinning to the whole western civilization project that we also all agreed upon. Then all of a sudden a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show star shows up boasting of all the politicians he’s bought off and all the married babes he’s bagged and the billions he’s made along the way, and the four bankruptcies and the failed airline and the defunct football league and the highly dubious if not downright fraudulent eponymous “university” and all the other debacles of his career go unmentioned, and he fires up the population by addressing the unaddressed immigration problem with righteously indignant but outrageously unworkable ideas, and his past employment of illegal workers and his politically criticism of the hated “establishment” Republican Mitt Romney for suggesting a more sensible “self-deportation” policy just one presidential election ago are similarly forgotten, and with a few late night insult comic jabs against prisoners of war and the handicapped and an admirable woman rival’s face he became the politically-incorrect hero of the “anti-establishment” wing. Then he began boasting of how the “establishment” loved him, and its most formerly hated exemplars began to sing his praise, and both talked of how they could cut some good crony capitalist deals together, and suddenly it is hard to see how any red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian can compete against both wings.
One hopeful theory holds that many the fans of the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul and political newcomers unlikely to brave a cold and long Iowa night of caucusing, or be able to find their way there, but some of the pollsters are calling for what Trump would call a “yuge” turn-out, and they might prove right. There’s not the enthusiasm for red-in-tooth-in-claw capitalism that one might hope for in a state that’s swung a sweet crony-capitalist deal on the engine-corroding and consumer-gouging and doing-little-for-the-ecology ethanol subsidies, which the deal-making real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul has promised to sweeten beyond what even any Democrat has proposed, and strict constitutionalism and evangelical Christianity might not prove as significant a negotiating point. We have no disputes with the Democrats or Republicans of Iowa, and although we’ve found it a hard state to hitch-hike through in the winter we are great fans of Grant Wood and that deep-brown dirt they’ve got, but so long as they’re first in line to pick the next president we don’t see how we’ll ever get rid of that ridiculous ethanol subsidy.
Iowans are disproportionately white and rural and union-enrolled and otherwise atypical of the broader American population, too, but so long as the state’s Democrats keep picking either an establishment or more frankly socialist candidate they’ll been immune from any criticism about, Whatever candidate the Iowa Republicans choose will be subject to all sorts of quota-driven scrutiny. Both candidates will reap much publicity and considerable momentum going into the next round of voting in New Hampshire next week, and after that second round of 50 all the press will be writing their premature obituaries the same way they do after the second of of a best-of-seven professional basketball series. Sometimes those premature obituaries proved prescient, so we will wait and see.
The red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian is at long last blasting away at the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul’s crony capitalism with an ad we think states the case rather succinctly, and what’s left of conservatism’s intelligentsia is arousing itself on behalf of the cause, and even some of those right-wing radio talkers are suddenly asking questions, but it’s probably too late for today’s voting, and today’s voting will be big story until next week’s voting, so we’ll wait and see. In the meantime, we’ll take whatever deal we can get.
— Bud Norman