Home > Current Affairs, Politics > Republican Iowa Caucuses 2012: Some Brief and Intemperate Thoughts

Republican Iowa Caucuses 2012: Some Brief and Intemperate Thoughts

Some bullet-point-ish observations on the first official primary of the US Presidential Campaign, the Iowa Caucuses, which saw Republicans primary voters cast their ballots for their party’s nominee on this past Tuesday:

Mic check, Mittens in the hizzouse!

– Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney defeated former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by 8 votes. Eight. Before any general-interest columnist somewhere gets too misty-eyed over the sublime power of democracy and the importance of every single vote, let’s recall that barely over 100, 000 Iowans even voted in this thing. You can get more people together for a Mexican league soccer game than for this supposed Middle American democratic watershed, and the number of caucusing Iowans was low even when compared to previous years. So eight votes in this caucus is probably equivalent to, say, 500 in a larger state. Although the ever-breathless American political media overstates the importance of all of the early primaries (especially the consistently left-field results in New Hampshire, whose primary is on January 10th), their continued elevation of Iowa, which just happens to vote first, is especially excessive.

– Let’s call it, essentially, a dead heat, then. That the slick, dissembling Mormon plutocrat Romney was able to scratch out a draw with the odious Tea Party champion of the week (about which more in a moment) in a socially-conservative rural environment that favours sanctimonious culture warriors and moral scolds augers very well for Mittens. He looks set to clean house in New Hampshire, if Nate Silver’s usually-accurate projections can be trusted, show better than he ought to in the Neo-Confederate South (where Newt Gingrich’s current cushion cannot really be expected to be preserved), and then outleg his fulminating remaining rivals in the ever-important money race. But beyond that? Romney is the most polished of the GOP hopefuls, but he might be too polished to be acceptable to the ragged Republican base, with their Fox-News-fed authoritarian fantasies and dizzying conspiratorial suspicions. Evangelicals, in particular, might stay home rather than dimple their chads for a Mormon, and without them, no Republican has a hope in Des Moines against Barack Obama, Hussein or not. And I somehow doubt that the activist wing will continue to ignore the fact that he passed the model for the Affordable Health Care Act that they despise so cartoonishly in his own state for very long.

Sleeves only slow me down!

– Enough horse race stuff, though. Can we talk about Santorum? Yes, that Santorum. That the Tea Party base has now seemingly decided that he’s their pony in this derby bespeaks the weakness of the other social conservatives in the contest, as well as their own ill-thought-out ideological fickleness. I would put the drastic polling shifts from one extreme far-right candidate to another entirely down to the enormous influence of the aforementioned propaganda outfit Fox News in this campaign, not to mention the larger conservative ideological project in America. When you rely on a cable news channel to form your sociopolitical belief system for you, your belief system will inevitably follow the short attention span of cable news, and this is what has happened in this primary campaign, as social conservatives have fled to and from a succession of rightish demagogues like rats from sinking ships every few weeks.

– Santorum however, is a far-right Catholic moral authoritarian unlike any of the previous Teabag faves, opposed to abortion, gay rights, and birth control under any circumstances and not only fine with government-mandated torture and preemptive war but positively eager for both. And there’s his Google problem, too. And his brittle boyish credulity. And those sweater vests. And his dismal polling in the rest of the coming primaries, where he’s running last or next-to-last, at least until he gets a post-Iowa bump. He threw everything he had into Iowa, and came out with essentially a draw with Mittens. It’s hard to conclude that he’s long for this race.

– Gingrich does seem to be long for it, as does Texas Governor Rick Perry, despite a poor Iowa showing and a reconsideration of his comedy-of-errors campaign. This is a good thing, from my perspective. Perry has no hope of winning after being exposed as a mean himbo who makes George W. Bush look like a thoughtful statesman in comparison, but with Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann both out of the race, he’s the premier clown left to unintentionally lay out the fundamental ludicrousness of Republican ideas as accidental satire. Gingrich, meanwhile, has become a spiteful troll since his surge dissipated. He smells Mormon blood in the water, and will assault Romney in a frenzy until he’s spent, helping to reassert the core of selfish nastiness behind the family-values facade of the GOP image.

– Ron Paul has hit his ceiling. Purist libertarianism will only ever be a useful sub-ideology to the power merchants the top of the GOP, and that’s a good deal more use than a sub-ideology with such enormous and cruel blind spots ought to have in the first place.

– Finally, a word about Bachmann, whose exit from the race surely spells the end of her bizarre run of prominence on the US political stage. I was tempted to make a Nixon reference, something to the effect of “you won’t have Michele to kick around anymore!”, but the thought made me realize that she hasn’t relied on that sort of self-pity to establish herself as a major political figure, as her common analogue Sarah Palin constantly does. She’s a wild-eyed nutcase with dangerous ideas, of course, but she has asked for no quarter, demanded no special consideration as a woman in a world that is still largely glass-ceilinged. I’m not calling her a feminist or anything, as the valences of that term clash harshly with the basic tenets of social conservative conceptions of gender in a manner that cannot be reconciled. But she did better than most expected she would have in the Presidential primary of a highly patriarchal political party. We’ll miss those wild eyes. Godspeed, Kooky Lady.

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Categories: Current Affairs, Politics
  1. Lorraine Langager
    January 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Keen insights, thoughtful piece. Let’s leave this tragicomedy and turn to the Dems. What do you think of an Obama / Clinton ticket? That would shatter some glass ceilings and she has certainly proven her worth.

  1. January 17, 2012 at 11:19 pm

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