Friday, January 4, 2008

Iowa Leans Left

By Joel Wendland

The results of the Democratic Party's caucus in Iowa are:

Senator Barack Obama : 37.57%
Senator John Edwards : 29.76%
Senator Hillary Clinton : 29.46%

with about 3.5% going to the rest.

What this all means at this point is pure speculation. I think it is fair to say that this has become a three person race. Sen. Clinton's financial backers were reportedly worried about this outcome, according to the New York Times, but she has a long way to go before she can be counted out.

Edwards is going to have to win soon to keep going, as he doesn't have the resources to continue to come in second or third. He may also have to work on broadening his appeal.

Sen. Obama can lock things up with a couple of swift victories in New Hampshire and overcoming strong odds in Nevada and South Carolina. (Michigan's primary on Jan. 15th really doesn't count as the Democratic Party isn't recognizing it and Sen. Clinton is the only competitive candidate on the ballot.)

But the big story of the night isn't the numbers, the dollars, or the candidates. It is the sheer numbers of people who turned out for this grueling caucus process. TV people are saying 236,000 people participated in the Democratic Party caucuses: about double that of the Republican Party caucus and well more than the 125,000 people who turned out for the Democrats in 2004.

In droves Iowans, who by a slim majority voted for Bush in 2004, are demanding a new direction in US politics and society. I think they want the war to end, they want universal health care, a serious focus on workers issues (good-paying jobs and rights), they want to mobilize our resources to tackle global warming, and they want a break with failed ultra right policies advanced by the Bush administration.


joe sims said...

I have a feeling conventional wisdom is being thrown out of the window by the Iowa caucuses and it would be a mistake to allow gravity to follow its natural course. It should be recalled that "conventional" wisdom had Clinton as the "inevitable" victor, a claim Joel took issue with long ago. However, the analysis of the Edwards campaign may not take into account what is still a very volatile and unstable situation. It's still very early: too early to count folks out. Fact is the Edwards campaign got a "boost: yesterday according to the New York Times today: it was Clinton who took the biggest hit. What is very clear is that the politics of old cannot and will not continue to hold sway, whoever comes in second or third. And that is what was remarkable about the Iowa vote: New factors are being thrown into the electoral equation which is turning everything upside down: chief among them are new independent structures of organization, new grassroots efforts and newly energized and registered voters. In Iowa, the phrase "likely voters" was thrown to the wind. And that's good. Most important a powerful anti-racist, anti-sexist statement was made in Iowa. It was a statement against right-wing division and extremism and for unity and change. I am not sure that it was "left" though the anti-corporate vote came in a strong second. However there is no doubt it was strongly anti-right. And that's the main thing. We may be witnessing the dawning of new day.

Joel said...

Third place finisher Sen. Clinton got 73,000 votes (if they can be called that in the Democratic side of the caucuses) to Huckabee's 38,000. Suggestive that Iowa plans to go blue as blue can get in November.

norman markowitz said...

Both Joel's and Joe's comments are very intelligent, but I would, given the way the system is organized, be careful.

The Iowa caucuses did show that the core constituencies of the Democratic party, with the exception of African-Americans, who are a vital core constituency nationally but not in Iowa, were moving left, with nearly 70% of the voters voting for the more progressive(in terms of what they are running on) of the three major candidates.
The fact that an African-American candidate could run a solid first is also a substantial victory against racism(one should remember that Jesse Jackson did well in primaries in the past, but largely among African-American and broad left voters, and Jackson was seen as a protest candidate)

Edwards in his statement re-assserted his anti-corporate theme powerfully. Obama was really solid and effective in his statement. The coming debate between the three before the New Hampshire primary well be significant, in that it should draw a large television audience and Clinton will have to decide whether to move rhetorically to the left or maintain her position.
A negative aspect to these developments is that Dennis Kucinich will not be permitted to participate in the debate because his vote was low. Also, we should keep in mind the early February "Super Tuesday" in which the largest number of delegates will be chosen and which in the past has aided the more conservative candidates, although the fact that African American voters in Southern states particularly(and other states for that matter) will play a central role in this cluster of primaries may have surprising results.

Many things are possible, including the kind of convention that existed before 1956, where no candidate will come into the convention with a majority. That might be best for progressive voters, because then progressive majority might be able to coalesce around both a candidate and a platform who would be more beholden to that platform than candidates who come into the convention as winners and use the convention essentially as a show have been.
It is a good beginning, in what is still a bad system and we still have a long way to go. The money and the power are still with Clinton but Obama has enough money and perhaps organizational power to win. Edward will have to make a strong showing in the early february primaries if he is to get the money to win. We should, though, remember that we are not endorsing anyone but seeking to develop both consciousness around issues and the unity to defeat the Republican right.
Norman Markowitz