A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Although the Iowa Caucus was an epic fail, it did make a few things clear.
The Iowa Caucus was a mess. On Monday night, we watched the process collapse, and now a few days later, the vote count is still not certain, and even when the final tally is announced, many people will distrust it. Conspiracy theories have caught fire on the internet, fanned by Trump and his minions who, in a brazen example of projection, are claiming election meddling and voter suppression. In order to try to bring order and restore confidence in the delegate selection, Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee Chair, has sent a team of auditors to Iowa to perform a recanvas, that is, an official review of all paper worksheets filled out by precinct captains at caucus sites. Meanwhile, both Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders have declared victory, but for different reasons.
In this tragicomic hullaballoo, two things are certain. First, the sheer incompetence displayed by the Iowa Democratic Party and Shadow Inc, the tech company that developed the app that failed, is shocking. And second, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders seem to have emerged from the Iowa caucus as front leaders. Both candidates have a real chance of gaining the Party nomination, and Warren, though weakened by coming in third, is still in the race as well. Other candidates are probably out of the running, even, surprisingly, Biden who has led in most polls ever since he announced his candidacy last year. I, for one, will be relieved when Biden officially drops out of the race. Uncle Joe is a pleasant enough guy with a long history of service to the country, but his appeal as a candidate lay mainly in the widely held but mistaken belief that he was the only one who could beat Trump. So bye-bye, Joe.
Many Democratic Party conservatives (let’s don’t call them “moderates” or “centrists”) believe that Pete Buttigieg may be the best candidate to beat Trump. And if your agenda is to get Trump out of office and replace him with a president who talks like a liberal but really doesn’t want to change the way things are done in this country, then Buttigieg is your man. Pete is wicked smart, a navy veteran, gay and kind of cute – sort of a cross between a young Jimmy Carter and an old Howdy Doodie. He speaks a number of languages, including English, which puts him way ahead of Trump. Pete’s website proclaims:
We are living through a moment of huge upheaval, but also of great opportunity. This moment demands that our policies reflect a deep understanding of Americans’ everyday lives and embody our country’s highest values [….] This campaign is about building the kind of democracy and society that works [sic] for all of us, and bringing the country together around big ideas that most Americans support.
Isn’t this what any Democratic candidate would say — although perhaps with better grammar? These feel-good clichés are not very helpful, and they may distract from real policy proposals. Unfortunately, his policy discussions are not much better than these clichés. Scrolling through his official website, you can see that he takes up a dozen issues under the headings of Equal Justice, The Middle Class, Health Care, and Climate Change. As we navigate through these categories, we generally encounter lofty rhetoric that lacks specific proposals: for example, what does it mean to “re-imagine policing” as a solution to police brutality? But occasionally, we do come across an idea that has the beginnings of real substance: for example, he proposes reforming or eliminating sentencing guidelines, as well as releasing non-violent offenders from prison.
I would describe Pete’s policy positions as “progressive-lite.” He has politically correct attitudes (bigotry is bad, hugs are good) but he doesn’t go far enough in addressing major social problems. For example, although rich people pay a lower tax rate than almost anyone else, Pete never addresses wealth disparity or tax policy. We have a large number of people, most of them children, who are deprived of basic essentials while the government continues to cut the little assistance they receive, but Pete says nothing specific about helping the poor. We have a large homeless population. We have thousands of refugees on our border, many of them children, who are either kept in cages or sent back to the war zones they’ve fled. We have a military budget that is out of control — larger than the next ten nations’ annual spending combined — and we are involved in wars on every continent except Antarctica, but Pete says nothing about cutting defense spending. Whole areas of our country are literally on fire every summer and other regions regularly go under water, but Pete says nothing about confronting the energy companies, encouraging better farming practices, protecting flood zones, ending fracking, or investing in public transport. Where are Pete’s proposals for solving these problems? We are facing a number of crises that require national leadership and major re-allocation of resources, and all Pete gives us is nice sounding clichés and high-flown rhetoric. Come on, Pete, get with the program.
If Pete Buttigieg wins the Democratic nomination, then he will have my, and I hope your, enthusiastic support because he is far superior to the Orange Menace, but I sincerely believe that there are two other presidential candidates who are preferable.
Bernie Sanders’ presence in the race is genuinely exciting. He proposes restructuring our political economy so that working people are given a fair shake; unions are encouraged; police departments are compelled to reform; schools are showered with resources; infrastructure is rebuilt; perpetual war is ended; the military is shrunk to a reasonable defense force; climate change is addressed; immigrants are welcomed, elections are made honest; Israel is called on the carpet; women are given control over their bodies…
And how are we going to pay for all this largesse to the American people? Easy. Shrink the military budget which is now around a trillion dollars to something around 500 billion which would make the US still the leading military power in the history of the world. Stop spending so much money blowing up hospitals, schools, and wedding parties in the Middle East, and spend more money on schools, roads, bridges, windmills, light rail transit and other stuff we actually need in this country.
Bernie’s official website is full of ideas which may seem radical, such as Medicare for all, College for All, and the Green New Deal, but actually versions of these ideas have been public policy for a long time in Germany, England, Sweden, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and, well, just about everywhere except here. The United States is first in killing people in other countries and last in helping its own. Bernie wants to change that. The centerpiece of his website is the 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights which guarantees all of our people the right to the basic necessities of life. Go Bernie!
As wonderful as Bernie is, Elizabeth Warren may be even better. She has the bold vision of Sanders, but her ideas on how to achieve a new America are more specific. Her website includes dozens of detailed plans on virtually every problem America faces. Worried about rising maternal mortality? She’s got a plan for that. What about the rise in bankruptcies? She’s got a plan for that too. Corporate influence on elections? Check. Trade deficits? Check. Alternative energy? Helping family farms? Financing climate crisis infrastructure? Making college affordable for all? Check, check, check and check. She’s got plans for all these goals and more. Her website is a wonky wet dream for those of us who can’t sleep at night.
And she’s a woman! The importance of having our first female president can’t be overstated. Just as the election of JFK gave a degree of respect and acceptance to Catholics, and the election of Obama did the same for African Americans, so it’s time to set aside the idea that the president of the United States needs to be a man. Will men vote for a woman? Hell yeah, most of us will, and the ones who won’t are not going to vote for a Jew or a gay guy anyway. Screw ‘em. Bigots and misogynists are Trump’s constituency, not ours.
Coming from a struggling Oklahoma family, Elizabeth understands what it is to be working class in America. She put herself through college working as a waitress (not possible today, of course, but she has a plan for that) and started her professional career as a special ed teacher, went to law school to become a bankruptcy lawyer, was hired as a Harvard professor, and then ran for the senate. This is one scrappy gal. She has a long history of fighting for the rights of working people. She has experience in pushing reforms through the labyrinthine federal bureaucracy, and she’s a smart tough fighter who’s afraid of no one. Certainly not Donald Trump. I would love to see her debate the Orange Menace — Hillary was far too courteous to him. He’s a bully, and Elizabeth will turn him into a quivering bowl of Jello on national television.
As my mother used to say, them’s the facts. If you’re like me, you don’t like politics, but the times are too perilous, the stakes too high to sit this one out. I urge all of you, my friends, to get involved in electing a progressive unless you are willing to endure another four years of an impeached president who is a fascist, a liar, a crook, a traitor, a misogynist, a racist… We now have the chance to elect a decent person – any of these three Democratic candidates — who will take us into a new era for America. Whether you prefer Buttigieg, Sanders, or Warren, I encourage you to give him or her your support. Together we can end the political career of Donald Trump.
Michael Simms is the founder and editor of Vox Populi.
Copyright 2020 Michael Simms