Posts Tagged ‘Iowa’

Iowa Caucus Eccentricities: Heads I Win, Bernie, Tails You Lose

Friday, February 5th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Three questions in the wake of whatever it was that just happened in Iowa:

  • Can anyone – preferably a Democrat – tell me what Hillary Clinton stands for? In other words, what is her message?
  • Why do mainstream media assume there’s no way Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination, never mind the presidency?
  • Since when does winning an election, or caucus or whatever else you may call it depend on the flip of a coin?

Let’s start with Hillary. As far as I can tell, after 16 years (at least) of running for president, the only message I still hear is that Hillary should be president because she’s been around, she wants it and it’s her turn. She’s been patient through Bill’s years in the White House and she’s been running ever since they had to vacate (penniless, I believe she initially claimed).

Yes, she took time to serve as senator from New York, but that really was necessary to fill out the resume for a presidential run. Being secretary of state was a bittersweet consolation prize for losing the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, who apparently never got the memo that it was Hillary’s turn to run. It certainly topped off her resume.

Yet all I hear is that she’s really smart, has a lot of experience, knows a lot of stuff and will do a good job of running things. Now, that’s clearly more than can be said of pretty much all of the Republican presidential candidates, but she’s not running against any of them yet.

What is she going to do as president? What is she going to change about a system with which Americans of all political persuasions are disenchanted, to say the least? Maybe it’s me, but all I hear is that she’ll do a good job, even a better job, of managing what Obama leaves behind.

 A lot of the major media seem to have bought into this message. That was pretty much the essence of the New York Times editorial endorsing Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Iowa primary. Hillary has the experience to carry on the way we have been carrying on.

Unfortunately for Clinton, the New York Times, and other establishment media that support her candidacy, a lot of Americans don’t seem to want to carry on the way we’ve been carrying on. That’s undoubtedly why a lot of young people, not thrilled with the future being crafted for them, have flocked to the Sanders candidacy

In fact, it seems to be why a lot of people have flocked to a host of Republican candidates who are anything but establishment figures. The fact that virtually all of them aren’t qualified to be president is another matter.

For what it’s worth, I think Obama has done a pretty good job cleaning up the mess left by Bush/Cheney. He’s done this in the face of non-stop resistance from Republicans from his first day in office. There’s no reason to believe that Clinton, no favorite of congressional Republicans, will have any easier time of it in that regard. Furthermore, her ties to the banking industry and corporate America (through Bill and the Clinton Foundation), cast serious doubt on any claim she might make that she is different from Republicans. (Her claim the other night that she is not part of the Democratic Establishment is laughable.)

And, as I recall, she couldn’t get her healthcare plan through a Democratic Congress in Bill’s first term. How does that make her a manager who “gets things done”? It’s a claim that much of major media have apparently accepted as fact because she and her supporters keep saying it: Why Hillary? Because she’s a manager.

Sanders, by contrast, is an “eccentric” senator with “unruly” hair, as he was characterized in an Associated Press story the morning after the Iowa caucus. This was supposedly a straight news story reporting on the outcome of the caucus. There were no adjectives attached to Clinton’s name implying some not-so-subtle judgment. Where were the editors?

Again, maybe it’s just me, but when someone writing in Iowa describes Sanders, with a lifetime in public service, as “eccentric,” I can’t help but wonder if it’s code for 74-year-old Jew who still speaks with the accent of his native Brooklyn. New Yorkers are pretty good at cracking codes.

As for that Iowa vote, what a joke. Clinton claimed victory after edging Sanders by less than three-tenths of a point. Democrats don’t even vote privately in Iowa. They stand in opposite corners and try to convince others to join them. The biggest group gets the delegates from that district. When there’s a tie, they split the delegates — two for you, two for you. But when there’s an odd number of delegate at stake, the odd vote is awarded by flipping a coin. Clinton won six out of six flips — go figure — so she got a couple more delegates than Sanders. Smashing victory.

Even here, major media (NPR even) felt it necessary to weigh in after the fact to educate us that Clinton didn’t win Iowa on coin flips. Rather, they spelled out the entire ridiculously and unnecessarily complicated system by which Iowa Democrats award convention delegates. Seems there’s county delegates and state delegates and who-the-heck cares delegates and formulas for calculating percentage of delegates. It’s a system set up by the establishment to try to control the votes, so that candidates like Bernie Sanders, from Brooklyn via Vermont, can’t win.

But he did. The “virtual tie” was a statement for Sanders against the establishment — Democratic Party and major media.

My humble recommendations:

  • For Clinton: Figure out what you really stand for and tell us. If you think you have to be a shill for banks and corporations in order to be effective as president, tell us why. At least it would be honest.
  • For the major media: Listen and report the facts. Ask questions about real issues. Stop with the horse-race reporting based on polls. Do your job.
  • Iowa Democrats: Have a simple vote, privately, for convention delegates. No coin flips. In case of ties, split the baby, as Solomon said. In this case, it works.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Who Says Corporations are People?

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos
While most of the country was going about the business of welcoming the new year and hoping it would be more rewarding than the departing one, an event was taking place in a sparsely populated state in the middle of the country that could have a profound effect on the future political landscape of America.

What? Oh God, no. Not the Iowa caucuses. What a joke that is. Every four years, about 100,000 mostly older, mostly white, mostly conservative, almost certainly evangelical Christians pay their dues, eat a bunch of free food and vote for a Republican who hasn’t got a chance in hell of ever being elected president of the United States. They call it democracy in action. Except for TV news channels, the rest of the country ignores the process, never mind trying to understand it.

No, the big political news was made farther west and north, in an even less-populated state — Montana. In a decision it released late Friday, when no one was paying attention, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the state’s century-old law banning direct corporate spending on political candidates or parties was still valid, despite the 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said corporations have the same rights as individual citizens when it comes to making contributions to candidates.

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, control of the political process –candidates, legislation, regulation, entire agendas — by major corporations is the chief problem with the political system in the United States today. Whoever raises the most cash almost always wins and that cash always comes with strings and muzzles attached. Unlimited corporate contributions also inevitably lead to negative, sometimes downright nasty, political advertising because candidates don’t have to affix their names to the ads. They are paid for by corporations and fueled by anonymous sponsors.

Ask Newt Gingrich, who asked his fellow Republican candidates to play nice in Iowa, what he thinks about the nasty ads attacking him paid for by groups that support Mitt Romney. Newt simply called Mitt a liar directly.

Romney, of course, has famously said that “corporations are people, too.” Funny about that. The Montana court ruled 5-2 against that view and perhaps the most powerful argument against the corporations-are-people argument came from one of the dissenting judges.

Justice James C. Nelson, one of my new heroes, dissented because he does not think the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission allows for states to exempt themselves from it. But he left no doubt where he stood on the matter of equal rights for corporations:

“Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people — human beings — to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government.

“Worse still, while corporations and human beings have many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.”

Montana’s long opposition to corporate spending in politics stems from a time when copper and coal industries dominated the sparsely populated state, using their vast resources to buy elections. The case involved a corporate alliance that did massive fundraising based on the lure of no one ever knowing who donated to their cause. It’s what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about today — the vast disparity in control of the political system and government with the richest 1 percent of the population dominating the agenda.

Montana gets it. The hope is that other states will follow suit. The immediate hoped-for effect is that the American Traditions Partnership will appeal the ruling, saying that the federal court’s ruling applies to state laws as well. That would set up a test case in the
U.S. Supreme Court.

One senator isn’t waiting for that to happen. With this year’s campaign spending by “non-political” groups sure to approach $1 billion, Vermont’s independent Bernard Sanders has introduced the Saving American Democracy Act. It would set up a process for a constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United ruling. The amendment would make clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights, that they cannot contribute to election campaigns, that they are subject to regulation and that Congress and the state can regulate election campaign spending. The New York City Council voted Wednesday to support the amendment. The Working Families Party is circulating a petition on the issue. Other groups are planning protests for Jan. 21, the second anniversary of the Citizens United ruling.

Overturning the ruling will not be a quick or easy process, but it has to start somewhere. Big Sky country sound like a perfect place.