Our Great Democracy

John ArmstrongPolitics

Our democracy is at work this evening even though the process is playing out in an antiquated form in the Iowa caucuses. I am listening to Extension 720, hosted by Milt Rosenberg, a wonderful program on our local Chicago super station, WGN. Rosenberg is one of the most fair and honest conservative voices I know in radio. He is an intellectual with a keen interest in almost every subject imaginable. I listen to him because he will give every angle of the story a fair look.

Who will win? What difference will it make? Right now no one knows. I lean towards the data which says Obama and Huckabee will win tonight. (Early data says older adults vote for Clinton while younger ones go for Obama.) In the end I do not think this caucus matters a great deal. The Iowa caucus has rarely made a real difference in the primary process. It must be understood that it is not even a primary in the true sense of the word. But in turns of impact in Iowa Jimmy Carter comes to mind, since it was in Iowa that he caught the attention of the media seriously by finishing second. (This will likely be true for Huckabee if he wins in Iowa. The first report tonight says that 6 in 10 Republican caucus goers are evangelicals, thus Huckabee’s strong support and vocal promotion by many ministers in Iowa. It is also interesting that evangelical women overwhelming support Huckabee while men are almost 50-50 for and against him. I would love to hear that discussed.) But I still expect Huckabee has no real chance of the nomination in the end. Clinton is clearly the front-runner on the Democratic side but Obama is a great candidate in many, many ways. I think he will hang with her for a long while. Remember this, no one has ever won the Iowa caucus and then gone on to be president, no one!  This means this evening is not nearly as important as the media tells us. 

Tony Blankley, a Republican conservative leader who worked with Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, is now explaining on WGN precisely why Ron Paul is a "crank." Blankley thinks that Ron Paul could well run as an independent in November and thus profoundly hurt the Republican party in the end. As I have noted here before Ron Paul has become the Ralph Nader of the right. Ron Paul’s support actually surprises me even more than Mike Huckabee’s.

In the light of the spotlight on Iowa tonight Pew Research says that Republican Senator John McCain has moved into the national lead for his party’s nomination for the presidency, according to a poll released Wednesday on the eve of the first voting.

The Pew Research Center’s nationwide survey gave McCain 22 percent support among Republican voters, two percent ahead of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had led the Republican field by a wide margin for most of 2007. Surging into a close third was ex-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is leading polls to win the Republican caucuses in Iowa on Thursday, the first state to vote on candidates for the November 2008 presidential election.

In March Rudy Giuliani topped the broad Republican field nationally with 35 percent support in the Pew poll, against 24 percent for Arizona Senator McCain and only two percent for Huckabee. And in September McCain, considered a moderate Republican was being counted out of the race when his support dropped to 16 percent and Giuliani still held 33 percent. However, the three frontrunners still fall into the five-percent margin of error in the poll of 471 Republican voters around the country. And polls ahead of the individual state caucuses and primaries show sharply different readings from national polls.

Among Democratic candidates nationally, Senator Hillary Clinton remains the front-runner, Pew said, with 46 percent support, compared to Senator Barack Obama’s 26 percent backing and 14 percent for ex-senator John Edwards.

So, how much does Iowa really mean? I think very little in the end but then a political junkie like me will still listen with real interest tonight. New Hampshire will not tell us a lot more but if McCain wins in New Hampshire he is most definitely not dead as was presumed a few months ago. Could he become the new "comeback kid" in the end? I think there is good reason to think so once things sift out a little bit more.

One interesting note from the day is the release of recent Gallup Poll information which says that 84% of Americans are generally happy with their lives while 70% say the nation is following the wrong course.  Bill Henninger of the Wall Street Journal notes that "ambiguity is (often) all you get" in our democracy. I am a fan of this ambiguity since I think the country is not in dire political straights at the present moment. Reacting to predictions of gloom and doom is about as old as the nation itself. In early November a good number of people will be saying that we have new direction as a nation while an almost equal number will be sure that we are in grave danger. This is "ambiguity" that is part and parcel of our democracy, which is another good reason for Christians not to associate election victories, or losses, with the well-being of the nation.