Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Iowa Caucus: Setting the Pace for Party Nominations

The Iowa Caucus is the first major electoral event in presidential elections. This year's caucus will be held on Thursday, January 3. The caucus itself is not an election where citizens are able to vote for their preferred candidate. Instead, citizens gather and choose delegates who will eventually attend their respective party's national convention. The particular candidate who receives the most support (either through a straw poll, used by the Republican Party, or by a viability threshold, used by Democrats) is said to be the winner at the caucus.

The importance of the caucus is that it sets the tone for the primary election season. The winner of the Iowa caucus usually becomes stronger as potential contributors multiply. Furthermore, the winner of the Iowa Caucus arrives at the New Hampshire primaries (the next major electoral event) with tangible momentum. Candidates who make a strong showing at these two events are usually considered for the party nomination. A candidate who wins both is almost certain to receive the nomination. The dynamics of these elections are quite interesting, and all politically-conscious citizens should pay special attention.

At this time, the Des Moines Register poll has Republican candidate Mike Huckabee ahead by 4 points, and the Democratic candidate Barack Obama is ahead by 7 points. Hopefully, for me, this poll is sufficiently accurate to predict an Obama victory.

Feel free to discuss your thoughts about the electoral process and the various candidates.


BlackLabelAxe said...

Here's my main contention with Obama:

I know he's a great guy, and I would trust him. I think he's running for all the right reasons and he'll bring about change.

I am terrified that he will bring back economic populism that will cripple and plague our economy. I think he is not afraid of very high taxes and he will not support fundamental tax reform like the Fair Tax. Economic policy is very often too complex of a subject for the average voter, especially with our miserable public education system that damn near prides itself on teaching our kids nearly nothing about economics. This is why we're all in debt and blame other people for it.

Honestly, I hope that he's above populism because I do believe that he means well, but I also think that trusts too much in government, which I've never counted on anything for except to fuck everything up. That is why I support Ron Paul. He is the champion of individual rights and limited government. He's also the only one running who voted against the Iraq War.

The opposition I hear from typical Republicans about Ron Paul is that "well we have to defend our country and we can't do that here". They don't his "isolationist" ideas. Attention Republicans: I hate your idea of expansionism! You want to put trade embargos against our enemies that do nothing but give cheap contracts to people who do business with our enemies and prevent us from taking some of that prosperity back home. Fuck that. They want to occupy every country with troops and trade with nobody. Again, fuck that. Ron Paul wants to trade with everybody, and keep our troops home or on the seas to protect our shipping interests. Everybody else can figure their own shit out on their own time and money.

That sounds blasphemous to trade with our enemy, but we could not do anything smarter! Want to bring down Iran? Don't fucking start a war with them, the people generally don't hate Americans and they are not even Arabs for the most part. Trade with them! Let their kids come home with iPods, then they want computers, then they discover that Islam is fucking stupid and used as a social control mechanism for the weak minded and now they don't like violence and war anymore!

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the dollar slays them both!

BlackLabelAxe said...


Economic populism is a certain weakness in democracies with generally uneducated populations. It is extremely prevalent in South American countries, where candidates will pander to people who don't know the first fucking thing about national economic policy and then they end up voting for people who grant their wishes and they all end up poorer.

It is sad that most Americans have been left behind by 21st century economics, and can no longer make the right decisions for themselves. Blame public schools, blame pop culture, but the problem has arrived and the education gap is at least as severe as the income gap. Does that sound coincidental?

Therefore, in populist countries you have poor people voting for people to keep taxing the dwindling number of actually wealthy people until there is nobody left to blame. It is not Bush's fault that Venezuela is poor, nomatter what that dipshit Chavez says to his people. It is his lack of a diverse economy and piss-poor nationalization of his one strong industry, oil.

Lefty Metalhead said...

Great points Axe!

However, I think Ron Paul is not right for this country. First of all, he says he supports individual rights, but he does not support a woman's right to choose. There's a scent of wingnuttery there that I don't like. If it were up to Ron Paul, the Constitution would be taken back to it's purest form. Therefore, many of the great leaps this country has made in terms of individual rights and freedoms would probably collapse.

My problem with libertarianism and candidates like Ron Paul is that it is mistakenly viewed that the government is inherently bad or not trustworthy. This is a flawed contention that can be refuted by electing a candidate who would run government effectively. The current administration has run the federal government so ineffectively, that it has created an opportunity for staunch anti-government types to use the Bush track record as proof that government does not work well. However, I firmly hold that the answer isn't to limit the government, but to run it efficiently. If higher taxes are needed, so be it. However, I doubt a candidate like Obama would raise taxes to the extent of ruining our economic growth.

There is also an aura of hypocrisy with Ron Paul. Why would someone who views the federal government as inherently flawed want to be the leader of it? I have heard a metaphor comparing government to a criminal gang, and a libertarian candidate trying to be the chief gangster. Perhaps this is why Ron Paul has not received mass appeal.

But then again, have I ever viewed a Republican favorably? Actually, I do regard Ron Paul to be better than the rest of the Republican pack. At least he continues to respect the Constitution.

BlackLabelAxe said...

I do respect both interpretations of the "right to life" discussion. Ron Paul identifies life starting sooner, and some don't. I don't want government involved with medicine, but I do respect his opinion on that issue. If we consider that life starts then, then it is a perfectly legitimate role of government to prosecute people who deny that life. Again, I'm not necessarily in agreement with him on that issue, but I don't think abortion will ever be outlawed here for any reason in the 21st century.

Yes, it does sound hypocritical for a libertarian to run for office, just as it sounds odd for Maximus to slay the Emperor of Rome so that he could give it to the people (Gladiator). I do believe he is a man of principle and his voting record shows that he trusts Americans more than the people who take their money. More than anything I like his forgeign policy and tax policy. Nothing brings a longer lasting, more mutually beneficial peace than trade.

I strongly disagree with Obama on NASA funding. Obama wants to curtail NASA money to pay for some education program. How many times do we have to prove that the problem with education is not a lack of money? Then he wants to postpone NASA spaceflights that push the edge of technology to the benefit of mankind (cell phones, velcro, GPS in cars, GPS in cell phones for emergency locations, flat-panel TV's, satellite radio, etc.) so that an already massively overfunded program can get exactly what it needs less- money.

It's actually ironic: Stop funding for programs that lead to real knowledge and discovery so that you can pay money into an investment that gives negative return! It's like pulling money out of your 401(k) to buy lottery tickets!

Fixing education is much easier. 1) break down the teachers unions. Just like their industrial counterparts, they have prevented any progress from being made so they can collectively drag their feet and whine while we graduate generation after generation of less competitive workers.

2) Abolish the Department of Education. The needs of the workplace should be setting our education goals, because that is subject to competition and will be forced to progress, unlike the DOE which is run by beurocrats that like to waste time on standardized tests and accomplish nothing at a titanic expense.

Teachers unions and the DOE have ensured that our kids know less math than most every other developed nation, while the teachers passing on this vital knowledge cannot be rewarded to reflect the real value of their skills. Unions had their day, which was about 100 years ago.

I believe that Obama would bring his best effort and get good people to run the education system, but it's schematically fucked and we deserve better. More money can't fix it. Putting more gas in a broken down car won't get you any farther.

Lefty Metalhead said...


Our differences boil down to fundamental understandings of government. You happen to think that bureaucracies such as DOE are inherently flawed, while I think government, if run correctly, can be more efficient than privatization. Unionization is not entirely a bad thing. If it weren't for unions, many of our current labor standards would not exist. I don't think destroying the DOE and unions will create more competition. Perhaps it will only throw the situation into further disarray. There are certain things our federal government is best suited to regulate. Education and health care are prime examples. Privatization and the free market are not always the answers. We need a strong federal government. I would also rather spend more on education than on NASA.

Lefty Metalhead said...

Besides, any guy who tries to make an argument that the Constitution does not separate church and state will never get my vote. Ron Paul seems to pander to the idea that there is a an attempt by the left to rigidly separate church and state, and that this separation is not found in the Constitution. Ron Paul merely has his own interpretation of the Constitution, as does my Constitutional Law Professor, but my professor does not claim that his interpretation is the correct one.

I don't trust Ron Paul. He takes libertarianism too far (voting no against funding for FEMA in New Orleans). I'm sure he means well for this country. He has very big ideas that appeal to libertarians, but I just don't see how those big ideas can be any good.

It would be more interesting if he was the front-runner instead of GOP wingnuts.