I remember shortly after the 2015 UK election I surveyed the international scene to see what elections would interest me in 2016. The most interesting, I thought at the time, would be the National Assembly for Wales election. It is elected using a (partially) proportional system, meaning that UKIP could will win seats if it does as well as it did in the UK general. America’s 2016 election? I thought it would surely be boring, with the Republican candidates, whether “social conservatives” or “establishment,” arguing about issues that don’t really matter. 2012 was interesting because of Ron Paul, who talked about things that did matter, government surveillance and foreign interventionism, even as he was mostly silent about trade, race, and immigration. Rand Paul seemed far too eager to “moderate” his rhetoric on those issues, as well as kiss up to the Left on race.
Donald Trump changed all that. He made politics interesting again. I was skeptical at first, both of his motives and his chances. I worried about two groups: the “social conservatives” and the PC cons. There is some overlap there. The social conservatives want one of their own. Trump isn’t one, and he (admirably) is unwilling to pretend to be one. And then there’s the PC conservatives. These people may not agree with much of the agenda of the establishment Right, the tax cuts for the super-rich, the “free trade,” the cuts to the social safety net, the idiot foreign policy, ect yet they vote for them anyway. The traditional Leftist explanation, often given in winks and nods, for why working/middle class Whites “vote against their interests” for the Republicans is because they are “racist.” But how do you explain it when they vote for Marco Rubio? If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I’d say that they know, subconsciously, that the Left ain’t for them but consciously think it unacceptable to think in those terms. So they go with the “middle.” There is also a group which rather fanatically believes in the Fox News worldview of “dem=bad,” “rep=good,” and want someone who more than anything can “win.”
Those two groups, the social conservatives and the PC cons, came through tonight, giving Iowa to Cruz. Rubio won ~23% of the vote. I am disappointed, because for the first time since my “awakening” I had allowed myself to get my hopes up. Trump needed a complete sweep if he could have ever hope to subdue the GOP establishment. This will be a long fight. But we can look forward to other states. Iowa has too many evangelicals. In the Real Clear Politics average he still has a solid lead over the other candidates, even when aggregated with candidates of similar political alignment:
There is one bit of good news tonight: the reaction of Jeb Bush to the caucus results, he insulted his fellow establishment candidate Rubio, showing he does not plan to drop out any time soon. New Hampshire, as a high income Blue state, is one of the few states where the population is receptive to the message of the establishment candidates: they collectively have 41.3% in the RCP average. Trump will win due to the division of the establishment vote. We should hope for the establishment vote to be divided for as long as possible. My sense is that Christie, Fiorina, and Bush will stay in for quite awhile. They all seem quite narcissistic and will be hoping for a good debate performance. Kasich seems a lot less narcissistic, he will probably drop out after New Hampshire due to his lack of national appeal.
Neither Iowa or New Hampshire are particularly good states for Trump. He will do better in rust belt Blue and Purple states and in the South, where the evangelicals are more racially conscious. So you may have a situation where Cruz wins the Western states, Rubio(or whoever the establishment rallies behind) wins a few states in the Northeast, and, we can hope, Trump takes the South and the Industrial Midwest. California and New York will be swing states. If Trump can go into the convention with a solid lead in votes, the stage will be set for the political food fight of a lifetime, a brokered convention. We lost the battle. We haven’t lost the war.