With 97% of the Iowa caucus vote, Donald Trump crushed his opponents, William Weld and Joe Walsh, who won just 1% each. The Republicans held their own Iowa caucuses on Monday—something like a parody of the ones that actually mattered, those of the Democratic Party on Tuesday.
The Democratic caucuses, however, ended up looking farcical for an entirely different reason. The takeaway: the current president has scored a double political victory, while doing absolutely nothing to deserve it, on one of the darkest days in the political history of the Democrats.
Trump’s first victory was in the Republican vote—of course, ludicrously symbolic and nothing more, but one which marks the “banana republic style” confirmation of his definitive dominion over a party that he has gradually taken over as an outsider and which today lies at his feet. Trump’s second victory lay in the spectacle of the party running against him, who looked like amateurs without direction and without organization, while being forced to sound a retreat in Washington in the battle for impeachment.
Perhaps the disaster in Iowa was just a fluke, a bad joke played on everyone by the vagaries of technology, and perhaps everything will go smoothly starting from the next primaries in New Hampshire. That’s very likely—however, this bad beginning will leave its mark, and it will remain a political factor weighing on the difficult path that the Democratic Party has to take from now until the summer, the season of the conventions, and then in the final battle for the White House and Congress in November.
On the other hand, a counterpoint to this pessimistic outlook is the result that is emerging from the very confused and contradictory data of the Iowa vote, one that seems to clearly trace the contours of the race for the nomination, something that will probably be confirmed in Thursday’s New Hampshire primary: with 71% of precincts reporting, Bernie Sanders is in a near-tie with Pete Buttigieg in the lead (with Sanders winning in terms of actual votes cast), while Joe Biden is trailing far behind, with a wide gap between him and Sanders. This means that one political option is on the rise and showing signs of prevailing over the other: namely, the socialist-social-democratic left over the classical “centrist” Democratic one.
In the face of such an outcome and the perspective it opens up, if the Democratic establishment, the Clintonians, Obama himself, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and other notables were to decide to spend time, resources and energy to counteract such a move, it’s obvious who would benefit the most from such efforts: Donald Trump.
If, on the other hand—unlike what happened in 2016—they choose to rally behind Sanders’s momentum, the Democratic Party will have a real chance to beat Trump and win back a majority in the Senate.
We need to wait until the beginning of March to see which direction things will take. After New Hampshire, February will bring the Nevada caucuses and the primaries in South Carolina, leading up to the decisive Super Tuesday on March 3, which will see the entry of Michael Bloomberg into the race. At that point, the New York tycoon might well forge an alliance with the party’s establishment and notables to oppose Sanders, in the name of the search for a candidate that is less “tainted” by left-wing views.
Major interests will be in play, and the unending piles of cash that Bloomberg has invested and is planning to invest will play an important role, as well as the maneuvering of the party bosses. However, they will have to reckon with the mobilization and the votes of a Democratic electorate that is experiencing a significant demographic change (the other encouraging takeaway from the Iowa debacle), with the active and strong participation of young and highly motivated people.
They are motivated not only by the desire to send Trump home, but also by the impulse to change the Democratic Party itself, something that goes far beyond the presidential elections. They want to change its policies and programs, but also its way of functioning, its organization. They are aiming to make it a truly “democratic” party, as much as possible—one with a strongly social-democratic perspective.