With Four Weeks to go Before the Iowa Caucuses, What (if Anything) Have We Learned?

The Iowa caucuses are now just four weeks from Tuesday and the crazy, on-its-head election cycle has produced surprises, nastiness and straight out bigotry. We think of this country as somehow advanced both in technology and thought. The news reports of the 2016 presidential suggest otherwise. What have we learned?

The Republicans:
• Donald Trump is both a national phenomenon and a frightening indictment of our nation. He has managed to appeal to the very base fears and anger of an anxious populace. He has stirred anti-immigration sentiment in the nation by attacking Mexicans (despite data that shows most illegals are not from there) and all Muslims including Muslim-American tourists who want to simply return home; mocked a war hero; made fun of a fellow Republican’s face; showed a disturbing fascination with female bodily fluids; and yet here we are. It’s amazing.

We can sum up the Trump candidacy with his first TV ad.


• The once red-hot Scott Walker, glasses-don’t-make-the-man Rick Perry, “we-need-to-drink-more Lindsay Graham, and pretender and way-too-moderate George Pataki all saw the writing on the Trump southern border wall and got out of the race. As did anonymous Democratic candidates Jim Webb, and where’s-the-metric-system Lincoln Chafee.

• The real question is why haven’t Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee followed suit? Especially Paul who is simultaneously running for his US Senate seat.

• Marco Rubio is in a strange place. He does fairly well in national polls but right now he is a man without a state he can win. He has no natural constituency. He is running far behind Trump in his home state of Florida. Vice presidential candidate? Quite possibly.

• Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson have failed badly in their quest to wrest the outsider mantle from Trump. Carson’s campaign is a mess. Fiorina gets a bump after each debate and then fades again. They should get out.

• The fact that Ted Cruz is the closest to Trump in the polls is an indictment of Cruz. This is a guy with little experience and even less strategic capability (he called his Senate leader Mitch McConnell “a liar” on the floor of the Senate over an issue that no member of the general public cares about).

• Chris Christie’s act is old and tired. New Jersey’s budget is bleeding while Christie stares into the camera during the debates so he can speak directly to me! I get chills.

• Jeb Bush is probably the second-most capable candidate to run the country. He simply can’t get traction because he is a person who governs well and campaigns not so much.

• John Kasich is the most capable in the Republican field. He helped balance the federal budget the last time it happened. He turned around the Ohio economy which was no small feat. He can negotiate the governmental process and simply get things done. He is also fairly moderate which in this field spells failure.

The Democrats:
• Bernie Sanders deserves credit for hanging around this long and for raising some $38 million. Unfortunately for him, his success is a manifestation of the distrust the American people have for Hillary Clinton. The bottom line is that despite how he is now spinning it, Sanders is a socialist. He now calls himself a “Democratic Socialist.” Yeah, that’s better. The Shad is a lifelong Democrat but I will never vote for a socialist. Nor will the American people elect one to the presidency. He can’t win a general election, plain and simple.

(For what it’s worth, a “Democrat” believes government should help people, intervene in the economy to level the playing field and act when people can’t help themselves. A “Socialist” believes the government should run the economy and exercise control over the everyday life of the governed.)

To me, Sanders disqualified himself by voting against the Brady Bill and continuing to claim that climate change is the number one homeland security issue. Climate change is real and should be taken very seriously. However, I guarantee that ISIS is not beheading people because their crops are drying up.

• Hillary Clinton has evolved as a candidate. Of course, one person’s evolution is another’s panderer. (Think Hillary calling the TTP treaty “the gold standard” when she was part of the Obama administration but then opposing its passage now). The bottom line is that a majority of the American public distrust her. I really frown on the use of the word “liar.” But it fits here. It seems her entire existence revolves around her wanting to be president.

If nothing else, The Shad has been wildly entertained by this election cycle thus far. However, I really think people are starting to say of the Trump candidacy, “Ok, it’s not funny anymore. You can go away now.” Yet it doesn’t seem to be happening.

Like other I-want-to-watch-what-I-want-when-I-want-want Americans, I subscribe to Hulu, Netflix and CBS.com. I think I should pitch them all and just continue to immerse myself in the 2016 presidential election cycle. It’s genius programming.