Wednesday, January 4, 2012

After Iowa

Iowa, we are repeatedly told by political pundits and other analysts, is an atypical state. Undoubtedly that's true. By far, one of the most atypical things is the Caucuses - covered to death in the past several months and now done with for another 4 years. Whatever their other merits or demerits, the Caucuses are a form of democracy the likes of which we seldom see elsewhere - a form of democracy that an Aristotle, for example, might have found comprehensible. Of course, the Iowa campaign has become more media-driven, and attack ads are as effective as everywhere else (as Newt Gingrich learned). Still, at the Iowa Caucuses citizens actually do what citizens in the classical sense are supposed to do. They meet. They discuss. They deliberate. They stand up and say why they are for the candidate they are for. Would that we could incorporate more of that in our political processes!
Iowa, because it is different and unrepresentative, may also accordingly appear over-rated. Undoubtedly it is. But it does shine a light, however briefly, on what citizenship might mean.
The actual contest that has just been completed in Iowa has also perhaps highlighted the class-conflict within the Republican Party. Four years ago, it was the Democrats whose contest pitted an elitist-oriented candidate (Obama) vs. someone (Hilary Clinton) with strong appeal to what we used to call the "working class." Since the late 1960s, we have been accustomed to the internal conflict within the Democratic Party between its powerful elitist wing (interested in reshaping the cultural and moral fabric of American society) and its traditional "working class" base, progressive diminishing in influence within the party. Now that many of those folks are Republicans, we may be seeing something similar happening there. This year it may be the Republicans' turn to showcase the class divide between the economic elite that Romney can appeal to and the kind of "working class" constituency someone like Santorum comes out of and could conceivably represent. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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