The Caucus Endorsements 2024
If Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada had been smarter about things, they would have formed a pact years ago and agreed to rotate the batting order for the first four contests and adjusted state laws as necessary to match. Had they done that, it would have been a lot harder for the national parties to come in and change the batting order as they see fit-- but in hindsight, everything is 20/20 and now we're here, in the waning days of the power and influence of the Iowa Caucuses.
The Caucuses have never been a hill that I'm willing to die on. I do think that unless you drastically reform the current system, a small state must go first. If New York, Florida, or California had gone first in 2008, Obama would never have been President. Small states and I don't care which one it is, but states where politicians have to talk to voters face to face are a critical microscope to put potential Presidential candidates under. You find out all kinds of fascinating things. Like how Ron DeSantis should never eat food on camera. Or how Nikki Haley isn't willing to say 'slavery' is the cause of the Civil War. Or how Trump well... *waves hand at all that*.
You get what I'm saying. Putting them in situations where they can't wriggle out of direct questions from actual, real-live voters is an absolute must in the current system. It's a check against money and party machinery and the old smoke-filled rooms. How effective of a check, I don't know-- that's another post, but it is a check.
That's about as mild a defense of the current system as I'm willing to mount. But, I wasn't joking either: we are in the waning days of the power and influence of the Iowa Caucuses.
So who am I going to endorse? Absolutely nobody.
For a start, even though the Democratic side of the ball isn't actually going first anymore (they're doing some ridiculous shenanigans involving preference cards or something) there's really no action over there. I do think that Marianne Williamson is an extremely effective communicator who should have gotten more of a look than she has in the last two cycles. Robert Kennedy Jr. talks a lot of sense about regulatory capture, especially where Big Pharma is concerned but then we wander into talking points that are dangerously close to "Woo, Frogs Are Gay!" territory. Dean Phillips is just tilting at windmills, to be quite honest about it.
Joe Biden is the President. For better or for worse, it's always been a pipe dream for him to stand aside. The man has spent decades in professional politics and has finally reached the proverbial mountaintop. You can have the Presidency when you pry it from his cold, dead hands or until Inauguration Day 2025 or 2029 rolls around, whichever comes first. So for all that people may wish otherwise, there's no real action on the Democratic side worth talking about.
The Republican side of the ledger... look, Nikki Haley is the 'least bad' option if you're a regular voter like me. I think her biggest problem right now is probably how late in the game it's getting. Everyone's got to be going flat out with a sprint to the finish and she's got Trump down to single digits in New Hampshire, which means in Iowa-- barring an earthquake that's not picked up by polling she's in a dogfight for second with DeSantis. I can forgive some errors, this late in the game. Caitlin Collins instead of Caitlin Clark when you've got a CNN Town Hall coming up? Understandable. Making schools as secure as our airports? Beats the usual platitudes. (TSA-style pat downs are not what I'm about, but airports are as close to gun-free zones as you can get these days.) Being unwilling to say the proximate cause of the Civil War was slavery? Not a fan of that. Spouting some nonsense about TikTok or ending internet anonymity? Not a fan of that, either.
Am I going to endorse her? No, because that implies that I actually give enough shit to change my voter registration and go out and caucus for her, which I don't. But I am going to say again: she is the 'least bad' option. She would solve a lot of problems for the Republican Party (for instance, do you know how you move past Trump? You don't nominate him again. Pretty simple stuff) and more importantly, I will scrape up a buck or two to say that if she is the nominee, she'll win.
She was right in her announcement video: the Republican Party has lost the popular vote in 7 out of 8 of the last Presidential elections and that's a huge problem for them.
She is the only Republican that I've seen who has come close to taking anything near common sense when it comes to abortion- she, at least is willing to acknowledge what a millstone around the neck of the party that issue has become. (Christie had a good moment at either a debate or a forum of some kind down in Miami as well, so it's not just her).
She is open about the need for entitlement reform, which is refreshing, because putting your hands in your ears and saying 'na na na na na na, I can't hear you' isn't a plan.
I was mystified by the overwhelmingly negative reaction to her getting into the race. I've always thought that if she could get the money together and go the distance, she would and she has. I do think a strong second-place finish or a close third-place finish in Iowa could be enough to catapult her into a lead for New Hampshire and then South Carolina and if the dam breaks, she could go the distance.
But: all of this could be a moot point. the Tangerine Death Star that has tried its best to choke the life out of the Republican race could very well triumph once again. I ain't going to believe it until I see it.
Her nomination- and assuming I'm right and she wins the Presidency would solve a lot of problems for the Republican Party-- but there is a larger underlying problem that needs to be addressed: no one, so far, has put together anything close to resembling a vision of what American Conservatism can be in the 21st Century. DeSantis has danced around it somewhat-- but that was long after he had doubled down on his attempt to be Diet Trump (which has not paid dividends for him, IMO.) Am I looking for that vision? Honestly, kind of. I would like both the Left and the Right (and I know those are large umbrella terms, I get that) to pull their heads out of their asses and move forward into the future somewhat.
In their defense, there are Republicans of the more Trumpy/NatCon/Populist flavor that are grasping around the outlines of what could be a powerful, multi-ethnic, working-class coalition. Whichever party figures that out is going to set for a generation-- I'm pretty convinced of that. The Republicans are closer than the Democrats because Regular Folks/Normie Voters just want Regular Folks/Normie Voter things and the Democrats sort of deliver that- but at the same time, can't stop their embrace of Leftist Shibboleths and The Crazy- which is their biggest liability. (DeSantis debated the wrong Governor-- Newsom isn't the vision for Blue America, in a very real sense it's Walz in Minnesota and maybe Polis in Colorado.) The Republican's inability to move beyond the very tired formula of all tax cuts all the time is hampering their ability to form a governing coalition for the new century.
Sure, you can see plenty of copium and happy headlines out there: but is their on-paper, numerical strength an indication of actual popular support? Or did they take advantage of a decade of Democratic fecklessness on the state level under Obama to entrench their power? I think it's the latter and they've got a road map to a New Deal Coalition, but if there is a party that is very, very good at snatching defeats out of the jaws of various victories, it's the Republican Party. Don't get me wrong: I like tax cuts as much as the next guy-- but not to the point where I have to pay to drive on my fucking roads, you know? I expect the roads to function. I expect some basic, cost-effective level of services provided- but tax cuts are not the magical cure-all that Republicans preach. It's almost homeopathic, the level of obsession with tax cuts. It's like that certain type of white suburban Mom and essential oils. Got a rash? Essential oils. Autism? Essential oils. Gout? Essential oils. Except trade all of that out for 'tax cuts' and you get the idea. (Hole in the head? Here's a tax cut! Student loan debt? Have a tax cut! Leaking roof? Tax cut'll fix that!)
What would my ideal vision for a Republican administration look like? Something like this:
- Remove the self-imposed protectionist shackles on the economy wherever you can find them. (Repeal the Jones Act, don't bail out the airlines again, and adapt an Open Skies policy like Millei is doing in Argentina. Lift the cap on Doctors imposed by the AMA-- there's a whole list of this stuff that benefits powerful special interests, but whose extra costs get passed onto voters. If the analysis I read about the Jones Act making gas 63 cents more expensive on the East Coast alone, how do you not take that layup?)
- Illegal immigration bad, high skilled legal immigration good. Seal the border, fix the system but also, fix the Visa backlogs! You're not going to fix the fertility rate anytime soon, so you want to make sure you can get the best and brightest from all over the world to come to America, legally and stay. The problem here is that there is a huge political incentive to do nothing because screaming about a border crisis animates the Republican base. But you know what voters respect? People who actually solve problems.
- If you're going to be the 'pro-family' party, then deliver the goods. I cannot underline this enough. You don't want universal pre-k? Fine. What's your answer to the astronomical cost of childcare in this country? You don't want the government imposing things like paid family leave or paid sick leave? Fine. Incentivize companies to do it themselves. For the love of Sweet Baby Jesus and all the Saints In Heaven, bring back the Child Tax Credit and do so immediately before the Democrats beat you to it. Take the crusties in the Senate who want to mouth some bullshit talking points from the 80s and gag them and just do it! You know how you get families on your side? Deliver the goods.
That's three planks. You can add more in the comments-- but none of the above things I've suggested include tax cuts. (I also don't expect anything close to this level of common sense to break out in the Republican Party anytime soon.)
The Iowa aspect of this is under-discussed I think.
Let's say, it's the Tangerine Death Star again and let's say like Muhammad Ali, he rope-a-dopes the entire legal system and somehow manages to win an election. Do you think Iowa stays first? South Carolina jump-started Biden right to the Presidency and was richly rewarded for it. If Iowa kills the Tangerine Death Star, but he wins anyway, he will hold a grudge. Were I Kimmie, I would have endorsed absolutely no one this time around- because an endorsement can be a millstone around your neck or your golden goose. Hitching her wagon to the DeSantis Train seems like a big political landmine she's stepped in. I could be wrong about that: maybe DeSantis has the ground game to pull an upset in Iowa and if he does, then Kimmie looks like a damn genius- but I don't see it so she's wasted an endorsement and it could well prove to be the nail in the coffin for the Iowa caucuses on the Republican side of the ledger as well.
The economic fallout of that is going to be interesting to watch. I think ethanol subsidies are up for grabs now. Local media didn't report it as widely as they should have, but it took all four of our Congresscritters (plus a few friends from ag states) walking into the Republican Speaker's office to get ethanol subsidies off the chopping block. I think they're on borrowed time. Democrats have no reason to keep them. Republican deficit hawks obviously have their eyes on them. I would hope that Iowa's biofuel industry is robust enough to survive subsidies going away, but there will be an impact and it might be u-g-l-y.
The waning days of the power and influence of the Iowa Caucuses are here... I could be wrong about all of this, but I feel like it's finally on its way out.