I’m glad I don’t vote in Iowa – for a ton of reasons, including I don’t have to make a choice today.
Most quadrennials, I’m neutral in the primaries, focused on the end game. Eight years ago I was passionate about Obama because of his eloquence and the vision he presented in Boston in 2004 and again in Philadelphia in March 2008. Hillary was fine with me – I met her on Capitol Hill in 1994 when she was advocating an on-the-way-to-single-payer health insurance plan, and she charmed me – but I had no interest in the return of Bill.
The Democrats this time around gave themselves a thin field, much as they did in 1992, when President Bush’s 90% approval rating in the wake of Iraq War One chased away most contenders, leaving room for the audacious “man from Hope.” We ended up with a masterful politician who knitted together enough of the Democratic coalition to beat back the worst of the GOP’s increasingly reactionary proposals, including that impeachment fiasco. His lack of personal integrity was a factor in Al Gore’s loss, ushering in the worst eight years of the American presidency since Franklin Pierce/James Buchanan, a one-two punch of incompetence and mendacity that nearly destroyed the republic.
Despite the anger of the electorate, we’re not in terrible shape. Obama has done well considering the opposition’s intransigence since day one, preventing adequate economic stimulus during the financial crisis and tweaks to a health care law that could work better, cover more people and cost less.
As the Framers intended, the big problems we confront are up to the first branch: adequate funding for education (see: college debt bomb), infrastructure (Flint), clean energy (California’s methane leak) and other investments that only the federal government has the political and financial wherewithal to address. The growing political and financial power of the elite and the diminishing security of the rest of us have both ends of the electoral divide inflamed. Congress, whose two chambers operate by minority rule, is unlikely to address any of these concerns, no matter who wins the White House.
The worst outcome, which the voters rejected 10 years ago, would be the current version of the GOP in control of the White House, Congress and the Supremes, with the opportunity to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with another Samuel Alito. I would expect more comforting of the comfortable – decisions like Citizens United, which swept away decades of campaign finance law; Shelby County v. Holder, which eviscerated federal voting rights enforcement; and DirecTV v. Imburgia, which empowered corporations over customers.
So the question is: Who’s more likely to stitch together another Democratic coalition, drawing in the slice of true independents required to win, and then, if not execute an idea of how to save democratic capitalism from the rapaciousness of the let-them-eat-cake class, stop them from taking control?