Mitt won, but does he look like a winner?

 
The Republican caucus in Dawson A British correspondent's first experience of Democracy, Iowa style, came in tiny Dawson

The Republican candidates are heading to their next testing ground, in New Hampshire, and I won't be far behind them.

But for the moment, I am still mulling over the lessons from my first experience of democracy, Iowa style.

It is easy to over-interpret a contest as open as a caucus.

I first came across the term in Alice in Wonderland and the real thing is almost as bizarre as Lewis Carroll's version.

Last night, I went to a fire station in Dawson, population 155.

In a room next to the garage housing two shiny red trucks and an emergency vehicle, 20 people took part in this experiment in ultra-democracy.

Three of them spoke, briefly and to the point, not even taking up the full two minutes allocated.

Then there was a show of hands. Ron Paul seven, Rick Santorum five, the rest down to one or two.

Among the interesting people I met were two independents who registered as Republicans to cast their votes for Jon Huntsman, to protest against a strain of conservatism they dislike.

Interpretations to avoid

A Santorum supporter thought Mitt Romney would win in the end, and a Ron Paul voter wanted to send a message to Washington that radical change was needed.

At the end of the caucus race in Alice in Wonderland, the dodo declares "all must have prizes".

This too was a messy race, but the two who all but tied for first place don't deserve equal prizes.

There are some interpretations to avoid.

Democracy underscores differences. It is easy to see disagreement as division, debate as discord.

So I don't buy the theory that this result shows three party factions battling it out.

It is neat, of course, to see libertarians, social conservatives and moderates who want to win more than anything else, in conflict.

'Eventual winner?'

The tensions are there but there is a lot more overlap than this suggests. The Republican party is a coalition, but it has not divided into hostile camps.

Before the result, I was close to buying the idea that just about any result was good for Romney.

Politico said that first, second or third place was a big win for him.

It may well be true that Romney will emerge as the eventual winner. This race is clearly part of that process.

It is an impressive feat for him to come top in a state he had all but ignored until the last few weeks. It is, in one sense, obviously good news for Romney.

He is confirmed as the man in front, the man to beat.

But this photo finish does underline that the desire to beat him is very strong. He inspires few in his own party. He is distrusted by many.

Rivals weakened

Conservative Republicans are still looking for a hero. If they were to come together around one anti-Mitt candidate, that person would win hands down.

But no-one has been able to capitalise on initial success in the past, and there is no reason to think Santorum is any different.

Michele Bachmann, after an emotional speech warning America was becoming socialist, has dropped out. Rick Perry is down and reconsidering his position, but apparently not quite out.

Paul bears watching. He won his third place by appealing to independents and younger people with radical ideas that alarm an establishment which regards him as too weird to win.

This is Romney's real failure. There is a hunger on the right for something fresh and different. There's a mood in the country that the system is broken and doesn't work for ordinary people.

There is a yearning for a populist politics that stands up to the powers that be.

Romney is almost an incarnation of the establishment, from his well-manicured rallies to his tightly organised campaign lubricated with plenty of lucre, from his past as a successful businessman to his career as a problem-solving politician.

He is not going to capture the public mood with that record, any more than he has won the heart of his party.

 
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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 605.

    LucyJ (604),

    "... We are as free as we can be
    Freer than most in this world
    but we are not truly free"

    How right you are - on all 3 points!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 604.

    McJ: If you want to wear a veil, not be able to divorce, not eat meat on Friday, do as you wish, it’s a free country

    We are as free as we can be
    Freer than most in this world
    but we are not truly free

  • Comment number 603.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 602.

    McJakome (601),

    "... If you want to ban divorce, alcohol, shopping on Sunday, etc. for other people, you can’t, it’s a free country."

    Keep in mind however, that Congress can regulate business, and achieve much social programming that way.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 601.

    Midwestern Sue
    If you want to wear a veil, not be able to divorce, not eat meat on Friday, do as you wish, it’s a free country. If you want to ban divorce, alcohol, shopping on Sunday, etc. for other people, you can’t, it’s a free country.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 600.

    593.MidwesternSue
    That is correct, that is the meaning of separation of church and state. You can believe what you want, but you can't expect the government to enact your beliefs into law. "Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins." Politicians are not free to impose their beliefs, either. If extreme views are spoken by them, they can expect censure.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 599.

    591.MidwesternSue is trying hard to make the same justification that the Taleban and Salafists make, the religion that God wants must be established. It is always one particular religion, and persecution of others follows. American Taleban or Afghan Taleban, the message and the results are the same. If God is telling you to persecute others you do not belong in our government.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 598.

    TokyoMoscowSeoul (597),

    “... 245.BillyBobClinton
    I agree Billy. America can't afford space shuttles. And after 135 missions, they've ran their course!”

    I can only hope we do not lose the Desire that the Space Shuttle program once embodied.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 597.

    220.Oldloadr
    BBC - fair, balanced, and unafraid :)

    An interesting analogy. But, as an Englishman I've visited New York City and San Francisco and seen people sleeping in doorways with nothing. They can't be self sufficient, so as a Republican, what do you propose?

    245.BillyBobClinton
    I agree Billy. America can't afford space shuttles. And after 135 missions, they've ran their course!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 596.

    Hungery: LucyJ will have to defend herself on the truck issue -- why not look at an alternative route that would have no risk to the aquifer?

    Even w/ an alternative route there is still risk of an oil spill

    They say its the worst possible oil (quality) out there

    There's a reason why so many Canadians don't want it running through Canada

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 595.

    Chryses: The hidden agenda is to prevent the development of the Tar Sands, not the ecology of the pipeline route."

    Spotted owl was declared an endagered species by activists trying to prevent logging in Oregon.

    And opponents of nuclear power now quote Fukushima despite the fact that not a single person in Japan died, let alone got sick as a result. While dozens of 1000s died in tsunami.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 594.

    575:HungryWalleye: Certainly that is one of the many things I will take into consideration when I vote. If the nominating process isn't over by the time they get to my state it is one of the many things I will look at.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 593.

    554: McJakome:And if you read Federalist 10 you will discover that the American system is not based on religious people not expressing their point of view, but on other religious people with different opinions preventing them from forcing their beliefs on others. That is why US politics REQUIRES politicians to compromise with each other to get anything done in any area of life.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 592.

    HungeryWalleye (583),

    "... The number of U.S. jobs has been exaggerated by the applicant ..."

    That is an irrelevant Red Herring. We had been discussing the ecological issues, and now you try to squeeze in the economic angle.

    Game over.

    Good night,

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 591.

    554:McJakome: Did you know that there is no separation of church and state in the US Constitution, and that states had established churches? The last to give them up was Connecticut in 1838. The goal in the US Constitution was that no state's established church would predominate over that of some other state. cont.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 590.

    HungeryWalleye (583),

    "... Why not look at an alternative route that would have no risk to the aquifer? ..."

    Because someone would also object to that. The hidden agenda is to prevent the development of the Tar Sands, not the ecology of the pipeline route.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 589.

    HungeryWalleye (584),

    "Now you're a long distance psychic ..."

    Wrong again. My assessment of your abilities is based upon your posting history here.

    Judgment: You don't know enough to use a spell checker.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 588.

    519:LucyJ: I have lived without heat in Michigan in the winter, but it isn't something I would suggest doing if one wants to live a reasonable life. I suspect that most Floridians and Arizonans would feel the same about air conditioning. So we need to obtain power somehow at a reasonable cost.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 587.

    HungeryWalleye (580),

    "569. Chryses "predefined agenda that prejudices his opinions."
    You of course are putting yourself as completely objective and disinterested ..."

    Wrong again. I used the encyclopedia reference as the objective standard. You're the True Believer who replaces facts with Faith.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 586.

    497:Hungery Walleye: Personally, I would rather use North American oil which is safer while developing wind, solar and geothermal energy so that we can eventually stop using oil altogether before we run out of even North American oil. And in the long run the environment would be better for the change.

 

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