By Nicholas Riebel || Staff Writer
For the Democrats, Iowa was a tie. Senator Sanders, dependent on the results of an investigation, may have won the popular vote, but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walked away with more delegates. For the Republicans, Ted Cruz proved that you don’t need to pander to the ethanol lobby to win in Iowa, and he and Marco Rubio (the third place and “establishment” winner) go on, with the rest of the GOP field likely to drop out within the week. Sanders and Trump are, as of this typing, heavily favored to win the New Hampshire primary for their respective parties, even if they don’t become the nominee.
Iowa is fascinating to me because, for the Democrats, it showed that a grassroots, populist effort can defeat an entrenched, “inevitable” establishment candidate. For the Republicans, it shows their further descent into “conservatism” and far-right ideology. And I use “conservatism” in quotation marks, because I am not sure if these candidates, the Tea Party, and the Republican party are truly conservative anymore. Rather, it may be more accurate to call them a reactionary party. They are not trying to conserve our values, our traditions, and institutions: they want to go further and further back into a past that never was, where the national government and its power was near-nonexistent. They don’t truly care about the Constitution. No, they want to bring back the Articles of Confederation.
That, I know, won’t be the news story throughout these primaries. But I think this has become increasingly obvious. Democrats, for the most part, do not necessarily want a larger government: they want to use the government as a tool to improve our lives. However, Republicans seem to increasingly view the government as not a necessary evil, but an intolerable one. The base believes that the government has become (or is becoming) tyrannical. Republican politicians manipulate their base’s fear in this regard, because they know a smaller and weaker national government will be less likely to resist Wall Street’s power, influence, and excesses.
I believe Donald Trump worries the Republican establishment, not because of his racism, or his policy ideas, or even his electability problem. I believe they are worried that Donald Trump could actually win, and resist both Wall Street (as he is not beholden to their money to win) and efforts to make the government smaller and weaker, to further strengthen Wall Street. Donald Trump, it seems, at least recognizes the potential value of a strong national government, even if it is to keep people he doesn’t like out. He seems to understand that we need to fix our dangerously outdated infrastructure, our unfair health care system, and our increasingly desperate educational situation. He is correct that America is in decline (in at least some ways): other nations are doing what we used to do, better than we are doing it now. Other nations are exceeding us in infrastructure (look at the maglev in other nations), in health care (almost every other Western nation has a single payer health care system, so do not lie and say that we can not and should not do it here) and in education (Germany’s ideas on tuition, in particular, are revolutionary: http://lat.ms/1HfkbgK).
Ted Cruz, it seems, believes that the government’s primary role should be mostly limited to national security (in terms of its military capabilities). And, for all the talk of him as a “moderate” now, Marco Rubio essentially seems to believe the same thing. But, the truth that conservatives and the Tea Party do not seem to recognize is that the government can be a force for good. And you don’t even need to look at the New Deal to understand this. The Constitution, promoting a stronger national, federal government, was superior to the Articles of Confederation. Government activity was essential in creating the Erie and Panama Canals, few people will argue that. A strong government helped reunite America during the Civil War. A strong national government helped us to compete with and eventually defeat the Soviet Union, not on the battlefield, but in a clash of ideas.
Sanders (and, to a much lesser extent, Hillary Clinton) understand this. The Republicans used to understand this (after all, Abraham Lincoln, the first American president, helped strengthen and enlarge the national government). But now, anti-government has grown from an unwise philosophy to the dangerous obsession of many. Hopefully, candidates that recognize that government can and does play a positive, constructive role will go on to win the White House now and in the future.
And, if you live in New Hampshire, please do not forget to vote for Sanders.
Junior Nicholas Riebel is a staff writer. His email is nriebel@fandm.