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Ted cruised. Donald raged. Marco hovered. Hillary and Bernie arm-wrestled. The 2016 presidential race is definitely on.

If the Iowa party caucuses proved anything, it is that middle America is not happy with the direction this nation has been headed in recent years. Between now and early November, we will likely find out just how unhappy.

Iowa kicked off a string of caucuses and primaries, each of which gives candidates and voters a clear picture of what the final ballot choices could be. Maybe.

We had to qualify that, because Rick Santorum took the GOP Iowa caucus in the 2012 presidential race, and he was nowhere to be found by the following November.

What Monday’s caucuses really proved is that races in both parties will be intense, with distinctly different political philosophies from which voters must make choices.

Next up is the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. It’s a jump ball among Republican candidates, but Bernie Sanders is favored on the Democrat side, in large part because he represents neighboring Vermont in the U.S. Senate, and folks from that part of the country tend to have a like mind when it comes to politics.

After New Hampshire, the road gets more difficult, with successive votes in South Carolina and Nevada, followed by so-called Super Tuesday on March 1 when 15 states hold either caucuses or primaries.

Americans go to similar votes throughout the spring months, culminating with the District of Columbia primary on June 14. The California primaries in both parties takes place June 7.

The message from Iowa is that, no matter what the polls tell you, no matter what you see in campaign ads, the final matchup is as yet unknown, and may not be known for several more months. Even after all the early votes, there are the two parties’ nominating conventions, where brokering in a close party race can change everything.

Another message from Iowa’s record turnout is that voters can barely contain their willingness to cast a ballot. Voters are angry, a situation provoked by the heated rhetoric of early campaigning.

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The virtual tie between Clinton and Sanders in Iowa showcases Democrats’ frustration about the influences of Wall Street and corporate America on this nation’s political infrastructure. Many, mostly younger Democrats see in Clinton a political lifer whose campaign funding comes from deep pockets whose owners may want something special in return, if she wins in November.

The turnout for Cruz in Iowa indicates support for the notion that government is the enemy, and is subverting the very concepts upon which this nation was built. Cruz represents the far right wing of the GOP, while Sanders is the nominal leader of the very far left extreme of Democrats.

All things considered, the Iowa results are essentially a no-confidence vote on current conditions in the United States, and in the government structure that manages our nation.

The other thing for voters to keep in mind is that Iowa is not exactly a snapshot of America, which is fast becoming a nation of diverse cultures and beliefs, and in which there is no longer a clear statistical edge for the majority or minority. And somewhere in that stirred pot is the middle class, awaiting a champion who has yet to be identified.

So, the beat goes on. Caucuses and primaries will be held, then the party conventions, which will be either a coronation or a bare-knuckle cage fight. Somehow, we suspect it will be the latter in at least one of the parties.

Whatever happens, it’s sure to be interesting.

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