January 22, 2016

If I Was Voting in Iowa, I'd Still Be Undecided

Iowa in United StatesThe Iowa caucuses are rapidly approaching, and so we will soon have the first presidential primary vote of 2016. What Iowa voters do does not always decide the eventual nominees, but the mainstream news media certainly loves to talk about the "momentum" that can be generated out of Iowa and New Hampshire. The various campaigns must put some stock in this notion because they have been focusing quite a bit of effort on these two states.

After having a brief political discussion with someone I met yesterday, I found myself thinking about politics last night. If I was an Iowa voter who was about to vote in the primary election, I think I'd have to describe myself as undecided. If I was going to vote in the Republican primary (which I would not do if I lived in Iowa), I'd most likely vote for Donald Trump. It is possible but unlikely that I might actually vote for Trump here in Mississippi. As an Iowa voter, I'd almost certainly vote in the Democratic primary. And if the vote was held today, I'd probably vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders. But I have to say "probably" here rather than "definitely" because I have one major concern about Sanders that I haven't yet resolved.

Even though I like Sanders' positions on the issues better than Hillary Clinton and regard him as more trustworthy than Clinton, I have little hope that he could win a general election even if he were to somehow win the Democratic nomination. Yes, I have seen some of the polls showing him doing better against Trump than Clinton would. These are still too early for me to put much stock in, especially since the Republicans haven't been actively campaigning against Sanders yet. I believe he is vulnerable to Republican attack ads in a way that Clinton probably isn't (i.e., it will be quite easy to paint him as a radical). When it comes down to it, I'm not sure there are quite enough voters yet who are ready for Sanders' revolution.

I hope I am wrong. I certainly have a good track record for being wrong when it comes to political predictions. I did not think that the U.S. would be willing to elect a Black president with a foreign-sounding name, and I was obviously wrong about that. I did not think that the U.S. would elect a moron, at least not until I saw how Al Gore performed in the debates. And although they didn't really elect him, he managed to win the presidency anyway. The point is, I've been wrong with about the same frequency with which I've been right.

If I was voting in Iowa, I'd probably end up voting for Sanders. My rationale for doing so, in spite of the concern I mentioned above, would be that the sort of major changes he's talking about are just what I think we need. I'm ready for some of the change the last president promised. I know Sanders is an idealist, but I'm ready for some idealism. He would not be able to deliver on much of what he's promising, but that almost seems less important than the fact that he'd try or that he really seems to believe what he's saying.

What gives me pause is my suspicion that Clinton would have an easier time defeating a Republican opponent in the general election than Sanders. On one hand, I do think that Clinton would fare better in a general election. On the other hand, I perceive her as more of the status quo and do not trust her recent attempts to shift to the left on a few issues. While more of the status quo would be preferable to what the Republican candidates are offering, it isn't what I'm looking for right now. And that is the dilemma.