Celso P. Santos provides his own vision of the U.S. presidential election
Written by Celso P. Santos exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Viktor Stoilov
In Iowa – a rural US State with less than half the population of New York City – kicked off the voting in one of the strangest US ´s presidential campaigns, on February 2nd. Two pre-candidates who provoked laughter among the political experts a year ago, came with a chance to lead the previous state primaries in Iowa, the first in the series of state primaries to choose the candidate from each party. Among the Republicans, the billionaire buffoon Donald Trump arrived several points ahead of Texan Senator Ted Cruz. Both have in common extremism ideas and the fact that they are hated by the party itself. The Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is an independent candidate who competes for the initials of the Democratic Party and threatened to repeat the feat of Barack Obama in 2008: win over Hillary Clinton – a victory who she had considered hers.
What´s the message for Washington? The establishment didn´t choose a candidate in Iowa and neither did the media. The state primaries in Iowa, the first in the season of state primaries in the US presidential elections, gave the victory in the Republican field for Ted Cruz (28%), the Senator from Texas who is notoriously disliked by his colleagues from the party itself. It was a victory for the organization on the streets and the mobilization of the evangelical vote.
On the Republican side, the billionaire Donald Trump, another one who is rejected in Washington and favorite in polls, got the second place (24%). In fact, Trump suffered a defeat there. But, the Iowa State is perhaps the least favorable for someone coming from cosmopolitan New York and nothing religious as Trump´s candidacy. The big surprise of the evening was the good performance by Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida (23%), on third place.
Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton (49.9%) was declared the winner of Iowa´s state primaries and she will stay with 23 delegates of the state, against 21 of Bernie Sanders (49.5%). If Clinton was defeated in Iowa, repeating the humiliation by the little-known Barack Obama in 2008 when she took the third place, would have been a demoralizing start for her campaign but not nearly enough to become unviable as a candidate. As the popular saying goes that “scalded cat fears cold water”, the Hillary Clinton staff worked hard in all Iowa cities since last April with a well-funded machine party determined in not repeating the 2008 nightmare.
The self-appointed ‘socialist’ Bernie Sanders arrived unknown in Iowa, with no money and no party support. Being able to get near Hillary Clinton, was for him, a sign telling him, “start a revolution.” Usually gentle and adverse to direct attacks, Sanders joined the conservative Ted Cruz in the attack on the establishment and media who criticizes him as a leftist. He said he didn´t want money from billionaires. He really doesn’t need it – Sanders’ campaign raised $20 million in January, with an average donations of $27.
In turn, Hillary Clinton avoided attacking the opponent who came as an outsider, but she made a point of declaring herself like an efficient progressive politician, who makes things happen, in a veiled reference to Sanders, whose proposals on education, health and taxes could hardly pass through the Republican wall that today have control over both of Congress’ houses.
The senator Marco Rubio whose youth and lack of legislative experience were quite exploited by the opponents in 2015, has exited from Iowa as the favorite alternative of the establishment. The extreme conservatism of Ted Cruz, the very weak performance of the beloved candidate of the big donors – Jeb Bush, should play for additional millions of dollars for Rubio’s campaign. His youth and the fact that being a son of Cubans could be used against Hillary Clinton, although she’s proposing more favorable policies to the 11 million undocumented Latin Americans living in United States.
Political marketing without Content
Observers of the US elections scratch their heads about the importance of a State with a population of only three million, where 91% are whites, who do not represent demographically the United States. What Iowa has is the privilege of being the first to focus the disproportionate attention from the media and pass through sieve frivolous candidacies. The state primaries of Iowa, although limited in number of delegates, are an important first test and serves as a cleaning tool against applications without chances. The Democrat Martin O’Malley renounced his candidacy during the counting of the votes, without even reaching 1% of the votes. The former Republican governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, also left the dispute. The New Hampshire primary election is on Feb. 9 and must shrink more the Republican field that still has 11 candidates.
But among the Democrats, the race has just heated up. Hillary Clinton remains the favorite of the party and the major donors. She is still investigated for the scandal of using a private server to exchange e-mails, when she was Secretary of State. Unless there’s a court judgment (very unlikely), this Iowa statement is a victory to Hillary Clinton, although the success of the social democrat Bernie Sanders is also obvious and shouldn’t be neglected.
The marketing excesses in contemporary politics produced enormous cynicism on the electors. But the image´s manipulation by the American politicians is a centuries-old tradition. Teddy Roosevelt, who ruled the country between 1901 and 1909, was considered a brilliant pioneer of the ‘spin’, the practice to pack facts and qualities to polish his own image. The historian of the Rutgers University David Greenberg, has just launched the book “Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency”, a history about the American presidency from the point of view of the public relations and media use. He thinks we live in a time of “spin of the spin”, that is, the political manipulations of the image where the politicians want to convince us that they don’t manipulate their public image. Greenberg doesn’t believe that the most authentic candidates are most eligible. Hillary Clinton has built an image that does nothing but take care of the image itself. But even so, in the national polls, it gives a beating in the ‘almost independent’ candidature of Bernie Sanders.
Barack Obama appeared in 2008 as a refreshing alternative to the political conspiracies in Washington, but today his government is named as one of the least transparent in the recent American history. But in an election where the xenophobic Donald Trump is still among the favorites; where two sons of Cubans are in dispute; where the brother and son of a former presidents – Jeb Bush (burning $ 100 million to win only the support of some party delegates), making predictions is a sport as risky as playing in the casinos of Las Vegas without having a good credit card.