What The Hell Happened in Iowa On Monday?

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After more than a year of pandering to Hawkeye voters – quite honestly a state that in no way represents what the United States of America looks like but gets to set the tone for what a political campaign is supposed to look like – the Iowa Caucuses took place on a cold, wintry Monday night. Both the Republicans and the Democrats met in schools, town halls, churches and homes across the Iowa plains to decide how to divvy up the delegates for their respective parties at their National Conventions come this summer. Everyone thought that, for all practical purposes, that it was going to be triumphant marches to victory by both billionaire idiot Donald Trump and millionaire double-talker Hillary Clinton – so what the hell happened in Iowa on Monday night?

For the Republican Party, it always was going to be a bit of a clusterfuck. After starting the process with 17 candidates – and going to the Caucus with 12 candidates still officially running – the process was going to spread the votes across a wide swath of the candidacy. Even Jim Gilmore, who has only participated in one of the GOP debates (the sixth one right before the Caucus), received 12 votes from Iowa’s Republicans…not 12%…12 VOTES. Thus, whoever came out on top was going to have had to made an impression on the Iowa Republican constituency.

Even though he claims differently now (more on this in a minute), Trump was at the forefront of the Iowa race pretty much from the time he announced his candidacy in June 2015. According to some polls, he had built a double-digit lead over fellow candidates as varied as Dr. Ben Carson, Jeb! Bush, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as the Republican Caucus approached. In fact, Trump was so confident of his place in Iowa, he chose to poke Fox News in the eye at the final GOP debate before the Iowa Republican Caucus and not show up, instead running his own “veterans’ fundraiser” (by the way, jackass…as a veteran I ask where and when is that money going to be dispersed?) to “compete” with the debate.

That move might have been something that tipped the scales. Iowa voters don’t like to be neglected by the candidates and both Cruz, who made a great deal of noise about going “full Grassley” (hitting every county in Iowa with a campaign stop, something that Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says is critical to winning the Caucus, hence its name), and Rubio, who had an outstanding performance in that final debate, surged at the end by making the Iowa voter feel as if they were important. The result? Cruz defeated Trump by a rather comfortable margin and Rubio almost clipped Trump for second place, which would have been an even more devastating blow to Trump’s campaign and ego.

Trump, defeated for the first time in the 2016 campaign, played it off as if the resounding setback didn’t affect him. He said he was “honored” to have finished second, mentioning that he “had been told to ignore Iowa, that he didn’t have a chance” and that he was “way behind from the start,” a lie if there ever was one. But there was a menace behind his words and his body language spoke volumes, almost like he was telling wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and bland sons to “get to the plane so we can get the fuck out of this hellhole.”

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Meanwhile, Rubio and Cruz were positively giddy over their performances. Predicted to not even garner 10% of the Caucus vote, Rubio more than doubled that in earning the support of 23% of Caucus-goers and nearly upended Trump. Cruz was also proud to see that his “ground and pound” game had supplanted Trump’s “dazzle them with bullshit” approach and he didn’t miss the chance to point this out to “The Donald.”

That seems to be the biggest thing that Iowa voters looked at. After several months of listening to the candidates, it didn’t seem that they bought the Trump bullshit in the very end. Perhaps it was that misstep at Liberty University when he called it “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians” (even as a heathen I know what it is called); maybe it was the inability for Trump to have admitted a time when he prostrated himself in front of God; perhaps it was his inability to come up – or even enunciate – what was his favorite Bible verse. While these things might not be important to some, it is important to Iowa and its evangelical voters.

That is an important factor to the voters in Iowa. From the conservative, religious values voters after eliminating Trump, it was a simple step to which candidate did people want to follow, someone viewed as an “establishment” figure or someone who would “shake up” Washington, D. C.? Cruz has prided himself as someone who doesn’t follow the “establishment,” while Rubio has picked up that mantle (after the failure of Jeb! Bush throughout the early campaigning). That they were separated by only a few thousand votes indicates how close that fight may yet turn out.

On the Democratic side, you couldn’t ask for a better fight. Whereas former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thought that she would have a cakewalk over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (and let’s pause here to “pour a 40” for the campaign of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, which never had a snowball’s chance in Hell; he suspended his campaign after the votes were in on the Iowa Democratic Caucus), it has been Sanders’ virility on the campaign trail that seems to have shocked Clinton. Sanders barnstormed Iowa, making it a fight, where Clinton thought she could throw a couple of token appearances and walk away with an easy victory.

Sanders’ message has found an excited audience, but just who is it? It would be easy to say that it is the young people, college students and the “hipsters” under-30, but that doesn’t explain the 50/50 split that came between Sanders and Clinton on Monday night in the Iowa Caucus. Sanders had to convince some of the adults in the room that his ideas and plans for the future of the United States were viable and that he is a viable choice for the Democratic Party. It may not be what Sanders is doing that is drawing in the crowd.

I’ve said it before…despite being arguably the most qualified candidate in the field (hey Republicans…if you had a candidate that was a former Secretary of State, a former Senator, had a position with a former President of the United States that helped to set national policy during one of the most prosperous periods in U. S. history and also worked with that person as a former Governor, you’d be championing that candidate like they were the Second Coming), Clinton is carrying more baggage than the Titanic and she is trying to navigate through a glacier field that would sink a weaker politician. Although there isn’t an indictment against her for the myriad of alleged transgressions she has made (and I’m not even going to count the e-mail situation, but that is a story for another time), there are those not only with the opposition party but also in the Democratic Party that will not support Clinton. Thus, they are throwing their support behind Sanders, which might explain the 50/50 split in Iowa on Monday night.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Democratic Party of Iowa has still not declared a winner between Clinton and Sanders. In reality, though, Sanders is the big winner while Clinton walks away with a slight victory. Sanders is showing that he can actually bring in voters to his supposedly “socialist” way of thinking – that people are ready for the progressive mindset that he espouses – while Clinton can say she held her ground and took a victory that eluded her in 2008, when she was upended by an upstart named Barack Obama.

So, when will President Cruz or President Sanders take office? Not so fast, bucko. The Iowa Caucus didn’t do a damn thing, in reality. Because the Iowa Caucus hands its delegates out by percentages (what is called a proportional allocation) and not a “winner take all” (as the March “SEC primaries” will be), this is the way that the Republican Party breaks down:

Ted Cruz                     8 delegates
Donald Trump            7 delegates
Marco Rubio               7 delegates
Ben Carson                 3 delegates
Rand Paul                   1 delegate
Jeb Bush                      1 delegate

(no other candidates received a delegate)

And for the Democrats:

Hillary Clinton            26 delegates
Bernie Sanders            21 delegates

(and don’t ask me how they can be 50/50 and Clinton get more delegates…must be that superdelegate thing)

As you can see, nothing has been decided.

The carnival now moves onto New Hampshire, where the barkers are already hawking their wares to the voters of The Granite State. Trump, licking his wounds after the Iowa disappointment, also is projected with a double-digit lead there, but it is supposedly thought a sizeable voting bloc that isn’t fascinated with the Circus of Trump is waiting in the wings to take him down. The reality is, however, that Trump has paid little attention to New Hampshire and has little “ground forces” there…just like what he did in Iowa that eventually doomed his candidacy. Rubio and Cruz, energized by their performances, and other candidates, such as Chris Christie, John Kasich (with the endorsement of the New York Times in his pocket) and Bush, seem to think that they can take Trump down a few more notches in New Hampshire.

For the Democrats, Clinton seems to have ceded New Hampshire to Sanders, in his Northeast backyard, and while she will contest it a bit seems to be pushing onwards to South Carolina and the March “SEC primaries” in the South, a traditional stronghold of the Clintons. She also has come to the realization that, unless she can put together a crushing set of wins in a row, she is facing a similar “delegate fight” to that which is going on in the Republican Party.

It’s just the beginning, political junkies, and it isn’t showing any signs that it will come to a close soon. Short of a seismic shift – something along the lines of Trump saying “fuck this, I’m out” (something that could conceivably happen…or his move to an Independent campaign), an indictment on Clinton, the Hellmouth opening up and sucking both parties into the Abyss – it’s going to be a battle all the way to Cleveland (Republican) and Philadelphia (Democratic)…and the fight may still rage on at the convention floor once they reach those cities.

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A Correct Move Taken Too Far

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It may seem like it was eons ago, but in reality it has been exactly one month. On the night of June 17, a young man named Dylann Roof strolled into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for evening bible services. He was joined by ten black parishioners, including the senior pastor and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, as they enjoyed their evening of fellowship and worship with each other. As the bible study came to a close, Roof allegedly pulled a Glock 41 .45 caliber handgun and opened fire. After five reloads, nine of the parishioners laid dead; the tenth was spared by Roof allegedly so that person could tell the story of Roof’s attack.

Law enforcement quickly caught Roof in North Carolina the next morning and extradited him back to the quaint Southern city by the Atlantic Ocean, resplendent with its Spanish moss hanging from the trees, palmetto trees swaying in the wind off the beaches and seeped in the history of not only the United States but of the Confederate States of America (Fort Sumter was the site of the first shots of the Civil War in 1861). Further investigation, however, revealed an ugly truth that many have turned their heads to over the years. Roof, through leaving his one victim alive in the church (it is reported he told her he wanted to start a “race war”) and through a manifesto on a website allegedly his that featured photographs of him posing with the Confederate Battle Flag as well as standing on  the U. S. flag while spitting on it, brought to light the horrific factor that a relic of the South had now been corrupted into something viewed with hatred by many U. S. citizens.

Before we go on, we must establish the history. The Battle Flag was in no stretch the official flag of the CSA. There were three different flags that were tried by the government, but all bore too much of a resemblance to the U. S. flag for soldiers from either side to be able to differentiate between the two in the heat of battle. Thus, the Battle Flag – most notably carried by General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia but also carried by other Confederate factions – was used so troops could see where their side of the battle was located.

Following the end of the Civil War, the Battle Flag’s usage drifted off, supposedly into history. That would take a turn, however, when Southern Democrats, stifling under the boot heels of the Reconstruction period and the stiff penalties that were imposed by the victorious North and the Republican Party, formed the racially motivated Ku Klux Klan and resurrected the banner, in essence, as their battle flag. While also carrying U. S. flags in several marches through the early part of the 20th century (including a particularly noteworthy march through Washington, D.C.), the Battle Flag was more commonly used in the South along with the Battle Flag.

In 1894 the Battle Flag was incorporated into the state flag of Mississippi, where it flew until 1906 when a legal error failed to give the state either an official flag or a coat of arms. That banner was the de facto flag of the state until 2001, when it was officially put back into use for a short period before being replaced. It was also used in the flag of Georgia beginning in 1956 when the Georgia General Assembly used a design from a man named John Sammons Bell, who supported segregation across not only the Palmetto State but also the former Confederacy. That flag flew until 2001, when it was removed.

In 1961 the South Carolina General Assembly added the Battle Flag to the flagpole under the U. S. and South Carolina flags to “commemorate” the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, but it was also put there as a protest at the ever growing movement for civil rights among minorities, especially blacks, across the South and the remainder of the country. Those flags would all fly together until 2000, when the Confederate Battle Flag was moved from atop the South Carolina State House to a Confederate memorial on the State House grounds.

Everyone up to speed? Good…

Which brings us to last month and its aftermath. Instead of perhaps examining the issues that were at the forefront of the horrendous act – mental health, drug abuse or misuse and gun availability – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley decided to use the moment (especially after the photos surfaced of Roof and the Confederate Battle Flag and his manifesto of white supremacy) to call for the Battle Flag’s removal from the State House grounds.

Really, what politician in his right mind had a chance in standing against that?

Not to say there weren’t those that tried, but the vote to remove the Battle Flag (which needed two-thirds of the House and the Senate) rocketed through the political process. Six days ago, amid a somber ceremony that was deserving of a memento of history and a crowd that thought they were at a British soccer match, the Confederate Battle Flag came down and was moved to a museum.

While many may cry that the Battle Flag is a part of their “heritage,” it isn’t exactly the heritage that you would like to remember. First off, the “heritage” is that of a treasonous act – secession from the United States – that, if performed nowadays, would have many screaming for the perpetrators to be shot on site. Secondly, the Battle Flag – despite its representation as the flag that thousands of Southern soldiers fought for – had been utterly corrupted by first the Southern Democrats, then the KKK and today by white supremacists. Germany has a heritage, too…but they choose not to fly the Nazi Party flag, which was once the official German flag, because of the baggage it has entailed in its existence. The removal of the flag from the South Carolina State House – and other official government buildings across the South – was long overdue and right in its execution.

Here’s where it might get interesting for some of you.

Since the removal of the Battle Flag in South Carolina, there have been other actions that are dubious at best. The television show The Dukes of Hazzard was removed from syndicated broadcasting because the Dodge Charger featured on the show and driven by the Duke boys, the General Lee, featured a Confederate Battle Flag ironically atop the roof. Video games were removed from the Apple Store because the games featured the flag during gameplay. This would prove to only be the tip of the iceberg, however.

There are movements across several Southern states to remove Confederate monuments from their locations, none probably more ludicrous than the idea to remove the carvings of General “Stonewall” Jackson, Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Lee from a mountainside in Stone Mountain, GA. Add into the fray movements to rename schools, other buildings and even streets that have ties with a Confederate history and it does reach the point of going too far.

The Civil War was the darkest period in U. S. history and there are some pretty bleak things that have been done in the name of this country. While the Battle Flag might have been unfairly blemished since that time, its removal was appropriate considering what it inspired in the South Carolina massacre. Taking that tragedy and using it any further, however, is wrong because it is an attempt to whitewash the historical significance of an event.

Rather than trying to act as if those four bleak years from 1861-1865 didn’t exist, why not demonstrate how far we as U. S. citizens have come? Even a school field trip from Robert E. Lee Middle School (literally tens across the U. S.) can learn about the man, the fact that he was a highly decorated graduate of West Point that battled for the Union in the Mexican-American War of 1846 and in Texas protecting U. S. citizens from Indian attacks in the early 1850s before defending his home of Virginia while seeing Confederate monuments and battlefields.

Just because one part of history has been tarnished is no reason to remove all of it from existence. It also isn’t a reason to remove it from entertainment or educational purposes. While the Confederate Battle Flag has reached the place it should have been many years ago – in a museum case – that’s not a reason to completely strip it from U. S. history.