The Primaries. Super Tuesday: Part 1
Suddenly Something Else Matters: NUMBERS
by Don DeBats
The early primaries (New Hampshire and South Carolina) and caucuses (Iowa and Nevada) were all about demonstrating two things:
- Measuring the electoral viability of candidates seeking the nomination of their party for the presidential election in November
- Building a sense of momentum/inevitability for one or two of those candidates within each party.
Put differently, the early contests were all about culling and trajectory. And, to a degree, they achieved both goals.
Certainly they defined the non-viable — lots of them (maybe not enough) — especially on the Republican side: exit Jeb Bush, Jim Gilmore, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee. The attrition on the Democratic side was far less: exit Martin O’Malley.
Bush’s expulsion is particularly remarkable: he was the candidate of the Republican establishment, insofar as any party still has an establishment. He had all the money and spent huge amounts – US$68,500,000 from Super Political Action Committees alone—which yielded him only 94,000 votes in the four early contests.
In terms of trajectory, those four contests generated momentum for two very unlikely candidates.
Donald Trump is a totally inexperienced, rude, crude, arrogant, and frightening candidate who has been propelled by the angry side of the American electorate. That side reflects the dramatic changes in the American political economy, and its political culture: those women and men, especially men, who have been left behind, shut out and are now falling behind economically and socially as privilege attaches more and more to the few and despair attaches to the far more many. Those many are both Republicans and, significantly, Democrats.
Bernie Sanders has been propelled by those who refuse to be realists, who see that incrementalism is not enough and cannot be enough. He speaks to the oldest egalitarian themes of the Democratic Party, but in a party that is now much more about identity than it is about significant policy change.
Sanders and Trump could even have emerged on the same side of politics – a combo of energizing anger and idealist program — but they have not and now drift further and further apart.
But of course who actually wins the Democratic and Republican nomination is all about the number of delegates elected for each candidate. Can those abstractions of viability and momentum be converted to the currency that really matters: the number of elected delegates.
That is what the next phase of the primaries is all about.
And especially the first big splash of numbers that arrives on Tuesday, March 1: Super Tuesday.