It already had been a signal week in American politics by Wednesday, as we awaited the seemingly inevitable acquittal of the president by the Senate. It felt like a lifetime ago that we were waiting and waiting for results in the Iowa caucuses, which still were not final by the time the impeached president gave a rousing State of The Union address capped by the House speaker tearing up her copy of it. (“He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech.”) In the midst of that, the president’s approval ratings were threatening to break the 50% mark for the first time.
It was a shame about Iowa because by Wednesday, with only 71% of precincts reporting, Pete Buttigieg had done surprisingly well, and Joe Biden had done much worse than was anticipated. Buttigieg was narrowly edging Sanders for the lead, which is news because so many had either feared a clear Sanders win or believed it was inevitable and could only be stopped by cheating – which is how we also found out this week the Bernie Bros. were back.
The slow results were apparently caused by a new app and the perpetually aggrieved Bros raced to construct conspiracy theories around that, having to do with Hillary Clinton, Buttigieg and Israel. Here, Buttigieg was really a stand-in for whoever gets in the way of their socialist revolution, which will be bloodless only as long as no one gets in their way. That does not feel very democratic. It also might explain something else largely overlooked in the Iowa confusion:
Turnout for the Democratic caucuses, in another election we have been told is the most important of our lifetimes, was historically low, with about 170,000 people participating, compared to about 240,000 in 2008 – not as many as the 300,000 who were predicted by some Democrats as proof of the passion they have for beating Trump.
We feel a little like the groundhog who saw his shadow.