While the world is worried over the coronavirus outbreak, a major, faraway political event also needs attention. At the start of an election year, America’s major political parties offer a stark contrast. The Republican Party, which is set to acquit their President on impeachment-related charges, is firmly stacked behind the mercurial commander in chief. The Democrats have just started their presidential nomination process in earnest, with the party being pulled in two different directions and no clear nominee in sight.
The just-concluded Iowa caucus had another dramatic ending, just as it was in 2016. Though it’s a long way to go until June when a single candidate can consolidate enough support behind him or her, the Iowa party election results have a historical precedent. Since 2000, the Democratic candidate who was turned victorious in the state of Iowa had gone on to win the party’s presidential nomination.
Therefore, depending on which side of center the voters are leaning, there will be alarm or excitement over latest results. The front-runner, Joe Biden, had a fourth-place finish, whereas Senator Bernie Sanders has come on top in terms of popular vote in Iowa and Pete Buttigieg leads in terms of party delegates. But it is Sanders who carries the momentum for Super Tuesday in early March. His base is charged and the financial muscle is strong.
The opinion polls in January accurately captured the Sanders surge. Mayor Pete can surprise again, but he will need to improve his standing among African-American voters and the younger demographic. The Democratic establishment, which was favoring former Vice President Joe Biden, should be queasy about a Sanders nomination. Polls have shown that Sanders is too far left for the taste of moderate, independent voters, who will be the key to beating Donald Trump in November 2020.
Uncle Bernie, as millennial folk fondly refer to him, has a kind of a socialist policy platform. Most prominent among his campaign promises are universal healthcare, free college tuition, and raising taxes on corporate America. This platform may appeal to some of the Democratic voters, whereas others are looking for a candidate who can beat Trump through a middle-of-the-line campaign platform.
However, the “moderate” vote is mainly divided among two candidates: Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Meanwhile, it appears that the “center-left” is increasingly lining up behind Sanders. This looks like a reprise of 2016 Republican campaign, when a number of viable candidates divided the electorate into small pockets, resulting in the rise of Donald Trump, who had managed to create a loyal base of his own.
While Sanders is a favorite at this stage, the “electability” argument is likely going to bother his campaign. The party’s moderate wing is arguing that America doesn’t need a “revolution” to de-seat Trump. Already, Trump has mused that “Crazy Bernie” will be an easy prey. However, Sanders voters won’t allow for their candidate to be sidestepped second time in a row, after coming so close to being anointed in 2016.
For Pakistan, a potential Bernie presidency may be a positive thing. The Vermont senator doesn’t want military entanglements abroad, which could help calm tensions in the neighboring Middle East if he is elected. Bernie has also been especially vocal against the Modi administration’s actions in Kashmir. No wonder Bernie’s posters were among the dozens lining up the highway medians in Islamabad over Kashmir Day. But it is still time until Democrats settle on an eventual nominee to fight Trump.