After last night

The Trump train is rumbling down the tracks to its rendezvous with the Republican presidential nomination. Some 110,000 Iowa Republicans braved the cold last night to attend caucuses and state their preferences among the candidates. While they were assembling, the Associated Press, Fox News, and others called the contest for President Trump. In the event, Trump romped. As Politico put it: “Trump scores an early knockout.” I have borrowed the results posted by RealClearPolitics below.

I’m so old — not as in the facetious expression, but in actual time elapsed — that I remember George H.W. Bush edging Ronald Reagan in the 1980 edition of the Iowa caucuses. I also recall the guy from NBC News — Tom Pettit — declaring on the air the following morning that “Ronald Reagan is dead.” Bush declared that he possessed “the big mo,” i.e., momentum. See Steven Hayward, The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, 1964-1980, page 630. Some things never change. In Pettit’s case, the wish was obviously father to the thought.

I don’t recall but am old enough to know that in 1988 Bob Dole prevailed over George H.W. Bush and a field that included Pat Robertson, Jack Kemp, and Pete Dupont. In 1996 Pat Buchanan prevailed by 34 votes over Bob Dole and a field that included Lamar Alexander, Steve Forbes, Phil Gramm, Alan Keyes, and Dick Lugar.

In 2000 George W. Bush defeated Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes. In 2008 Mike Huckabee defeated Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and others. In 2012 Rick Santorum prevailed over Mitt Romney by 34 votes.

Rattling off these names from the past reminds me of Homer’s catalogue of ships in Book II of The Iliad. It’s ancient history in the service of memory. In this case it may also lighten up the narrative.

In 2016 Ted Cruz narrowly defeated Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, and, lest we forget, Jeb Bush. Trump was publicly critical of the results as tabulated. Trump accused Cruz of stealing the caucuses, calling for either new voting there or the results to be nullified.

This year the caucus results seem to provide a reliable reflection of the Republican electorate. That’s the way it feels to me. One can reasonably take the results as prefiguring Trump’s path to the GOP nomination. Reading the results in that fashion, Vivek the Fake has withdrawn and endorsed Trump.

No Republican nominee should lose to Joe Biden in this year’s election. He’s the man who isn’t there. He is historically unpopular. Voters can assess Trump’s record in office against Biden’s. Biden is a miserable failure. Yet Trump faces unique obstacles, several of them legal in nature. He may have to campaign against Biden with an ankle monitor or from a Birmingham jail.

Which reminds me. There was no contest in Iowa on the Democratic side last night. The Democratic National Committee has rearranged the Democrats’ 2024 schedule at the behest, and for the benefit, of the man who isn’t there and wasn’t in Iowa last night. In this cycle, Iowa Democrats held in-person caucuses focusing only on party business — you too could vie to be a member of the Democrat apparat — but voting on candidates is exclusively via mail-in ballots from January 12 until Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024. That’s how they prefer to do these things in Our Democracy™.

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