Slouching Towards Iowa
Brace yourself for Bored Pundit Syndrome.
“Some people are born losers; others acquire the knack gradually.” –W.C. Fields
Greetings from the frozen tundra, where this week’s polar vortex was warmed by the Packers’ extraordinary playoff thumping of the Dallas Cowboys, a result that none of the smart kids in SportsWorld saw coming.
A reminder to stay modest and hopeful.
Happy MLK/Iowa Caucus Day!
A smattering of very online Republicans who have nothing better to do on a frigid winter night in January, will brave the elements to gather in church basements, bowling alleys, fire houses, motels, school cafeterias, and gyms, because vox populi, vox dei, right?
The world — and thousands of reporters who are obligated to keep up a steady flow of hot takes — will be earnestly watching all this unfold because this is the process that propelled Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz to the presidency. Oh wait.
Every four years we convince ourselves that this matters. Until it doesn’t. Rinse and repeat. (Kudos, though, to the Dems for giving the whole thing a pass this year.)
As for the GOP race — we know how this freakish picaresque novel ends. But because the ratio of pundits to horse race continues to grow exponentially, brace yourself for a long season of Bored Pundit Syndrome. The meager bones coming out of tonight’s caucus will be chewed over endlessly and spun with exquisite cleverness and creativity: Does Trump pass the 50 percent threshold? Does Haley finish second? Does DeSantis fold?
By all measures, Trump’s victory is a foregone conclusion, and the mood is dour. Via the NYT: “On the Ballot in Iowa: Fear. Anxiety. Hopelessness.”
In the latest Des Moines Register poll, Nikki Haley has moved into second place, which of course sets the stage for the long-awaited one-on-one clash with Trump.
Iowa pollster Ann Selzer is not bullish about Haley’s prospects:
“The deep data on [Haley] suggest she looks stronger in the poll than she could on caucus night,” Selzer told the paper, adding that despite the headline of a Haley second place, “most of the rest of the data here is not good news.”
Selzer was particularly surprised at the enthusiasm gap between Haley’s voters and Trump’s voters: Only 39% of Haley’s voters were “extremely enthusiastic” or “very enthusiastic,” while that number was 89% for Trump’s voters.
Selzer said those enthusiasm numbers for Haley “are on the edge of jaw-dropping” and “at odds with a candidate moving up.”
In case there was any doubt: Majority of Iowa caucus goers say Trump conviction wouldn’t affect their support - NBC News.
More than 6-in-10 likely Republican caucus goers — 61% — say that it doesn’t matter to their support if former President Donald Trump is convicted of a crime before the general election, according to the latest numbers from the new NBC News/Des Moines Register poll of Iowa.
Meanwhile, the capitulation of GOP elected officials gathers momentum.
One likes to imagine that political leaders actually grow in office, but alas, both Marco Rubio and Mike Lee reminded us that this is not the case.
Back in 2016, both men issued dire warnings about Trump.
But that was then.
As NRO’s Philip Klein notes: “Aside from dismissing all of Trump’s conduct as ‘mean tweets’ — including violating his Constitutional oath because his ego is too fragile to admit that he lost — it’s simply false to say there is a ‘binary choice’ before a single Republican has voted in a primary or caucus.”
The Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg has some questions: “Was January 6 a mean tweet? Was schtupping a porn star while his third wife was nursing his newborn child a mean tweet? Was saying an eye for an eye was his favorite biblical passage a mean tweet? I’m just trying to understand what ‘mean tweets’ actually means.”
Then there’s Rubio, who called Donald Trump a “con artist” back in 2016.
Now? He’s all in.
BONUS: Yes, I’m also thoroughly embarrassed by this from late 2015… when Marco of the Tiny Hands was the future of the Republican party.
The World’s Biggest Victim
On our weekend podcast, I was joined by the Wapo’s Karen Tumulty who is on the ground in Iowa.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube.
The Scorpion and the Frog. An update. Trump Turns On ‘Deceitful’ Ramaswamy On Eve Of Iowa Caucuses - Mediaite
We’ve been warned. Ahead of Iowa, listen to the Trump officials who’ve disavowed him - John Avlon, CNN
Retribution all the way down. In his closing pitch to Iowa Republicans, Trump says their votes can help him punish his enemies | AP News
This is what democracy looks like. Taiwan election: Vice President Lai wins vote, defying China - NBC
The darkest of timelines: CBS News analysis: Most Republicans agree with “poisoning the blood” language
On Wednesday evening, Chris Christie, the one serious candidate who was actually running against Trump, dropped out of the race. The G.O.P. nominating contest, which formally begins with Monday’s Iowa caucuses, will now come down to what kind of Trumpist the Republican electorate prefers: the actual Trump, or one of his imitators and enablers. And why pick a fake when you can get the real thing? By all accounts, Trump is on a fast track to victory.
The self-gelding will continue until morale improves.
Stanford Prison Experiment, a social psychology study in which college students became prisoners or guards in a simulated prison environment. The experiment, funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, took place at Stanford University in August 1971. It was intended to measure the effect of role-playing, labeling, and social expectations on behaviour over a period of two weeks. However, mistreatment of prisoners escalated so alarmingly that principal investigator Philip G. Zimbardo terminated the experiment after only six days.
Over the course of the experiment, some of the guards became cruel and tyrannical, while a number of the prisoners became depressed and disoriented. However, only after an outside observer came upon the scene and registered shock did Zimbardo conclude the experiment, less than a week after it had started….
However, others claimed that the original advertisement attracted people who were predisposed to authoritarianism.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that the whole fiasco — which has become a staple of modern psychology — has been thoroughly debunked.