After several months of preamble, the nominating process to find the next president of the United States officially started this week with Monday’s Iowa caucuses. The theme on both sides of the political divide was of outsiders breaking down barriers. Hillary Clinton became the first woman ever to win in Iowa, while Ted Cruz went one better, becoming the first Latino to win a presidential primary or caucus in any state.
With the New Hampshire primary two days away, it seems this theme will continue, with real estate mogul Donald Trump and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders the unlikely frontrunners in their respective primaries. While the arrival of the outsiders will likely dominate the headlines of Wednesday’s newspapers however, of perhaps more importance to the race is the ‘parallel primary’ taking place within the Republican field: a four-way battle for the support of the establishment.
It has now been eight years since Barack Obama won the first Democratic primary in the 2008 election campaign, opening his victory speech that night in Iowa with reference to those who ‘said this day would never come’:
They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.
I tend not to make predictions on this blog, but when it comes to the House of Representatives in the 2014 elections, the word ‘prediction’ doesn’t really apply. The Republican Party simply will retain control of the chamber.
It is now one month before Americans go to the polls to vote in the final midterm elections of Barack Obama’s presidency. This first preview post will focus on what looks to be the most important and interesting battleground of this election season: the Senate.
On Sunday morning in Geneva, representatives of Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) agreed an interim agreement tailored to ensure the peaceful application of Iran’s nuclear programme. The agreement, a first step towards a more comprehensive deal in six months, states that Iran will freeze certain enrichment programmes, dilute stocks of uranium, and submit to daily inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In return they will receive access to certain frozen overseas accounts, and some sanctions will be relaxed – a deal worth about $7 billion to Iran.
There is a scene in the third season of AMC’s Breaking Bad in which Walter White, sleep-deprived and on a large dose of sleeping pills, muses on the thought that he has lived too long. The show, for the few still unaware, centres on a high school chemistry teacher who turns to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine when he is diagnosed with cancer, slowly becoming a feared and ruthless drug lord in the process. In the episode in question, he laments that he had missed his ‘perfect moment’ to succumb to his cancer – a point where he had made enough money to take care of his family without giving up too much of himself.
The United States has long been divided by a fundamental difference of opinion. This is a conflict between those who evaluate ‘American’ or ‘anti-American’ acts based on how they affect American interests, and those who evaluate them on how they reflect American values, as set out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defence Initiative, a new missile defence system. Nicknamed ‘Star Wars’, the programme would have created a near impenetrable missile shield, protecting the US from Soviet bombs and keeping Americans safe. The problem with this ostensibly defensive programme is what it means offensively, namely that it removes the element of deterrence. If the United States has no reason to fear retaliation, why not strike first? Three decades on, we are witnessing the same principle on a smaller scale with the Stand Your Ground law, removing the fear of consequences from the act of murder. This law, versions of which can be found in more than thirty states, was George Zimmerman’s missile shield. It is why he walks free after admitting killing a teenager.