In the most predictable moments, the unpredictable persists. And let it be known: none of this is a hoax.
I was asked what the past four days meant for “us”-- which in this case I’m considering more than my targeted demographic of college students-- so here’s a semi-brief rundown of moments that left me white-knuckled and under the influence that I’m watching a theatrical performance fall apart. May we call it a skewed version of the Astor Place Riot, even.
The Iowa Caucus: It was a spectacular failure at best. On a night that is historically one of the most intense contests for presidential candidates, delegate results hadn’t begun to release until the following day after a “coding issue” in the app used to report the data. The partial results, which come from each of the state's 99 counties but are inconclusive, show former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the front of the pack. We still don’t know the full results, but we do know that turnout was only a little better than in 2016 -- and not nearly on the level of 2008, when Barack Obama’s candidacy drove a wave of enthusiasm. Some Democratic insiders are expressing concerns that this reflects badly on the power of the party’s brand, particularly in the Midwest, as it looks ahead to the general election. The reality that results will be duly counted and announced -- maybe not with the expected fanfare, but still well before most primaries, will doubtfully ward off conspiracy theories about the whole preventable chaotic mess. There’s a lot to say what exactly happened with the Iowa caucus (accuracy, equity, speed), but hopefully, for now, let us find some solace in that democracy didn’t lose.
Trump’s State of the Union address: I’m not spinning this to be about Pelosi’s speech ripping stunt since I’m sure we’ve all been briefed on that already. But, historically speaking, a State of the Union address’ purpose is so the President can talk about important issues facing Americans and offer ideas on solving the nation's problems, including suggestions for new laws and policies. But on the eve of his acquittal in the impeachment trial, and ironically under the same roof the trial was being held in, Trump used his unprecedented (but shockingly standing-ovation-worthy) speech tendencies to deliver a quite boastful State of the Union address. Touting a robust U.S. economy and his recent trade deals while warning against Democrats' election promises to rework the health care system, fact-checkers were never so sure of the legitimacy of their job before. Trump recited statistic after tedious statistic in an attempt to argue that the first three years of his presidency have been nothing short of an economic miracle. He followed by introducing a series of guests ranging from a centenarian Tuskegee Airman and his aspiring Space Force cadet great-grandson to Rush Limbaugh, who was presented with a Medal of Freedom by the first lady. It was a spectacle, the presidency reconceived as daytime television, complete with cash giveaways for select guests. All of these things were amusing, but I can’t pretend that there was anything extraordinary about them.
Impeachment and Romney. What’s Next?: President Trump was easily acquitted on Wednesday on both articles of impeachment, less than 24 hours after giving his pugnacious State of the Union address that signaled the start of his 2020 campaign. The Democratic presidential candidates are starting to ask voters to do what the Republicans Senate would not. Michael Bennet put it this way on Twitter: “The Senate failed to do its job. Now the American people must do theirs.” The case for Sen. Mitt Romney was an unprecedented wildcard to the Republican party after he voted in favor of impeaching Trump; his opposing vote was the first time in impeachment history a senator had voted against their party. He grew emotional as he pronounced Trump as “guilt of an appalling abuse of public trust.” Which then came critics, like Donald Trump Jr., with backlash saying Romney “is forever bitter” about losing the presidency in 2012.
There are still far too many questions gone unanswered within the past week, but to my previous point: this is no hoax. There are two ways to look at history. One is idealistic: "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." The other is grimly realistic, and maybe a touch cynical: "History is written by the winners."