What do the Iowa Caucuses Really Mean?

I woke up this morning with news that Ron Paul got a third place finish. It was, most certainly, a disappointment, when we had earlier heard reports he could win the state. However, after crunching the numbers, Paul did surprisingly well, doubling his support from 2008 and was only a few thousand votes behind Romney and Santorum. He did very well, and his team should be proud of that.

Of course, the media is going to use it as an excuse to completely ignore Paul, just as Chris Cilizza did in his post about the different tents of the GOP that Romney and Santorum depended on in the caucus. Yes, I realize the post wasn’t really about Paul, but but in trying to show that there is a “socio-religious conservative” faction and an “Establishment” faction, Cilizza completely ignored the new “faction” that is growing within the Republican Party, the libertarian faction (and no, I don’t mean the Tea Partiers; they have some libertarians, but they also have a bunch of right-wing social conservatives who are just focusing on spending for the moment.) This is not something that should be ignored, since it may just well take over the party and push the other “factions” to the side, as more and more voters desire something approaching sanity.

Matt Welch over at Reason has some good news for Ron Paul fans, which is namely that Santorum is likely to flame out in New Hampshire, Perry and Bachmann are likely heading towards the exits, and Paul has done the great deed of really pushing libertarian philosophy, which is key. Look, even in the best case scenario, a libertarian candidate is not going to win in 2012. Why? Because far too many people do not understand libertarianism, they find some of the movement’s past to be repellant, and we simply do not have the base. Sure, I agree with Ed Crane of the Cato Institute that “Support for dynamic market capitalism (as opposed to crony capitalism), social tolerance, and a healthy skepticism of foreign military adventurism is a combination of views held by a plurality of Americans,” which is a basic form of libertarianism, but the problem is, not many people consciously recognize that, or see that yes, they can get that all-in-one package in our demented two-party system. Not yet, but hopefully, that will change over the next decade.

Of course, perhaps the most important thing to understand about the Iowa Caucuses was written by fellow blogger Doug Mataconis over at Outside The Beltway:

One final point. For all the campaigning, all the polling, all the caucusing, and the late night that many people had last night, guess how many Republican National Convention delegates were awarded last night? Precisely zero. In addition to the numbers we’re paying attention to, last night’s caucuses also elected precinct delegates to county conventions which take place on March 16th. Those county conventions will send delegates to Congressional District conventions which take place on April 21st. That Congressional District Convention will send delegates to the Iowa State GOP convention, which takes place June 16th. The Iowa State GOP convention is the body that selects the delegates to the Republican National Convention. Four years ago, Mike Huckabee won the Caucuses, but the delegates that went to the Republican National Convention were all McCain delegates. So, basically, we just wasted a year of time.

This is something the media doesn’t understand; I heard the local news host on the TV this morning say that Romney won “all 28 delegates” (even though, I think, Iowa only has 25.) And this speaks to the real problem with our current system: that our media has very little idea of how the system actually works, and secondly, that the media more or less chooses our candidates for us. That, I believe, is dangerous, and also why the system is so messed up now. The media likes bombastic candidates, snappy quotes, and big things (so long as they stay within the accepted narrative), so that’s who they focus on, and that’s who the voters see. They completely ignore candidates who have more reasonable plans, who maybe don’t do so many stupid things, and of course, who rock the boat too much. That is the cardinal sin. Fortunately, thanks to the rise of blogs and new media, the MSM is slowly dying, and I don’t think Paul is down and out of this yet. In fact, he may set such a good showing he could pave the way for his son in 2016.

So take heart, libertarians. On the one hand, the caucuses don’t really mean anything; but in the world of media and perception, Ron Paul did well. The cacuses have shown that the message is still flying high. Iowa was a victory. That’s what they mean.

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