It’s Iowa Caucus night, and just about everyone around here is busy worrying about the results, polls, social media trends, who visited where, and who is endorsing whom. I’m just taking a time out from wading through research on legislation that is being introduced in a few states across the union, and procrastinating on a long overdue column about the merits (demerits?) of some alternative psychological therapies. Needless to say, my mind has been miles away from national politics of late, which probably explains my relative absence here.
But tonight my inbox beckoned with a reminder that maybe someone around Ricochet might want to read my opinion on the current presidential race, and how I think it might turn out. Beyond what I think should be obvious — that Iowa has not really been a great bellwether in presidential races since they’ve only gotten three right — my general feeling is one of relief. This is at least the beginning of the end of the overly large field of candidates who have been generally unseen anyway.
Because my work of late has turned away from politics and toward the social sciences, my perspective on the presidential race has shifted at least a little. While pundits and social media superstars consistently complain about the lack of substance being offered by the candidates, I have been watching the nature of the social movements in general. Occasionally I’ve voiced my concerns about the politics of fear, and how they have been used more than anything else this cycle.
Tonight, the divisive forces that we’ve seen across the country are not necessarily in play, at least not to the extent that they normally are. Fear is definitely a driving force for voters, but Iowa is a far more homogeneous state than many others, including my own — Pennsylvania. While hardly scientific, there is a social media analysis firm out there that has pointed out who is creating the most buzz tonight in context with Iowa. It probably is not an indicator of who actually will win, but it probably will be found to be accurate when it comes to culling the herd.
The previous tweet from BrandWatch effectively whittles down the field on both sides to just five candidates who happen to be dominating 93 percent of all the social media talk they are watching. While it’s interesting to note that Donald Trump appears to be talked about the most, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. When one digs deeper into the BrandWatch website, they can find the nature of the social communications — whether it is positive or negative. Yes, it is good to have people talking about you if you’re running for office, but if you want people to vote “for” you, it’s better if they’re talking positively. Marginally more people are saying negative things about Trump, of course.
Now the reason why I opened this with the title “Just Three Things” is this little social experiment. Taking politics and the presidential campaign out of your mind for a moment, think of the three things that you care about most in your life. Once you have them in mind, think again on government and politics, and try to name three concrete ways each of those things you care about the most will be changed based purely on who wins the presidential election. Be honest with yourself on this, because it definitely will help you keep perspective in the coming months.
For those of you who always lived for the bonus questions on exams, feel free to take a moment to consider this one: Can you name three concrete ways that the direct actions of the current President have substantially changed your life? No, that does not include actions in concert with Congress, such as the results of laws passed. This only includes personal actions of the President himself in his official capacity.
One thing I have learned in my journey away from politics is the nature of personal power. In order for a free person to be truly controlled by another, that person must agree to be controlled. That applies in interpersonal relationships, and in politics.