The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary have been demoted

The 2020 Democratic nomination process pulled a surprise this year. It showed that doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire probably doesn’t matter anymore.

Doing well in Iowa has been a great predictor of eventually winning the Democratic Party nomination. With the exception of 1992 when their incumbent senator was in the primary, banking Iowa proved to be the momentum that carried over to the nomination. Iowa sends only 41 delegates to the national convention, out of 3979 pledged delegates. That’s about one percent of pledged delegates. New Hampshire’s track record of being the first primary state is much worse than Iowa’s, but it picks only 24 delegates. Nonetheless, until now, it’s been an easy decision to decide to invest heavily in Iowa’s caucus and the New Hampshire primary as well. They set a candidate’s narrative on their eventual electability.

Biden won only six of Iowa’s 41 delegates and no delegates in New Hampshire. Yet he’s going to win the nomination in a landslide. What went wrong?

South Carolina went wrong, or perhaps right. Biden won 39 of its 54 delegates there. South Carolina Democrats of course are mostly African American voters. This time around, South Carolina set the narrative on who the nominee would be, surprising pretty much everyone, including the Biden campaign. Biden won ten of the 15 Super Tuesday states, held just four days later. South Carolina effectively set the narrative this time around, and African Americans showed and have emerged as the Democratic Party’s principle power broker.

The lesson from this should be obvious: if you want to be president, you should spent a whole lot of time and resources in South Carolina and a whole lot less in Iowa and New Hampshire. And if you want to win South Carolina, not only do you need to spend a lot of time there; you need to invest much of your political career to working on issues that African Americans care about. Also, those who discount the savvy of African American voters do so at their peril.

Biden was assumed to be the front-runner before any voting started. Polls generally gave him the edge. It’s just that many of us didn’t believe the polls. Joe looked bland and tired, and we found it much easier to be enthused about progressive candidates. I was enthused about Elizabeth Warren. I still am; she’s just out of the race now. So many progressives like me were hoping to convince principally non-white voters to vote for our favorite, but the biggest voting bloc in the party decided they wanted pragmatic Joe instead of ideological Elizabeth or Bernie.

Biden did it despite the plethora of mainstream candidates that included Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Mike Bloomberg. He did it on a shoestring budget. While early and principally white voters found things to like about these candidates, the party’s African American bloc did not. They signaled to other minorities that form what is now arguably the core of the Democratic Party who they should vote for. And primary voters listened, trusting their instincts more than the traditional white base of the party.

This election’s primary process then seems to suggest a new era for the Democratic Party: as the party principally of African Americans and other minorities. This leaves progressive whites in an awkward place because we seem to vote disproportionately for progressive white candidates. A few will cross party lines and vote for Republicans and Trump instead, but most of us will have to rethink the optics of our voting choice. We need to realize that our power and influence in the party is diluted and is likely to remain this way in 2024 and beyond, and that minorities are the party’s new majority.

Will the real Christians please stand up?

I had a brief flirtation with the Methodist Church in the 1990s. We were shopping around for a Sunday school for our daughter, who needed some religious education. Terri had taught Sunday school for a Methodist Church in her single days and thought the religion was pretty benign. There was a church close by so off we went. It wasn’t a bad experience. This particular church had a female minister, which seemed cool to someone raised in the Catholic faith. The church was bright, the classrooms clean and well run and it had a very wholesome feel to it. Yet it was a bit too Christian for my tastes. That’s why my daughter eventually ended up at the religious education program at a Unitarian Universalist church.

I can’t claim to know much about their theology but I know enough now not to ever go back. Why? Because yesterday a Methodist Philadelphia minister was defrocked for violating a church law that requires ministers not be practicing homosexuals. The minister, Irene Elizabeth Stroud, was found guilty of being “a self avowed practicing homosexual.” Oh, the horror! Imagine what would happen if more Methodist ministers were homosexuals. Why, Methodists might get comfortable with the idea that homosexuality by itself has no more bearing on someone’s ability to minister than the color of their hair!

I have to wonder why is this an issue in the first place. Don’t Methodists read their Bibles? In the Bible that I read Jesus is a wholly nondiscriminatory human being. He hung out with prostitutes and lepers. In Jesus’ time the Jews treated Samaritans with contempt. Jews would even walk around areas of Palestine where they lived. Yet the clear message from the Parable of the Good Samaritan was that no one should be scorned simply for being different. We are all the same.

It is way past time to give homosexuals equal opportunities in all professions. But forces would much rather keep us stuck in the past. The major networks, for example, recently refused to air ads from the United Church of Christ. The ads emphasized that their denomination accepts gays and minorities while many other churches do not.

The ad features two bouncers standing outside a symbolic church selecting people to be permitted to pass the velvet rope to attend Sunday services. The bouncers reject two men and an African-American boy and girl, while letting a white heterosexual couple through.

What was the Church of Christ’s real sin here? It’s not that it welcomes homosexuals and minorities in its membership. The real sin was that it emphasized that other churches — lots of other churches — are quite comfortable with the practice. And it points out quite correctly that Jesus did not turn away people who came to listen to him. Not only do virtually all mainstream churches refuse to ordain homosexual ministers, but lots of mainstream churches also are openly hostile to gays in general. The Mormon Church’s wholly unenlightened interpretation and almost sneering attitude toward gays comes immediately to my mind. Want to see the Samaritans in contemporary Christendom? Talk to a Gay Mormon. They can tell you how the Samaritans felt.

No, we must not hear the truth about rampant, ignorant and prejudicial intolerance in mainstream Christian denominations. Instead we must project a false image of Jesus and real Christianity. We must ignore that much modern Christianity is about as Christ-like as Ghengis Khan. For example, is there any doubt what a 21st century Jesus would have said about the United States invading Iraq? Just in case you forgot, turn to Luke 6:29:

If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either.

But what are we getting from so called “mainstream” ministers about homosexuality? From Jerry Falwell we get vitriol like:

“These perverted homosexuals … absolutely hate everything that you and I and most decent, God-fearing citizens stand for. Make no mistake. These deviants seek no less than total control and influence in society, politics, our schools and in our exercise of free speech and religious freedom.”

From Pat Robertson:

What kind of craziness is it in our society which will put a cloak of secrecy around a group of people whose lifestyle is at best abominable. Homosexuality is an abomination. The practices of those people is appalling. It is a pathology. It is a sickness, and instead of thinking of giving these people a preferred status and privacy, we should treat AIDS exactly the same way as any other communicable disease.

Were I a Christian I would be seeking out churches that not only have read the words of Jesus but also actually try to live by them. So congratulations to the Church of Christ for getting the real message of Jesus. They must have read Matthew 7:

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.