Welcome back to Politics in Review, our column to explore the latest in national news and politics. This week we look at the 2020 Democratic nominating race in Iowa, President Trump’s annual State of the Union Address, and the end of the Senate impeachment trial.
On Monday night Iowa Democrats gathered in schools, community centers, and in other neighborhood areas to persuade each other to vote for their preferred Presidential candidate to represent the party, culminating in two rounds of voting with each precinct, or local gathering, awarding state delegates to the top candidates proportionally. Once the state total is calculated, the results are translated into 41 national delegates that will represent Iowa’s preferences when the Democrats hold their national convention in July. This type of community based voting is known as a caucus system, and it traces its roots to early America when the lack of modern technology made town meetings extremely important for deciding the will of the people. Iowa chooses to hold caucuses (as compared to filling out individual ballots) as a way to preserve its rich tradition and gain attention as it is the first state to vote in the Presidential nominating process.
Unfortunately, the system almost outright failed Monday night, with the phones and mobile apps used to send the tallies to the state jamming or not loading, creating confusion and a delay in the reporting of the results, with only a portion of the full vote being reported until Friday, almost a full week later!
So what do we know so far?
Going into Monday night, polling showed that Iowa would be a close race between the top candidates; the moderates consisting of former Mayor of South Bend Indiana Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, and the more leftist-progressive candidates such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 8 other candidates were involved, though polling for them was minimal.
With 99% reporting, Pete Butigieg and Bernie Sanders are virtually tied for first, with both candidates roughly divided by a percentage. Buttigieg is estimated to gather 13 national delegates, with Sanders gathering 12. Elizabeth Warren placed third with 8, and Joe Biden placed in fourth with 6. (See the New York Times results tracker here.)
These preliminary results are huge for Buttigieg, who hopes to use this as a momentum builder going into the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday. For Sanders, this is seen as proof that his movement of progressive change is viable. For Warren and Biden, this is a blow that will require effort to change the course.
New Hampshire will hold its primary next Tuesday, and candidates have raced there to push forward in the fight to be the one to face Trump in November. We’ll cover the results from there next week.
State of The Union Address
On Tuesday, President Trump addressed the combined houses of Congress as well as the Supreme Court in his annual speech. (See the transcript here). He touted strong economic numbers and the investment his administration has put into “opportunity zones” of rural America. He claimed that under him, the U.S. has “shattered the mentality of American decline.” He went on to stress record low unemployment numbers, including among veterans, and the growth of the net worth of many Americans in the lower income brackets.
Notable moments included the recognition of a surviving Tuskegee Airmen, and awarding the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh. President Trump also welcomed the opposition leader of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, who is supported by the U.S. against what is considered an authoritarian and illegitimate regime in Caracas currently.
Democrats bristled at parts, especially the awarding of Limbaugh, and generally considered the speech to be more like a campaign rally. This comes right before the final vote of whether to remove President Trump, due to the ongoing impeachment proceedings.
Last edition, we went over the impeachment charges of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Essentially the charges allege that Trump used his power to blackmail Ukraine into investigating the business ties of Joe Biden (Trump’s political rival) in exchange for congressionally passed military aid. Since then, the Senate has heard from the prosecution (representing the House) and the defense team. Summarizing the arguments, the House managers highlighted testimony from the fall impeachment investigation, where Trump’s authority to put the aid on hold was questioned.
Finally, the House highlighted where Trump himself admitted he wanted Biden’s investigated and said this proved Trump was trying to force Ukraine to help him illegally in 2020. Trump’s general behavior, including resisting the House attempts to bring in staff to testify, was cited as well.
Countering, the defense highlighted how administrations tie conditions into foreign aid all the time, and that the allegations of improper political motives by Trump were nothing more than partisan wishful thinking. They also did bring up that the appointment of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, to the board of a Ukrainian oil company, warrants a look at and that investigating it does not violate the President’s use of powers. Most importantly, the defense pointed out that when Trump has brought up the Biden’s; it was done with the intention to secure the aid from all corruption in Ukraine, and not just for political purposes, thus rendering the charges against President Trump as false.
After days of deliberation regarding the President’s conduct, on Wednesday, the Republican led Senate voted to acquit President Trump on both charges, with Utah Senator Mitt Romney notably being the only Republican to vote to convict the President. Romney cited his faith as a guide to being an impartial juror, and stated that he felt that President Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors. His senate speech can be found here.
The acquittal will add to the intensity of the 2020 election race, as Democrats seek to turn their outrage over the verdict into votes, while Republicans seek to rally the base against what they see as an illegitimate political stunt.
We’ll continue to monitor the fallout.
That concludes this edition of our Politics column here at the UVU Review. Is there a political issue you want to be discussed on the column? Have feedback? Feel free to reach out to me on twitter @JoeyChowen or at [email protected], or comment below. See you next week!