The Magazine

Thank You, Iowa

Iowa voters rose to the occasion.

Jan 14, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 17 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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THE WEEKLY STANDARD is a magazine of its word. Three weeks ago, we made the case that the country deserved to be liberated from the Clintons and their brand of politics. We promised to be the first to say something we are not accustomed to saying to the Democratic party--thank you. So, to the Iowa Democrats and independents who caucused in such numbers for Obama and even--this hurts--for Edwards, we say: Thank you. You have begun the job. We are confident your brethren in other states will finish it.

Clinton will undoubtedly be on the attack against Obama in New Hampshire. In December, in Iowa, she forecast that the assaults would begin: "Well, now the fun part starts," she said. "We're going to start drawing a contrast, because I want every Iowan to have accurate information when they make their decisions." Well, over 200,000 Iowans made their decisions--and fewer than 3 in 10 wanted Hillary as their nominee. Now, as we prophesied in an earlier editorial, "The 'fun part' for the rest of us will be watching the bitter infighting among the Clintonistas as the wheels come off Hillary's campaign."

Meanwhile, we shouldn't leave Iowa without thanking its citizens for more than apparently sending Hillary Clinton on a path back to the U.S. Senate. We're by no means convinced we would have put Mike Huckabee ahead of his competitors in the GOP field as Iowa Republicans chose to do. But we applaud Huckabee for his industrious and savvy campaign. And we applaud the people of Iowa for stubbornly insisting on making up their own minds. Iowa's voters actively engaged in the electoral process. They turned out to prefer a Republican who was outspent 10 to 1, but who connected with them. In a democracy, that's a rather large part of politics. And, who can't like the fact that on both sides of the aisle last Thursday the "inevitable" candidates went down to defeat?

And what of Barack Obama? He beat Hillary Clinton. He won in a state with a very small minority population. He ran (if one can put it this way) a pretty much color-blind campaign, and Iowa Democrats seem to have rendered a pretty much color-blind verdict. And a calm one. Angry Democrats who wanted a candidate who shared their rage had such a fellow in John Edwards. But after practically decamping to Iowa for the past four years, Edwards came in a distant second. Meanwhile, Democratic women rejected the faux-feminism of Hillary Clinton and preferred Obama. Younger women did so overwhelmingly.

In sum, Iowans turned out in huge numbers to pick the classiest candidate on the Democratic side, and an appealing underdog on the Republican. It's fashionable to look down on the Iowa caucuses. That's wrong. Last week, Iowans rose to the occasion. It was a good week for them, and for the country.

William Kristol