Can someone born in Canada be US president .. looking beyond Iowa 2016 from the northern woods ?

Feb 4th, 2016 | By | Category: In Brief

The 2016 edition of the iconic Iowa State Fair will run August 11—21. See you there – E. 30th Street & E. University Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50317.

Back in the wake of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, in the locally troubled spring of 1838,  something called the  Mississippi Emigration Society was “founded in Toronto to start a settlement in Iowa Territory, United States for political refugees from Canada.”

Less than a decade later, just after Christmas 1846, Iowa became the 29th state of the Union. And who knows? Some descendants of the emigrants of the late 1830s might even have voted in the Iowa Caucuses on Monday, February 1, 2016.

The February 1 Caucuses were in any case “the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States.” They will finally lead to the ultimate decision by those among the sovereign American people who are interested on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – nine months from now.

Watching it all on US TV, from the place where the 1838 “political refugees from Canada” came from, it was easy enough to entertain wild thoughts about early 21st century echoes of what Alexis de Tocqueville first called Democracy in America in 1835.

Yet in early 2016 Iowa is far from a microcosm of the real-world democracy in the USA today.

The cast of “Father Knows Best” on TV, 1954—1960 : set in the Midwest, in a fictional place called Springfield that could actually be Des Moines.

In the middle of the Middle West, it is “the only state whose east and west borders are formed entirely by rivers.” (The Mississippi and the Missouri, broadly speaking : it may even be useful to remember that, among many other things, this is part of Tom Sawyer country – as well as the birthplace of the tragically flawed 1920s jazz great Bix Beiderbecke.)

Iowa today is home to a mere 3.2 million people. According to the 2010 Census, 88.7% of Iowans are still Non-Hispanic White, 5.0% Hispanic or Latino, 2.9% Black or African American, and 1.7% Asian. The “five largest ancestry groups … are: German (35.7%), Irish (13.5%), English (9.5%), American (6.6%), and Norwegian (5.7%).”

Watching it all on US TV it was also easy enough to think this is what’s happened to “Father Knows Best” –  the iconic white middle class comedy series “set in the Midwest” that “ran on radio from 1949 to 1954 and on television from 1954 to 1960.”

Cruz vs Sanders in November ????

Compliments of Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, Public Domain.

You can finally go all the way back as well to de Tocqueville and the political refugees from Canada in the late 1830s.

Iowa (named after the Ioway first peoples) used to be part of the great agrarian democracy of the independent family farm, that fell forever from its old political influence in America after the Second World War. (As in Grant McConnell’s The Decline of Agrarian Democracy, published by the University of California Press at Berkeley in 1953.)

Something of this heritage lingers on in Iowa’s current presidential nomination career, as explained well enough by Wikipedia :

“Since 1972, Iowa caucuses have been the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States. Since 1972, the Iowa caucuses have had a 43% success rate at predicting which Democratic candidate for president and a 50% success rate at predicting which Republican candidate for president will go on to win the nomination of their political party at that party’s national convention …”

With all this in mind, the great Iowa surprises of February 1, 2016 may not be all that surprising – or significant. On the other hand ….

Ted Cruz, in action, more or less.

Ted Cruz from Texas, born in 1970 in Calgary, Alberta to a mother who was born in Delaware in the USA and a father born in Cuba, won the 2016 Iowa Republican Caucuses – with 27.6% of the vote. Donald Trump from New York only came second, with 24.3%, while Marco Rubio from Florida was right at his heels with 23.1%.

Meanwhile, among the Democrats Hillary Clinton, a “native of the Chicago area”  (49.9%) did only very slightly better than Bernie Sanders from Vermont (49.6%)

For some of us these results only increase the troubled feeling in the pit of your stomach that the 2016 US election has been inducing since even before the year began. Could it actually be, eg, that Ted Cruz from Alberta (and Texas) will defeat Bernie Sanders from Vermont for President of the American Republic (homeland of the Yankee dollar etc) on November 8?

Various more realistic scenarios

Des Moines, Iowa's capital and largest city.. Photo by Tim Kiser, immediate source : Wikipedia.

The smart money will say that a November contest quite as crazy as Cruz vs. Sanders is just not going to happen in the end. And here’s hoping that’s right.

It is certainly true that in the two Republican Iowa Caucuses before this, eg, Rick Santorum (2012) and Mike Huckabee (2008) won, and then went on to lose the big race to Mitt Romney and John McCain, who won in the New Hampshire primary (which is up next, on Tuesday, February 9, 2016).

Does this mean that Ted Cruz’s somewhat surprising victory in Iowa on February 1 this year dooms him to follow in the historical footsteps of Huckabee and Santorum?  Maybe, maybe not.

Rachel Maddow on her February 3, 2016 MSNBC TV show was urging that one big difference between Iowa winner Cruz this year and the Republican winners in 2008 and 2012 is money. At the moment Ted Cruz has apparently managed to raise more money than any other Republican candidate except Jeb Bush.

Bix Beiderbecke's childhood home at 1934 Grand Avenue in Davenport, Iowa, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was purchased and renovated by the Italian director Pupi Avati when he filmed portions of his biopic Bix: An Interpretation of a Legend there during the summer of 1990.

Another intriguing feature of the Republican results in Iowa 2016 was the strong third-place showing of Marco Rubio – not much more than one percentage point behind Donald Trump in second place. Some say Rubio will now become the new favoured candidate of whatever there may still be of a Republican establishment.

My own obscure view is that if the Republican party were at all together, it would finally pick the Hispanic American Marco Rubio from Florida. He probably stands the best chance of bringing the party into the emerging new 21st century democracy in America – and even of winning the ultimate election nine months down the road, on November 8.

The Democrats’ case is somewhat different of course. Even now, the smart money does not take any notion of Bernie Sanders actually beating Hillary for the nomination seriously. But Bernie did better than close observers expected in Iowa.

Bernie, pushing Hillary’s Democrats further left?

Moreover, “the latest poll by UMass Lowell/7News” on the February 9 New Hampshire primary “has placed Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders at the top of their parties” – as in :  Bernie Sanders — 63%, Hillary Clinton — 30% ; Donald Trump — 38%, Ted Cruz —  14%, Marco Rubio —  10%, John Kasich — 9%, Jeb Bush — 9%.

At the same time again, another big loser in the Iowa Caucuses this year, some serious authority said somewhere, was the pollsters. Ted Cruz was not supposed to win, and Bernie Sanders was not supposed to do so well. What I’m taking from the experience is just be ready for almost anything to happen from here on in  … already it seems to be shaping up as that kind of year …

Hillary on a visit to Canada – a woman as US president, at last?

Finally, for the moment, for guidance on the continuing first wave of the primary season over the next few weeks – from the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, February 9 to Super Tuesday on March 1, with events in a dozen states, from Alabama to Virginia – see the New York Times’ “2016 Primary Calendar and Results … By WILSON ANDREWS, KITTY BENNETT and ALICIA PARLAPIANO.” And then … stay tuned!

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