The January 15 Iowa caucuses were, in many ways, a foregone conclusion. Donald Trump had been leading the state by a huge margin for months and neither of his two main challengers — Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley — had been able to make significant inroads into his support. Trump has commanded a powerful lead in the race to become the 2024 Republican Presidential nominee and the Iowa results seem to indicate that, despite the many scandals and legal cases surrounding the former president, he will have a relatively easy walk toward the nomination if the attempts to keep him off the ballot are unsuccessful — he has currently been kicked off the ballot in Maine and Colorado, and the Supreme Court is set to rule in February on whether he violated the 14th Amendment and is thus unable to run for office. Notably, Trump won 51 percent of the vote in Iowa, showing that the majority of Republican voters in the state support him for the nomination.
This is, of course, bad news for Trump’s challengers. But the bad news doesn’t stop there: Trump won every county but one and, as of this writing, he is losing that county by just one vote. This shows that support for the former president is widespread and includes both urban and rural voters. The Trump base has, as many have written, re-made the Republican Party in its own image. For comparison, in 2016, Trump lost Iowa to Ted Cruz.
There are some limitations to viewing Iowa as a barometer for the rest of the race. Iowa is much less diverse than the rest of the country and more conservative, with a higher concentration of evangelicals. This makes other states — such as New Hampshire — look more promising for Haley in her challenge to Trump, but his core base extends across the country and is not limited just to states like Iowa. Another interesting specificity of the Iowa caucus is that it took place in the midst of severe weather conditions. This depressed turnout, which was far below the record turnout the Republican Party hoped for. This didn’t hurt Trump, however, and he performed above expectations in recent polling.
In many ways, Iowa was a race for second place. DeSantis and Haley both wanted to pull out strong finishes which would have helped set them up as the alternative to Trump. Haley specifically was hoping to best DeSantis and force him out of the race before New Hampshire, where she hopes to be more competitive with Trump. In the end, the only candidate who exited the race after Iowa was Vivek Ramaswamy, who immediately threw his support behind Trump. Rather than narrowing the race against Trump, the only shift that happened was in his favor.
What all of this indicates is that Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric, promises to fight for his base, and proclamations against business as usual continue to be powerful with his base. This is the direct result of dissatisfaction with the Biden regime which has become the face of two unpopular foreign wars, an economy that has left many working people struggling to afford basic necessities, and a warmed-up neoliberalism masquerading as Bidenomics. Biden is currently the most unpopular president since George W. Bush — a real feat considering how unpopular Trump was in office — and seems to be a particularly weak candidate to oppose Trump or, for that matter, any Republican.
What Biden is turning to in his quest to secure a second term is, yet again, lesser evilism about how Trump poses a threat to democracy. And, in many ways, it’s true: Trump is an anti-democratic candidate. He wants to erode voting rights and reproductive and queer rights, attack immigrants, and further politicize the justice department. But the problem with Biden’s approach is that he is also an anti-democratic candidate. Biden just by-passed Congress in order to send more money to Israel and will go down in history as Genocide Joe . He sat on his hands as abortion rights were overturned by an anti-democratic Supreme Court. Biden broke a rail strike, despite claiming to be the most pro-labor president in history. Most of all, both Biden and Trump — to different degrees — support the anti-democratic regime where the electoral college, the Senate, and the Supreme Court all stand as clear signs of how limited actual democracy is in the United States.
Trump is surging because he has been able to convince his base that he represents something different. And, in many ways, he does — just not the sort of change that will actually help the working class. Rather, he represents a far-right populism which blames the crises of capitalism on immigrants and the oppressed, and he represents a sector of the imperialist bourgeoisie which seeks to escalate tensions with China and favors greater U.S. intervention in Latin America.
None of this will actually help those who are forced to pay the price for the crises of capitalism. The only thing that will help the working class and oppressed is overthrowing the capitalist system and the anti-democratic regime which props it up. Trump isn’t the way out but neither is Biden. The only way out is the working class organizing itself and fighting for its own interests, which are opposed to the interests of the bourgeois parties represented by Biden and Trump,