by Sean Kelly
As the Iowa caucuses stumbled late into the night on Monday, the presidential primary process officially got under way. It was a sloppy display of dumbfounded news anchors and awkward speeches by candidates who vowed to secure their party’s nomination despite extensive reporting delays in the primary season’s first major contest.
Delegates chosen at the state level either by caucus or primary vote will decide who runs for president on the national ticket in November.
For the next four months candidates and the media will rush from state to state — invading local coffee houses, diners and fairgrounds as final pushes and closing stump speeches are made to secure as many votes as possible. And as each subsequent primary unfolds — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and those infamous ‘Super Tuesday’ states including delegate-rich California, Texas and Massachusetts – the field will necessarily narrow.
But as we learned on Monday, it is not a simple or straightforward undertaking. It’s messy and combative and many would say breathlessly unfair. The rules for delegates vary. Some states are winner-take-all, others are winner-take-some, and the rest go to congressional districts. Several state caucuses select candidates in an informal meeting of party leaders and there are endless backdoor maneuvers involving unpledged delegates and mysterious super delegates — those free agents of the electorate that can often make or break the nominating process.
The Council on Foreign Relations has called the U.S. political system, “one of the most complex, lengthy, and expensive in the world.” Indeed, nearly every presidential election has cost more than the one preceding it and with a gaggle of billionaires suddenly in the mix, the cost of the 2020 Presidential Election is likely to shatter the $2.4 billion spent in 2016. Several prominent ad agencies are already estimating that 2020 political ads alone could reach as much as $10 billion.
When we consider the still-cramped Democratic field, things seem even messier. After sifting through some 29 candidates, almost a dozen remain in the running with four clustered at the top of the polls: former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. These candidates have prompted fierce debate over prickly issues like the Green New Deal, Raising Taxes, Free Tuition, Medicare-for-All, Universal Basic Income and LGBTQ rights.
It should come as no surprise that many voters seem as uncertain as the process itself. Recent polls suggest that they are more than willing to change their mind even up to entering the polling a lever or casting a chad. That’s a wake-up call for leading candidates with vote-switching vulnerabilities. Biden, for instance, has been dogged by questions of stamina. Elizabeth Warren has been hounded by her plan to end private health insurance. Mayor Pete has had to combat the recurring issues of his youth and inexperience. And, Bernie Sanders faces long-standing doubts about how his socialist agenda will fare in a general election against Donald Trump.
Primaries are tricky things and not knowing who will be the next president is downright beguiling. Simply stated, all of this confusion is bad for business. Political uncertainty can impact production, investment, spending, and hiring. Elections, after all, are the tools of change and America will ultimately decide whether it wants a completely new direction this November.
In the meantime, the Iowa ‘Train Wreck,’ reminds us that mayhem is alive and this raises the specter of risk, volatility, and political instability. So, while all those mom and pop stores in places like Bedford, New Hampshire; Boulder City, Nevada; and Fort Mill, South Carolina become the next proving ground for those seeking their party’s nomination, gold remains a safe haven for everyone, in every city, and every party affiliation across the country. It is the ideal political, economic and financial hedge and no matter what candidates, issues or agendas finally rule the day — holding gold is a winning platform.