So much for top-down systems that treat voters like cattle and allow bosses to run things with impunity … and that goes for caucuses, too. The party that has decided in large part to throw in with Socialism, Inc this cycle demonstrated that they can’t do basic math and civics in other contexts as well. As has been noted last night and this morning already, Iowa Democrats completely embarrassed themselves in their caucus operations and rendered whatever results they eventually produce all but meaningless.
Iowa Republicans, on the other hand, had a relatively good night. They managed to turn out more than 32,000 caucus-goers for a non-competitive GOP presidential primary, and even better, they managed to count the votes without incident. Donald Trump got over 97% of the vote, while the two candidates opposing him split the remainder relatively equally.
The campaign crowed over that, and ridiculed Democrats for their incompetence. It’s an easy dunk, but it’s got the virtue of truth in it as well:
.@parscale: “Democrats are stewing in a caucus mess of their own creation with the sloppiest train wreck in history. It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process. And these are the people who want to run our entire health care system?” pic.twitter.com/Uix3RuqzJC
— Tim Murtaugh (@TimMurtaugh) February 4, 2020
Trump himself joined in the dunking, calling the result “an unmitigated disaster” early this morning. Mindful of his standing in the state, Trump also defended Iowa from criticism, laying this entirely at the feet of Democrats:
Prepare yourselves for an avalanche of Republicans pounce! takes, but it won’t overcome the obvious fact that this is a Democratic debacle entirely of their own making.
Well, not entirely. The state’s insistence on using caucuses might come under scrutiny again after last night’s performance, USA Today reports:
The nation’s first contest in presidential elections, the Iowa caucus has long drawn floods of campaign staff and media attention as political parties try to winnow out their primary field.
“This fiasco means the end of the caucuses as a significant American political event. The rest of the country was already losing patience with Iowa anyway and this cooks Iowa’s goose. Frankly, it should,” David Yepsen, a famed and former Des Moines Register columnist told Politico.
It should cook the goose of all caucuses in presidential politics, not just Iowa’s. Even when they manage to produce results, they are chaotic events with murky processes in which the participants are only occasionally and accidentally representative of the state’s electorate. Last night’s debacle may have been a worst-case scenario, but it points up just how fraught caucusing is, as opposed to primaries with proper voting systems run by the counties as normal in elections. Primaries offer secret ballots, vote-counting infrastructure, and regulated operation apart from party bosses and campaign organizers. Minnesota finally switched to the primary system for assigning delegates a few years ago, as was long overdue.
Now Iowa shows us the wisdom of that decision. Voters should insist that states adopt proper voting methods for presidential primary events. Even more, so should the candidates themselves — and after last night, maybe more of them will.