With Friends Like the Iowa Democrat Party, Do Democrats Need Enemies?

How to Delegitimize a Democrat's Election

By Alexander Sammon

After more than 24 hours of delays — and what will likely end up being a course-altering display of ineptitude — the Iowa Democratic Party has revealed its results, all 71% of them, with no indication of when the remaining 29 % will turn up. While seemingly every campaign in the top five took the total absence of hard numbers as something of a sellable triumph, we now have at least some sense of who the losers are.
  • Joe Biden managed only a woeful performance, barely fending off Amy Klobuchar for a distant 4th-place finish.
  • Klobuchar failed to break into the top tier, as some thought she might.
  • And in consequence of caucus wheeling and dealing, Pete Buttigieg, despite coming in 2nd in the vote count, holds onto a scant delegate lead, though his path to the nomination remains exceedingly narrow due to his as yet nonexistent appeal with nonwhite voters.
  • With numerous votes outstanding from Sanders-favorable districts like Polk County, he may still lose the delegate lead, too. (For now, he has saved face in his audacious move to claim victory with 0% of precincts reporting.)
There are plenty of losers who weren’t on the ballot as well. But perhaps the biggest loser of the day is our beleaguered, beaten, and barely breathing democracy, whose credibility took another pounding with the ridiculous spectacle the nation witnessed.

The opportunism of Joe Biden, who claimed falsely that the results were not to be trusted, alongside Republicans like Lindsey Graham, who cynically jumped on the pile claiming that the process was rigged against Sanders, have only made things worse. Trump himself gleefully announced that the Democratic Iowa Caucus ensures his own victory in the state.

Our democracy should have enough resilience to withstand a faltering digital tool and a slower-than-expected vote count, which we should have every reason to believe will yield accurate results.

But debacles like Monday’s don’t do democracy any favors.

With multibillionaires like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg buying their way into the process — and in Bloomberg’s case, into contention — this election cycle has already shown that profound economic inequality results in profound political inequality.

For the 17-to-29-year-old youth vote, which may well play an outsized role in this election cycle, both in the primaries and in the general, bad memories of anti-democratic procedures go back to 2016’s electoral cycle, which saw the abbreviated debate schedule and the role of convention superdelegates stacking the deck against Bernie Sanders’s first presidential run. For more seasoned voters and political participants, any prolonged count scenario conjures the specter of 2000’s shameful Bush v. Gore recount in Florida, which ultimately resulted in the candidate with fewer votes being anointed by the Supreme Court as president.

The inclination toward distrust is not unsubstantiated.

As for Trump, he will surely use the Iowa debacle to continue to sow disbelief in the legitimacy of elections in which he or his allies don’t prevail. In its everlasting ineptitude, then, the Democratic Party has just done as much to advance the Trumpian worldview as any Fox News hysteria over voter fraud. The project of delegitimizing democratic rule was advanced by the Democrats’ Iowa incompetence. It’s hard to convince someone that voting matters when it doesn’t yield any results, or the person with the most votes doesn’t win.

Nor is Trump the only billionaire not on the ballot to win big in Iowa. The other big victor was Bloomberg, who has showcased his belief in fair elections by pledging to spend a billion dollars to win one.

Like any good opportunist, Bloomberg has seized upon this democratic breakdown to double his television ad buys and bulk up his staff.

So, an avoidable gaffe from the Democratic Party gets us closer to either a Bloomberg presidency, or four more years of President Trump.

Alexander Sammon is a staff writer at The American Prospect.
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