That’s why we found a story in the paper’s Monday edition about the disastrous Iowa Democratic caucuses so interesting — and revealing.
According to a Times investigation, there was much more going on behind the scenes to stoke the disaster than just a faulty voting app — that was tied to a firm founded by Clinton and Obama campaign operatives. While that in and of itself seems sinister, Bush 43 political adviser Brad Blakeman told Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan that’s more likely tied to “greed” — former Democratic operatives feeding off this year’s crop of Democrat candidates as a way to make a lot of money quickly.
The bigger story, obviously, is the outcome of the voting results, as well as the haphazard and even, perhaps, phony way in which the final votes were calculated. In short, anyone who suspects there may have been some biases built into the results could be correct in their assumption.
The Times first sets the stage, noting that the app failed early:
As a torrent of results were phoned in from school gymnasiums, union halls and the myriad other gathering places that made the Iowa caucuses a world-famous model of democracy, it soon became clear that the whole process was melting down.
Volunteers resorted to passing around a spare iPad to log into the system. Melissa Watson, the state party’s chief financial officer, who was in charge of the boiler room, did not know how to operate a Google spreadsheet application used to input data, Democratic officials later acknowledged.
Others, desperate to verify results, began telling some precinct leaders to email photographs of their worksheets — the paper forms used to tally results — to a dedicated email address. But for hours, no one monitored the inbox. When it was finally opened Tuesday morning, there were 700 unread emails waiting, with photos that had been sent sideways; volunteers had to crane their necks to decipher the handwritten forms.
Within an hour of the caucuses opening, state Democrats in Iowa were aware of the unfolding chaos, but no one had a game plan to deal with it, the Times noted. They also had no answers for increasingly frustrated presidential campaigns.
As disastrous as the 2020 Iowa caucuses have appeared to the public, the failure runs deeper and wider than has previously been known, according to dozens of interviews with those involved. It was a total system breakdown that casts doubt on how a critical contest on the American political calendar has been managed for years.
To this point, most people have been told the biggest issue had to do with a “coding error” regarding a vote-tally reporting app, created by a company called Shadow Inc. “But the crackup resulted from cascading failures going back months,” the Times noted.
Those involved at least partly blamed Bernie Sanders (surprise!), as the Times noted. After Iowa 2016, in which Sanders narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton — and it became known, early on, in the Sanders camp that the Democratic Party was angling to nominate her no matter what — changes in “transparency” demanded by his allies were made and implemented for this year’s caucuses.
Then, the Times revealed these bombshells:
The widespread lack of faith in the Iowa results has shaken many Americans’ confidence in their electoral system. Mr. Trump has reveled in the meltdown. Democrats have proposed abolishing caucuses and ending Iowa’s time at the front of the presidential nominating calendar.
Even as party officials scramble to contain the fallout, the full extent of the problems in Iowa is still not known.
An analysis by The New York Times revealed inconsistencies in the reported data for at least one in six of the state’s precincts. Those errors occurred at every stage of the tabulation process: in recording votes, in calculating and awarding delegates, and in entering the data into the state party’s database. Hundreds of state delegate equivalents, the metric the party uses to determine delegates for the national convention, were at stake in these precincts.
The Iowa Democratic Party released a list of 92 precincts on Sunday that it said were flagged as problematic by three presidential candidates — Mr. Sanders; Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.; and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. That figure is far fewer than the number with inconsistencies captured in the Times review. The Associated Press said it was unable to declare a caucus winner.
In other words, the caucus is so screwed up that it’s likely Americans — and especially Iowa Democratic caucus voters — may never know the real results of that contest.
Now, either that is by design…or it’s not. That seems obvious, but those are the two most pertinent questions following what happened in Iowa.
If if it was intentional, why?
Certainly, elements of the Times report make it seem as though there were a series of unforced errors that led to the calamity.
But in politics, the answers are rarely that simple. And after all, we’re talking about Democrats here; the party’s behavior during the 2016 nominating process, shirking Sanders intentionally to elevate Clinton despite the fact that the former was contesting her every step of the way, is all the evidence we need to proclaim what happened in Iowa suspicious and maybe even intentional.
That said, it’s not clear that the Democratic hierarchy has ‘settled’ on Joe Biden to be this year’s nominee. After all, his own president, Barack Obama, has never even publicly endorsed him (and wouldn’t he, if Biden were competent and could win?).
But one thing seems as sure in 2020 as it did in 2016: The party doesn’t want Sanders, who it sees as an interloper, a hanger-on who would have zero chance at winning the presidency if he ran as the “Independent” he’s claimed to be all these years:
In the Times review of the data, at least 10 percent of precincts appeared to have improperly allocated their delegates, based on reported vote totals. In some cases, precincts awarded more delegates than they had to give; in others, they awarded fewer. More than two dozen precincts appeared to give delegates to candidates who did not qualify as viable under the caucus rules.
Given the slim lead Mr. Buttigieg now holds over Mr. Sanders in state delegate equivalents, a full accounting of these inconsistencies could alter the outcome. But without access to the precinct worksheets, it is difficult to determine whom the errors hurt or favored.