Thursday afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Trump celebrated his Senate acquittal in typical Trumpian fashion. He was brash, he was rude, he was braggadocious. He gloated, he ranted, and he preened. And his audience of sycophants cheered him on all the way, just as uproariously as they cheered him on in the Capitol building Tuesday night during his State of the Union address.
Trump and the Republicans are presenting a united front, and in the war over optics, they’re winning. That’s because the Republican Party’s apparent cohesion is timed to the Democrats falling apart. The last week has been absolute amateur hour, thanks to the disastrous rollout of the Iowa caucus results. Glitches with Shadow, an app that was used by precinct officials to record the caucus data, was responsible for the delay. The Iowa Democratic Party blamed the hold up on a “coding issue,” but further reports suggest that Shadow had too many flaws and security concerns to withstand the rigor of an election in the first place.
What resulted was Pete Buttigieg giving a premature victory speech in Iowa on Monday night, before there were any official results. By the time the first slow trickle of Iowa results came in on Tuesday afternoon, Buttigieg’s lead was negligible. Another dump of results arriving Wednesday afternoon, with over 80 percent of precincts reporting, had to be amended due to a number of errors. Buttigieg maintained his delegate lead, but Sanders was closing in.
Any excitement over a potential Sanders win was muddled when, on Thursday afternoon, Tom Perez, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, tweeted that he is calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to conduct a recanvassing; in other words, a recount. The move is unprecedented, and the Iowa Democratic Party is pushing back, and questioning whether the request is even permitted.
There’s been chatter about the relevance of the Iowa caucuses in the last months, concerns raised in good faith by those who don’t feel that Iowa’s demographics are not representative of the country. But despite concerns, Iowa is still looked upon as a premonition of the future. Barack Obama’s Iowa win in 2008 helped convince skeptics that he was, in fact, a viable candidate. That sentimentality—however myopic—casts Iowa as some sort of decider. But after this this debacle, it has never been more evident that the caucus system is more trouble than it’s worth.
By now, the results of Iowa pale—along with the negligible number of delegates that will be assigned—in comparison to the weak energy it has cast on all of these potential candidates. It’s impossible to put the embarrassment into words. The last week has made the Democratic Party look unorganized, unprepared, and incredibly naive. That the party hasn’t coalesced around a singular candidate at this point is fine; it’s still early in the primary season. But this calamity has only made voters confused, frustrated, angry, apathetic, and conspiratorial. Democrats can’t afford that energy moving forward.
Sanders has since declared victory in Iowa, even though 100 percent of the results have yet to be released. But at this point, the Iowa results have become such a fuck up that any momentum he could have benefitted from is dead and buried. Hopefully this isn’t a premonition for the long, combative months ahead.