Never try a new hairstyle on your wedding day . . . and other lessons I learned from Iowa
Just as you never try out a new hairstyle on the day of your wedding, Iowa Democrats learned last night that you don’t take a new app out for a spin on the night of your caucus. Especially not in a year when everyone in the world seemed to be obsessing on what was happening in Springfield Precinct in Decorah.
The app crashed. Or the app operators crashed. Or there wasn’t enough bandwidth. So now here we are nearly 24 hours after the First in the Nation electoral event with no results.
If you’re Joe Biden, who apparently did not do well at all, this is a huge relief. The focus of today’s news stories is all on the lack of results rather than the results themselves.
But if you’re Pete Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren, both of whom apparently exceeded expectations and really need the bounce, this has to be an enormous disappointment. So they gamely gave their victory speeches even without knowing the results.
And if you’re an Iowan hoping to retain your state’s First in the Nation status with your caucuses . . .
Of course, by tomorrow we’ll know who won and the news cycle will have moved on to speculation about who can win in Coos County, New Hampshire. But before we leave Iowa, here are a few thoughts:
· The idea of democracy is exciting. But the actual practice of democracy is basically a long slog. Some days it’s sloggier than others, but it’s never easy.
· It actually wasn’t all the app. Precinct chairs also had the option of just calling in their results. There weren’t enough people to take their calls.
· Some of the more complicated bells and whistles in the reporting (not just the delegates won, but also raw votes and first alignments) were added to keep the Bernie contingent mollified. And of course they aren’t.
· Caucuses have probably outlasted their Sell By date. If you’ve never been, they are an exercise in pure democracy. Coupled with a strong dose of Red Rover. But the time involved, the public nature of your vote, and the general feeling of too many people being smashed into too small a space certainly limit participation.
· I thought Mike Bloomberg was nuts to skip the early states and focus on Super Tuesday. Now he looks like a savant - things will clearly not be sorted out by then. Although we will likely know who won the delegates from Decorah.
This tells us a little about the need for better training on technology. It tells us a little more about the inherent problems with caucuses. But it tells us absolutely nothing about the broader picture of the race for 2020. It’s still going to be a turnout election. And it’s still anybody’s to win.