Groundhog Day

Mar 25 2020
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The results of the political version of musical chairs that took place on February 3, 2020, otherwise known as the Democratic Iowa Caucus, have yet to be agreed upon .  A faulty app and total lack of pre-testing and volunteer training on this technology were blamed for the fiasco.  Even the Democrats’ good friends at Slate Magazine, a very left-leaning on-line publication, expressed exasperation, referring to the debacle as FUBAR –  (Fouled) Up Beyond All Recognition. 

Philologists generally agree the word “caucus”  derives from the Algonquin Native American word “cau’-cau-as’u”, meaning one who advises or gives counsel.  This event should requires a name change.

Iowa’s caucus system began during its early statehood (1846) days, changed to a primary system in 1916, back to a caucus in 1917. In 1968, the Democrat presidential nominee, Hubert H. Humphrey, did not participate in the primaries. The party decided to move away from backroom  shenanigans to a grass-roots effort – the genesis of the current misguided caucus.

During the 1976 Iowa Democratic Caucus, a relatively unknown Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter, ranked highest among five candidates.  Or did he?  A fraction of registered Iowan Democrats came to caucus, 7% of the total precincts failed to post any results, and  40 % of the caucus participants declined to back any candidate.  Carter  received a small percentage of the state’s 47 delegates.  At 9:00 PM, it was time to release  caucus results to the press.  They were:  Uncommitted (39); Jimmy Carter (8); all others (0).   

Tom Whitney, Iowa’s Democratic State Chairman, in a panic, performed some legerdemain, and came up with this solution:  use each candidate’s share of the raw vote to project how many delegates he or she would have earned had the 15% rule not existed.  The “15% rule” mandates each candidate receive that percentage of the total vote in order to remain “viable”.

Voila!  Thus recalculated, the results became:  Uncommitted (18); Jimmy Carter (13); Birch Bayh (6); Fred Harris (5); Morris Udall (3); Sargent Shriver (2); all others (0).  Said Whitney, “I know it was corrupting the numbers to some degree.”  But, the projected winner system supplied the patch:  Jimmy Carter was declared  surprise victor.  “I think it did change the course of history,” said Whitney, and mused about what would have happened had the original system been used.  “I don’t think Jimmy Carter would have become president.” 

The Democratic Iowa Caucus has always been a mysterious process.  The Democratic National Committee requires all delegates elected to the national convention reflect the votes of the precinct caucus, the first step of the process.  Voters disperse to informal caucus locations –  libraries, gymnasiums, coffee shops – to cast  ballots for  “first choice” for presidential nominee. 

A new 2020 rule by the Democratic National Committee required all national convention delegates reflect the vote of the “first determining step – the precinct caucuses.  This was supposed to have simplified the process.   

Then, 97 “satellite caucuses”, as well as a “final alignment” were added.  Simplification?  

Iowa has 1,600 precincts. 2020 Caucus volunteers, given no training on this untested app, downloaded it on caucus morning.  The software, christened Lightrail, total cost $60,000, was developed by Shadow, Inc., a company formed only five months earlier by 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Gerald Niemira.  (George) Soros Fund Management had already contributed $2,600,000 to Shadow, its largest single donation. Soros also funded Pacronym, the PAC arm of Acronym, a “dark money” entity that had purchased Shadow  early in 2019.

The Democrats had forewarning.  Two renowned computer scientists, J. Alex Halderman, University of Michigan, and David Jefferson, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, stated the mobile app was unstable and vulnerable to denial of service attacks.  The caucus savants ignored this. 

They boogied from Merrie Melodies to Loony Tunes. 

This is the party that has wasted three years on Russian hoaxes, harassment of Supreme Court nominees and the farcical impeachment of a sitting president, whose legitimacy they questioned.  They advocate technocratic – and socialist – oversight of universal health care, energy and finance,  yet cannot manage their Iowa Caucus.

In the movie “Groundhog Day”, weatherman Phil Connors is doomed to relive the same day, ad infinitum. Punxsutawney Phil has gone back into hibernation, and the Iowa Caucus is a riddle unsolved.

With only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders remaining as 2020 candidates, do the “Much Ado About Nothing” caucus results matter?

The popular vote system has malfunctioned at the Democrats’ caucus level, enough justification to retain the Electoral College system.  

Mary Himlin is President of the Kendall County Republican Club