There’s nothing like a disastrous confluence of politics, tradition and technology to set people off in a panic.
Iowa’s presidential caucus was Monday, Feb. 3. By Friday, the results were finally available. One of the main culprits in the delay was a new voting app the state was trying. Results were slow in coming, naturally causing a 24/7 panic among 24/7 news services. As further digging was done by reporters, violations of caucus rules were discovered. “Irregularities” were reported, although some appeared to be nothing more than irregularities caused by confusion.
There is as much blame to be shared as there are fingers to point. There are also enough complaints and concerns about Americans’ faith in the election system to make a person think that if so many people are questioning it, maybe we should be as well.
The outcome only affects our faith in the electoral system as much as we allow it. The entire saga isn’t exactly an example of a group putting its best foot forward.
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But who has been affected, aside from reporters forced to stay in Iowa longer than they thought they’d have to and candidates who have moved on out of the state but still bray about the results or lack or same?
The story political reporters and Iowa voters like to propagate is campaigns are born and front-runners are determined in Iowa. But of the seven presidents elected since 1976, only three – Democrats Jimmy Carter (1976) and Barack Obama (2008) and Republican George W. Bush (2000) – won in Iowa. In that same time frame. Only three of eight Republican caucus winners went on to win their party’s nomination.
This week’s events have prompted the quadrennial analysis of Iowa’s role in presidential elections. The populace is homogeneous; the method is confusing, outdated and useless; the outcome is unnecessarily magnified because of the caucus timing, giving disproportionate weight to Iowa’s minute tangible effect on the nationwide contest.
Should Iowa’s caucus be abandoned? That’s a question better left to the parties and the state’s voters. They can decide whether this week was a one-time perfect storm nightmare of logistics or a precursor to a mountain of other potential problems.
Likewise, parties and outside observers may wish to reconsider how they view Iowa’s results. As a look through results from the last 40-plus years, Iowa’s voting has an effect – except when it doesn’t.