After Last Night's Mess, It's Time to Let Go of the Iowa Caucuses

After Last Night's Mess, It's Time to Let Go of the Iowa Caucuses

Why we should no longer put faith in this one state.

Published February 2, 2016

After millions of dollars, thousands of television commercials and months of campaigning, the voters of Iowa finally cast their ballots Monday night, and the results were a mess. The polls were wrong. The votes were late. Two candidates dropped out. And Ben Carson went home to do his laundry.

Let's start with the Republican side, where voters chose Ted Cruz, the most odious of all candidates running for president, the guy who will say or do almost anything to get elected, and who is often described as the most hated man in Congress. After calling the Senate Republican Leader a liar and alienating his own party, Cruz has so few friends in the chamber that no senator, not even his close friend Mike Lee, has endorsed him.

Despite his win, Cruz will likely join the club with the last two GOP winners in the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, neither of whom went on to win the party's nomination. To celebrate last night, Cruz delivered what may have been the longest speech of the evening, which was interrupted by Hillary Clinton, who came, spoke, and left, while the Texas senator was still on stage, and then by Bernie Sanders, who also spoke while Cruz was still basking in the glow of victory.

It seems this adventure into Iowa has become a colossal waste of time for the GOP. After picking three successive losers in the last three Iowa caucuses, maybe Republicans will now wake up and change the rules so this tiny state no longer goes first in the nominating process.

The Democrats should also kick Iowa from the starting gate. In a state whose entire Black population could fit comfortably into a college football stadium, Democratic candidates wind up catering to a base of white liberals who are largely unrepresentative of the broadening diversity of the party. It was no surprise that Sanders came close in Iowa, or that he will likely win in New Hampshire, considering neither state has a significant population of people of color.

The real tests for the Democratic campaign will come in South Carolina and Nevada and other states, which more accurately reflect the party the candidate hopes to lead.

I stayed up until 4 in the morning watching the results come in from Iowa last night, and the process itself was also a mess. The Sanders campaign complained, and the state party denied, that 90 of the 1,683 Democratic precincts in the state were unstaffed, which could have accounted for the ridiculously slow process of counting results. At least six precincts were reportedly decided by a coin toss. And in some precincts we saw reporters on live television holding up popcorn baskets filled with the actual paper ballots during the voting.

I couldn't help remembering the "hanging chads" and the butterfly ballots of the Bush v. Gore 2000 election debacle and wondering why we still haven't fixed our broken election system. It's 2016. Why are will still using paper ballots to cast votes? Why isn't this done electronically with paper receipts? And why doesn't the state Democratic Party release actual vote counts as the Republican Party does?

By the time I went to bed at 4, NBC was the only major news outlet I saw that called the race for Clinton, who had won 49.8 percent of the vote to 49.6 percent for Sanders. A single precinct in Des Moines had not turned in final results, so most other news outlets held off on making a call. But by Tuesday morning, 100 percent of the precincts had reported and the news media still hadn't called the race for Clinton. The New York Times said the two Democrats were still "locked in a tight race" and the Washington Post lead headline announced: "With all votes in, Clinton takes lead."

Excuse me, but if all the votes are in, a lead is called a win. If Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers have the lead at the end of regulation in Sunday's Super Bowl, that's a win, not a lead. Which brings me to the biased media narrative against Hillary Clinton in this campaign. Yes, it was a close race, but a win is still a win. If Sanders had won by two-tenths of a percentage point, as Clinton apparently did, the Sanders campaign and the media would not have described it as a "virtual tie."

It wasn't until 1:04 p.m. Eastern time, 17 hours after the caucuses began, that the Associated Press finally called the race for Clinton, which the Des Moines Register and New York Times also reported.

I understand the media doesn't want to be unfair to Sanders, but it's unfair to Clinton to continue a narrative to hype a campaign. True, Sanders often draws far more supporters to his rallies than Clinton does, and beats her handily among young voters, but here in one of the whitest of white states, with a large turnout of young people, in what should have been favorable ground for Sanders, Clinton still managed to hold him off. She got little credit for that, and even if she had won a more decisive victory it would have been framed in the context of how far Sanders had come from behind. There's no way for Clinton to win in this setup, but it's also not fair to the public to put so much faith in this one tiny, unrepresentative state.

It's time for Iowa to go.

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(Photo: Chris Carlson/AP Photo)

Written by Keith Boykin


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