“Something smells in the Democratic Party,” blasted The Des Moines Register in a scathing February 5 editorial, after the unverifiable Iowa caucuses on February 1 ended in an inconclusive photo finish between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The Democratic caucus process, which did not provide voters with paper ballots, left many questioning whether Clinton really won, or whether the count was rigged to favor the insider establishment candidate by her supporters in the Iowa Democratic Party. Is Sanders’ outsider campaign the victim of yet another example of the political “shenanigans” that seem to be a growing tradition in US party primaries?
The Des Moines Register, which has endorsed Clinton, took an applause-worthy stand of journalistic integrity (almost never seen) by questioning the voting process that benefitted its favored candidate.
“Clinton campaign officials are trying to shut down the questions, lashing out at Sanders backers for peddling conspiracy theories,” reported the Register. “It also doesn’t help the optics that the state party chairwoman drove around for years in a car with HRC2016 license plates,” stated the Register’s most recent article.
The Register explained that in the Democrats’ caucus process, voters physically arrange themselves around the room to signal their support for a presidential candidate and are counted by precinct captains. It also noted that in six precincts ties were settled by coin flips, so that a handful of delegates were assigned by pure chance. The entire process made a recount impossible, and a Democratic official confirmed that there is also no recount provision.
Hillary Clinton was quick to claim a victory, despite a hair-thin .02 percent margin, with many precincts still not having reported their count, as some party volunteers were reported AWOL on election night. Her campaign’s rush to claim the throne only exacerbated cynics and prompted raised eyebrows. “Hillary Clinton won Iowa. End of story,” declared Matt Paul, Clinton’s Iowa campaign director. But for many voters, it felt like Florida in 2000 when Fox News prematurely called the election, prompting George W. Bush to claim victory and raising a storm of controversy.
The media have recently reported that after some investigation, the Iowa Democratic Party did discover errors in the results from five precincts, but they insist the outcome of the caucuses remains the same, with Clinton winning by a quarter of a percentage point.
Sanders’ campaign initially demanded to see the official state counts, but was denied. Sanders later decided that it was impossible to really determine who won, and politely called the contest a draw.
The end result reminded election defense activists of the Republican caucus in 2012, where Mitt Romney was anointed the victor, but it was later discovered that Rick Santorum had actually won. In that contest, many believed that the GOP may have manipulated the reported vote totals.
In the final moments of the documentary movie Mitt, which covers his 2012 campaign, Romney makes an unusual comment, quoting an unnamed campaign member who said to him: “In some ways, we kind of had to steal the Republican nomination. Our party is Southern, evangelical and populist. And you’re Northern, and you’re Mormon, and you’re rich. And these do not match well with our party.”
Rigging may not have occurred in the 2016 Iowa caucus; perhaps the Democrats were simply “disorganized,” as one party official claimed.