Right in the centre - The Iowa disaster


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Monday was supposed to be a highly celebrated kick-off for the United States presidential election. The first round of candidate nominations took place in Iowa and is called the Iowa caucuses.

It is a somewhat complicated process, where voters gather in a central location for each district and vote for the candidate of their choice. As I understand it, the Iowa system is not a simple ballot box vote where the ballots can be counted and re-checked. One set of video coverage showed people actually lining up in corners of a gymnasium for their chosen candidate and a count took place. If their candidate didn’t get enough votes to meet a minimum pre-stated threshold, the voters had the option of shifting to another candidate or to an “undecided” category.

I had never really paid attention to the process closely and am not certain of the details, but somehow, this gathering and shifting all gets recorded and reported to a head office and soon after the “voting” takes place, the results get posted and convention delegate numbers are announced.

On Monday night, it was obvious that confusion was surpassed by chaos as the Democratic machine in Iowa couldn’t get the results together and make an announcement. Seeing as there were many candidates, all with hundreds of volunteers and numerous staff, it is no small wonder there was confusion. Some said the phone lines got overloaded. Some said a computer app failed. I suspect with so many thousands of Democrats involved in individual campaigns, that there simply wasn’t enough experienced people to actually run the process.

At any rate, the process failed and by early Tuesday morning, there were no official results. In fact, unofficial results were all subject to conjecture and wishful thinking by various candidates. The ironic net result was that the Democrats failing to exhibit capacity or competence to run a simple, one state nomination process, gave the Republicans and President Donald Trump a huge boost. Without even saying anything, the message, albeit perhaps unfair, was that if the Democrats couldn’t run a nomination, how could they be trusted to run the country?

Fox News stated it this way, “It was a colossal failure on Monday night that will only fuel the criticism of the state’s first-in-the-nation role, with rules so complicated that journalists had trouble explaining them and the Democratic apparatus couldn’t even count the votes.” CNN reported, “Representatives of presidential campaigns were not invited into the state party’s war room, which is standard practice. But as the night wore on without word, one said: ‘It’s clear that something has gone wrong.’”

The biggest surprise of the night was that the results didn’t come in on time. The second biggest surprise is that Fox News and CNN actually looked like they agreed on something for once.

On Tuesday morning, it was reported that candidates had moved on to the next nomination process in New Hampshire. They all claimed to have done well in Iowa, but they really don’t know. One candidate said they had 1,000 staff and volunteers working on their campaign this week.

The number of staff and volunteers and the obscene amount of money spent shows some major flaws in the U.S. system. Some candidates are raising hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. In contrast, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Michael Bloomberg are reported to be funding their own campaigns.

The U.S. process is definitely flawed, but it does make for an entertaining spectacle. Hopefully, they get a good president out of the process, but it is looking pretty grim right now.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.