Iowa Democratic party chief quits after caucus trainwreck

Originally published at:


Now the only thing that remains is to take away the “first in the nation” status from this trainwreck of a state


Maybe we can pass on this caucus BS now, just maybe.


I don’t think a botched caucus makes the entire state a trainwreck.

But yeah, it doesn’t need to be the first. Iowa already has an outsized influence on the American diet (corn, pork) and American literature (the Writer’s Workshop), it doesn’t need to be this politically powerful too.


Not more bizarre than, say, New Hampshire, where Warren got over 9% of the vote but only 0% of the delegates. (If delegates were allocated proportionately, that would have been at least 2 delegates.)

I suspect most casual observers don’t understand the way states – even primary states – arrive at their final delegate total. Most do not just allocate by proportion of vote statewide, but rather by proportion in some kind of precinct or district, and then somehow amalgamate them. In Iowa that amalgamation process was chided for being like the Electoral College, but in most states it is even worse because they don’t use fractions, but integers. South Carolina for example, works by congressional district, with the number of delegates in each of these districts an integer between 5 and 8 depending on democratic votes in earlier elections. When these 7 integers get added at the state level, the amalgamation error is likely to be at least as great as the corresponding error in Iowa, where at the precinct level fractions were allowed.

ETA: Americans love integers, roundoff errors and all. It makes no sense now that we have calculators.


The older voices of authority in the Dem establishment will try to keep this “first in the nation expression of pure democracy” running as long as they can, just to feed their own nostalgia and sense of time-server superiority. They’ll make every excuse in the book for it, pretend they never defended it, do everything except propose replacing it (and the hodge-podge of other broken American electoral mechanisms) with national standards that actually work and represent the popular will.


as a caucus participant, i personally like them. but i get that they have problems. a lot of these problems can be addressed, but it’s a process, and only being able to try out new ways to fix them during actual elections is the biggest hurdle.


Say what you will about the Republicans, but at least they know how to properly rig an election.


what do you call a stealth golden parachute ?

Most of their problems this round wasn’t because they were a caucus, but rather because the DNC insisted on their changing their system to report the first round totals. This resulted both in the decision to use ad-hoc technology, and to the confusion over which reported total (first or second round) was definitive.

My state is also a caucus state, but it doesn’t get the kind of hate Iowa always does because we are far from first in the nation. (In fact, not only are we fare enough down in the list not to have much influence in the primary, but by the time we get to the polls on election day the national media is often already declaring a winner.) I personally think there are benefits to small states being early in the process, but some kind of reform (I’ve mentioned the California Plan in other threads) probably makes some sense.


In engineering and medicine and military and other fields, there’s usually a “lessons learned” process initiated shortly after a major disaster or debacle, when there’s time and opportunity to take a breather and reconsider the way things are done. The current DNC leadership has proven itself incapable of doing this, and seems intent on repeating the same mistakes again and again.

The solution here is to get rid of the caucus system, period endstop. And, of course, stop this Iowa-first nonsense.


On the contrary, the problems only came to light this time because of the new reporting requirements. There is every reason to believe that the last one was just as bad, but they had a system in place to cover it up.


The only issues with the traditional aspects of the caucus have to do with some possible small mistakes at the local tally level. These happen every round because human beings are fallible, get caught not by an app but because the system is completely public and transparent, usually get ironed out after a while, and have little-to-no no impact on the final delegate count.

It’s not a botched caucus. Iowa has been a mess every cycle for more than a decade. And while Iowa has long been a stand out there are similar problems in most caucus states. Caucuses are a messy, weird, complicated thing. Being run entirely by inexperienced volunteers, using inconsistent processes.

This is a particularly big fuck up. But a lot of what we’re seeing now is just the added scrutiny that comes with a particularly big fuck up. Expect to hear about a lot more what the fuck with caucuses now that it’s a hot topic.

The DNC has traditionally been fairly not cool with it, more recently there’s been downward pressure on early states to put a more representative/diverse and larger state in the hot seat. The scattered calendar; the existence of caucuses; and small, conservative, white states having so much influence have been long term subjects of criticism from national Democratic figures. And the left in general.

But in most states the date and format of the primary is controlled by state law, and you might notice something about the early states in the schedule. This is not something the DNC can dictate, and they’ve failed in the attempt in the past.

The Iowa Democratic Party did that. Not the DNC. The DNC does not control caucus rules in individual states. And while they can exert pressure, there’s no indication that that pressure this time had anything to do with the specific format chosen or the piss poor execution and lack of prep on Iowa’s part.

What reporting there is on the National party’s involvement says that they tried to push back on the worst ideas. They apparently prevented the use of apps for “virtual caucusing” for absentee ballots, and there are reports that they warned against the use of the reporting app.

Most other caucus states are not using a process or reporting format like Iowa’s. If that came from the DNC they would be.

The primary problem this time was the reporting.

The other issues. The coin flips, miss counts, weird math and assorted other issues are default with caucuses. And were widely reported last time. And the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that.

The escalating fuck ups in Iowa. Both in the Republican and Democratic caucuses have just brought more attention to it.


That still doesn’t mean it’s right to call the entire state a trainwreck (or a mess). Feel free to call all their caucuses trainwrecks or messes—that’s fine, I wasn’t taking issue with that. But using the caucus(es) as an excuse to disparage the whole state seems really uncool to me.


The DNC is just being it’s hapless self, as it is in so many other things (even when they try to rig things against progressives it’s clumsy and obvious). If the national leadership had any backbone, was less sclerotic, and if a majority of them were truly unified in their opposition to this nonsense it could impose some party discipline on the state organisations, state laws be damned. There’s no excuse for this.


This time, the human errors did impact the race enough to change who won, which is a big deal. If all the errors were fixed, Sanders would have won in SDEs as well as the popular vote.

This guy made a spreadsheet, and you can check his work:

I took the per-precinct errors for Sanders and Buttigieg calculated from the spreadsheet above, and did a t-test on them. The odds of getting a set of errors that good for one candidate, and that bad for the other, by chance, are about one in 600.

That means that the Iowa party’s refusal (thus far) to fix the errors, is a clear case of rigging the caucus, not just the bungling incompetence they’re trying to pass it off as.


So the DNC is going to dictate changes to laws in Republican controlled states? Or pass a superceding Federal law in a government they currently don’t control?

And this is a power that political parties should have? The main thrust of primary reform since the mid 20th century has been to reduce party control of this process. And the stall on doing that has largely been the GOP and State officials in these early states.


The DNC, a private national organisation, is going to dictate changes to the bylaws of its state chapters (also private organisations). There are a number of ways they can do this.

The results indicate that this approach has failed. All they have to show for it is a dog’s breakfast of incompetence, corruption, no standards, and loss of confidence, all masked with a sheen of false nostalgia and helpless inertia.


Reporting first round numbers apparently was in response to new DNC rules. You are correct that the botched implementation of that rests at the feet of the Iowa DP.

they’ve failed in the attempt in the past.

If the DNC really wanted to change the order they could simply refuse to accept the results of any early caucus or primary. If they did this in cooperation with the RNC then states would probably have to comply. That they haven’t done that is partly because there isn’t as much hatred of small-states-go-first in the parties as there is on the internet at large. It is actually a pretty convenient way to kick off campaigns.

At least two candidates have filed formal appeals to the count; I’m sure they have their own spreadsheets, which will be carefully checked. There are likely small errors in all directions.

The fact that the DNC and the Iowa leadership are each claiming the other was incompetent is good evidence against the rigging charge. If it was rigged, it was incompetently rigged, as while there was no clear winner, Biden clearly lost.