Last week in Iowa, a crime took place — more than one, in all likelihood, but only one of true global consequences. The Democratic Party stole an election. The first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses were a disgusting, week-long ménage à trois between party, media and candidate, and all three managed a simultaneous climax Friday night during a Buttigieg New Hampshire town hall that may just as well have been held in Pyongyang. Wearing his goofy, Alfred E. Neuman smirk, Mayor Pete came bounding out on stage like a “Price is Right” candidate and desperately shuffled through his prefab expressions in a failed bid to approximate genuine surprise as CNN’s Chris Cuomo relayed to him the Iowa Democratic Party’s final, uncorrected election results. The last 3% had been on the shelf for 26 hours, only to coincidentally trickle out just in time for the start of the mayor’s nationally televised event. “Oh, that’s fantastic news, to hear that we won,” Buttigieg said. Seconds later, seismographs in Tokyo registered the collective American groan. And with good reason. You won’t find a more ham-fisted performance anywhere outside of a Hawkeye slaughterhouse.
To their credit, some mainstream news outlets, like the Associated Press and New York Times, refused to call the race in light of the unprecedented volume of inaccuracies reflected in the final tally. Why these inaccuracies almost exclusively benefited Buttigieg at the expense of Sanders or Warren is for the conspiracy theorists to sort out. The motive is virtually irrelevant. The important thing is what this contrived coronation reveals about the Democratic Party’s true priorities: a party that cared more about people who spend hours sitting in urgent care waiting rooms than C-suites would have demanded the Iowa Dems correct the obvious errors and discrepancies in their returns, and, as a result, Bernie Sanders would have won Iowa by any measure.
Instead, Pete Buttigieg was illicitly and incorrectly declared the winner after initially calling the race for himself with 0% reporting, something not even Joseph Stalin had the gall to do. If we’re going to bother pretending to have fair elections in this country, we ought to at least take the time to get the scene order right. First, you let the party manipulate the votes. Then, you declare victory. Having it this backward is usually grounds for invasion, and, make no mistake, if what transpired in Iowa last week had happened in a place like Honduras or Syria, the U.S. would already have boots on the ground, citing a pressing need for regime change.
But what’s additionally bizarre here is that the Democrats would risk so much on such an obviously fraudulent spectacle. The party has spent the better part of four years positioning itself as the alternative to morally bereft Trump-era Republicans. Why ruin that reputation over the course of a single week just to prop up a CIA spook who is so detested by Black Americans that he’s had to resort to faking their endorsements?
The party elites, it seems, have mistaken the frequent call to “Vote Blue No Matter Who” for a binding oath of fealty. Even if it were, ask Charles I and Louis XVI how much that’s worth when the chips are down. Loyalty has to be earned, at least through fairness of process. That’s part of the burden Democrats assumed when they decided to court the less tribal half of the American politic.
Unlike Republicans, who would chauffeur Adolf Hitler to the White House in a stretch limousine if he gave President Trump even a passing compliment, at least some modern Democratic voters have a keen enough sense of smell to detect bullshit and enough of a brain to avoid it. So this debacle in Iowa won’t just be bygones come November, especially if Buttigieg ends up as the party’s nominee. Votes and donations will suffer. The only way the Democrats might recoup is to start soldering metal Tom Perez heads atop corkscrews to sell at the convention this summer, if indeed they decide to proceed with that mere formality at all.
But the real upshot of Iowa, the real headline, is this: “Democrats Spend Years Investigating Election Meddling, Rig First Caucus.” Professional gamblers will tell you that it’s generally a bad idea to tip your hand while the chips are still on the table, and it’s a cardinal sin to do it before a single card has even been played. But Tom Perez’s Democratic Party isn’t staffed by professionals of any sort. These are amateurs who have such disdain for the left-wing of their own party that they’ve decided, one state into the primary, to go mask-off and reveal that all the ballyhooing about Russian meddling in 2016 was actually just a pretense to win a few cheap votes. Now we know the Democrats never really cared about or believed in the sanctity of elections. They weren’t upset that Vladimir Putin had manipulated votes. They were just jealous that he was so much better at it.
The impact this will have on the 2020 general election can’t be overstated. Democrats just gifted Donald Trump the best week of his entire presidency. His impeachment trial ended with a wet pop, and the entire force of the U.S. media apparatus immediately replaced it with nonstop coverage of his opposition flaunting all of their dishonesty and ineptitude. If this is an accurate prelude to the presidential race, then expect this country to get only dumber and uglier in 2020.
Contact Skylar Ruprecht at skylarru ‘at’ stanford.edu.