Voter faith in the DNC was fraying in 2016; Iowa unravelled it entirely | Opinion

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg gestures during a rally at Lincoln HIgh School, Des Moines, on Feb. 2, 2020, the day before the Iowa caucuses. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

By Chris Dolan

The hashtag #TomPerezResignNow has been trending on social media following the debacle at the Iowa Caucuses. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and the Iowa Democratic Party are under tremendous pressure for the Iowa Democratic Party’s failure to collect and transmit results of the caucuses. This fiasco has made a mess of the Democratic nomination process. Although the DNC and Perez did not operate the caucuses, they exercise significant influence over the process.

Iowa Democrats and the DNC can blame coding problems associated with a new app and changes in the rules for reporting the results. The app was not properly tested and the party personnel using it were not adequately trained.

But the Iowa Democratic Party’s vague and cryptic messaging fails crisis management 101 and many believe Tom Perez should take the blame. The promise to release only half of the caucus results reeks of opacity and election rigging. And we do not know when the full results will be reported. Tuesday night, later in the week, or next month? How can the public believe in the integrity of the results? In the absence of full results, all we are getting is a lot of spin based on irresponsibly released partial counts.

The secrecy driving the process looks like a repeat of the 2016 Democratic nomination when Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters accused DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and other politicos of rigging the system in favor of the establishment candidate with superdelegates, debate scheduling and other maneuvering. That the app used to report results was developed by ex-Hillary Clinton campaign personnel doesn’t improve the optics.

What makes things look even more suspicious this time is that the Biden campaign requested that it be able to look over and review the caucus results before they are released to the public. There is no doubt that the Sanders campaign is stung by the breakdown in Iowa. As Democratic activist Shaun King tweeted, “I’ll be glad to see Tom Perez step down from the DNC.”

The confusion we are witnessing is dangerous to voting and the democratic process in the U.S. Russian intervention in the 2016 general election to benefit the Trump campaign made clear that technology and cyber issues in American elections are direct threats to election integrity. With all of this in the background, Iowa had four years to get ready. But Tom Perez and the Democratic Party simply blew it.

This dysfunction and incompetence has seriously damaged the eventual nominee and the Democratic Party. Pundits will be dissecting this for months and it will taint whoever the Democratic nominee will be.

That eventual winner was denied the opportunity to make a major speech on election night before flying to New Hampshire. They were also denied much-needed momentum and new opportunities for fundraising in a still crowded field of hopefuls who now have even less reason to end their campaigns.

Without a clear winner, candidates are jockeying for position now more than ever. Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized the process by stating “I think they ought to get it together and release all of the data.”

Sanders said that the Iowa Democratic Party “has been negligent in not getting us timely results.” Senator Amy Klobuchar used the disaster to claim, “I’m someone that thrives in chaos.” Mayor Pete Buttigieg even claimed victory on Monday night when there was no victory to be had. None of this is good for party unity.

All this gives a huge boost to President Donald Trump, who is campaigning on a great economy and with a lot of money. He can now attack Democrats and bask in the fiasco at the same time he stares at his impeachment acquittal in the Senate and positions himself at the state of the union. Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale called the system “rigged,” conveying a sense that the DNC was engineering the results.

In a strange twist, Biden may be the one who comes out on top even if he finishes poorly in Iowa and in New Hampshire. The debacle of the Iowa Caucuses s was the story on Tuesday, not Biden’s expected underperformance.

It is hard to see how the Iowa Caucuses continue to lead the nomination process every four years. In its current form, the Iowa Caucuses seem dead. And Tom Perez and the DNC are to blame.

Chris Dolan is a political science professor at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa. His work appears occasionally on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.