Sam Burnham, Curator
The recent caucus disaster in Iowa obviously left a bad taste in the mouths of voters. "Electoral Dysfunction" is a term of our times for a reason. Disasters in Florida, Iowa, and elsewhere have frustrated people on even-numbered years for decades. We want our electoral process to be reliable, trustworthy, and secure. While recent fears of outside intervention stir the conversation further, the finger pointing this time all seems to be focused in one place. Iowa.
But is that really a fair assessment?
Consider that (this time anyway) the GOP caucus had no such issues. Sure, a smaller field and an obvious winner made that an easier task for Republicans, but they still had no hint of malfunction in their realm of the caucus. Only the Democrats were affected this year. The Republicans had their own controversy in the 2012 Iowa Caucus while the Democrats were unaffected. This shows us evidence that the two caucuses are completely independent and not connected in any way. The fact that it has happened to both parties shows us that it isn't just Iowa as one side or the other got it right in 2012 and 2020 and both sides do fine the vast majority of the time.
What really happened is what has me crying foul over the finger pointing at Iowa. The Iowa Democratic Party hired Shadow, a company started by former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers with the purpose of creating election infrastructure for the Democratic Party. This is not a herd of Iowans gathered in a cornfield licking 9 volt batteries as a step in troubleshooting technology as much of today's media suggest. No, the responsible party is a herd of Washington professionals, the type of folks who are typically critical of rural America and "flyover country" in general. The only way Iowa is at fault is that the state's party leadership elected to use this technology in their cacus reporting process.
Without a doubt there were other reported problems. Party officials seemed to be understaffed, particularly on the phones, but if the app had worked properly, they would have had enough people to get the job done. The biggest part of this debacle lies and the feet of Shadow, not Iowa - not the party and certainly not everyday Iowans. But, as always, Iowa gets the blame while the Washington organization that is truly responsible escapes accountability. After all, it can't be the techies, it has to be the yokels.
Nevermind that the "yokels" are trying to do what the big city moderns suggest - modernize. Paper and telephone calls would have averted this whole debacle. Mayberry, Walton Mountain, and Hazard County all would have been laughed at for their outdated simplicity but the results would have been much more timely.
So while Nevada Democrats scurry to redesign their electoral infrastructure before their big day, all eyes are on New Hampshire. Small states remain under scrutiny and media pressure. The powers that be want to diminish the political influence of such "backwards" places. It is an ugly phenomenon that is not remotely fair and even less recommended. So long as those of us in the hills, pastures, and plains dare to participate in society, that scrutiny will remain.
The big cities don't want us here. We can't let that stop us.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire