So the winner of the Iowa Democratic caucus this week was… no one.
Two days after a vote which used to be tallied by a show of hands, and then a series of phone calls, the world is still waiting on a decisive result after the failure of, guess what, an app.
On the basis of the figures that said widget has been willing to give up, Bernie Sanders is (at time of writing) in the lead on raw vote but is coming in second to Pete Buttigieg in total state delegate counts.
They’re currently sitting at 11 pledged delegates each, with Elizabeth Warren nabbing five and Joe Biden coming in a disastrous fourth place. He may end up nabbing a single delegate — or not.
The ultimate winner?
Donald Trump, of course, who can diss the Democrats for being unable to organise a series of high-school gym meetings in the vast high-school gym of the Midwest, while offering as an alternative a State of the Union address like it was a mid-afternoon variety show on Italian TV, with cheering and booing.
It even had a pretty girl giving one lucky audience member a medal, and Pelo-cinella the clown tearing the script up at the end.
The Donald will pay out on this fiasco now and again, right up to November.
To the old-skool politics for the moment. Bernie Sanders would have been hoping for a clearer win in Iowa, a centrist state whose core Democratic party leans leftish.
He would have especially been hoping that he wouldn’t be neck-and-neck with Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who talks like a West Wing tragic and can play the piano in Norwegian, apparently.
To run close ahead of Warren would have established left dominance. To run close ahead of Biden would have created an “establishment-killer” narrative.
To run just ahead of the guy who will, in the HBO movie of this, be played by that guy who’s Charlie Sheen’s side-kick in Two and a Half Men is close to humiliating.
Buttigieg is like one of those people your opponents hire to follow you round in a bird costume with a sign saying “too chicken to debate me?”, etc.
That’s the optics of it on mass media anyway.
On the ground, the rise of Buttigieg is a demonstration of how genuinely democratic the caucus actually is.
Not only can a candidate defeat any amount of an opponent’s cash dominance by the hard work of going round to living rooms and eating awful casserole dinners for a year or two, but the two-stage vote allows different factions to regroup in relation to the first vote, and thus give the party genuine alternatives.
That already makes the thing look a little folksy and rickety to the section of the population which has given up on democracy — or what’s offered to them under that name — in preference for a spectacular soft authoritarianism, which they feel represents them symbolically amid the ruins of actual political representation.
The stuff-up with the voting app only accentuates that.
It is, as these things are these days, a stuff-up by the centrist establishment which contracted a group — called, of course, Shadow Inc — dodged up by young Democratic insiders to sell services back to the party and make a motza.
This is very much the trend these days, as centrist-progressive parties fall over and start to die.
Operatives who joined when they were 12 and, with a middling success rate, start a group to cream-off fees from the government funds that go to political parties.
They’re hired by former colleagues who know that they too will soon be doing the same thing. Since they are a self-selected bunch with limited options, the process creates a sort of demonic combination of the Peter Principle and the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which total-inadequacy organisations hire inadequate people, both sides of the deal affirming a false picture of the other’s competence.
Labor is full of this here, all happily forward-planning their 2022 loss.
The scuttlebutt around the Iowa primary is that the Buttigieg campaign had previously dumped money into Shadow — and therefore join the dots sheeple. But it would be a pretty elaborate scenario, involving hacked numbers and deliberate chaos, with Buttigieg as either stooge or delusional, narcissist, non-lethal psychopath.
That, at least, would be a show.
The tragedy of what happened in Iowa is that, due to pointless high tech, actual party democracy has been made to look like an obscure folk activity, such as clog dancing or straight sex.
It’s the exact reverse of how things should be, beamed out to the country at large through Donald Trump’s State of the Union fun-house mirror.
Still, it has not been without effect.
The contest now moves on to New Hampshire. Sanders has to win this big; the cousin of his native Vermont.
But with only a single round vote to cast, Amy Klobuchar’s loyalists may desert to him. The furious competition will be to cannibalise Biden’s remnant vote.
Biden will hang on, no matter how bad the New Hampshire result, hoping for a strong-showing from the South Carolina primary at the end of the month, whose substantially black Democratic base is centrist and socially conservative. (Bernie will likely win the interim Nevada stoush.)
With that, he goes to Super Tuesday on March 3 — 15 states, including California, many of which will be dominated by the Democratic party machine.
Mayor Pete will fade away, Bernie and Warren will be make or break, and Mike Bloomberg will enter the contest. And if you’re very, very good, Hillary will announce in a fortnight or so.
Ha ha ha, what fun — the global collapse of one whole side of politics, as military-state power, capital, and popular nationalism fuse to one whole.
As an added bonus, Trump was acquitted of impeachment, and a whole batch of the Iowa results were wrong and had to be corrected.
Whoever really won the Iowa primary, it wasn’t any of us.