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Here are 11 crucial takeaways from last night’s Iowa debacle

Here are 11 crucial takeaways from last night’s Iowa debacle
Image via Screengrab.

What a night, huh? Here are the big takeaways:


1) Ever since there was a Daily Kos in 2002, I’ve railed against the Iowa caucus system. It is unfair (who made Iowa king?), unrepresentative (91% white and mostly rural), and undemocratic. With turnout expected to be around the same as 2016’s, and well off the 2008 mark, it means that only about 6% of Iowa voters turned out. And yet it’s this small group of people that’s supposed to shape the field for us? Enough is enough. The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus is a disgrace, and finally everyone else sees it.

2) There is no conspiracy theory that explains away the incompetence of Iowa’s Democratic Party. That’s what happens when an unelected elite thinks it deserves an unearned gift—complacency and unresponsiveness.

3) That said, Joe Biden benefits the most, given what seems to be, by all indications, a dismal night. In our world of media micro-cycles, we’ll be moving on to chattering about whether Donald Trump will mention impeachment in tonight’s State of the Union address, the New Hampshire debate, and New Hampshire’s looming primary (another unrepresentative state with an unearned pole position in the primary).

4) The biggest loser, conversely, is the person who appears to have won the night—Bernie Sanders. He loses his prime-time victory speech. Ironically, it was his campaign’s insistence that Iowa count actual votes that led to last night’s disaster, but don’t blame him—he was right. While Hillary Clinton won the delegate counts in the 2016 caucuses, chances are very good that Sanders would’ve won a count of the popular vote. And why are we recreating everything that is wrong with the Electoral College at the state level? The obvious answer was to ditch the stupid delegate counts and just declare the popular vote winner the winner, right? But the Sanders camp didn’t push that.

5) The biggest asshole of the night was small-liberal-college-town Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who gave a victory speech utterly divorced from the reality on the ground. His pretend “I won and shocked the nation” speech was everything we hate about politics—a Trumpian attempt to create reality by merely declaring it so.

6) It’s hard to see how Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar continue forward from here. Sure, there’s no reason to quit before New Hampshire, but they’ve got no juice left. They bet all on Iowa, and Iowa said, “We suck,” and that was that.

7) Republicans are taking a victory lap, with a “If they can’t run a caucus, how can they run a country?” tour. Let them have it. We’d do the same if they were in these shoes. Luckily for everyone, the Iowa Democratic Party isn’t on the presidential ballot. I think we could agree to vote for the other candidates instead. And you can always ask them about the raging success of their “repeal and replace” strategy.

8) The cable networks pretty much all cut away from Elizabeth Warren’s speech, for reasons that make zero sense. Now, Klobuchar was smart enough to go onstage when the cable network pundits were all staring at each other with nothing to say or do. But really, with all that dead air to fill, just play the candidate speeches. All of them. I mean, CNN cut away from Warren to put on RICK FUCKING SANTORUM. Unacceptable.

9) Given last night’s mess, it’s extrafortuitous that our new national pre-primary primary (aka “2019”) whittled down the field before Iowa could get its grubby hands on it. As a result, candidates spent less time in Iowa than they had in prior cycles.

Now I’m looking forward to seeing that number go down to single digits in future cycles.

10) Another note on turnout:

11) For all the talk about Sanders reshaping the electorate, it’s just not happening. If he eventually gets 25%, which seems about right, he will have lost half his support from 2016, without managing to increase the number of caucus-goers. Fact is, only Barack Obama has managed to “reshape the electorate” in recent history, and we have no one of his caliber on the line. Michelle Obama would’ve done it. Hard to see anyone else. And that’s tragic, because Obama made everything so much easier.

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