A lot has been said today about the complete mess of the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses. Every news outlet is full of commentators sharing their own takes on how this massive flub is a disastrous beginning to the 2020 election season.
I don’t care to duplicate all the words already being said, so I’ll only offer the one thing I think hasn’t yet been said about this disaster: it isn’t a disaster at all.
Just for a second consider what has happened. Iowa voters have chosen their delegates to the national Democratic convention. The state’s party has taken the time to make sure the count is accurate. And what is the purpose of the Iowa caucuses? To choose Iowa’s delegates. That’s it. And that has happened. The delegate counts, whether released an hour after the caucuses end or a month after, are what Iowans have chosen for Iowa, and those delegates are going to the convention. Absolutely nothing important has failed.
In fact, I assert that the narrative assumed by most of the press coverage today has it completely backwards. What is the go-to story being told today? It is about how embarrassing it is that nobody knows the results yet, how it is another knock against Iowa’s position at the start of the race and against their unusual caucus system. Pundits have pointed out how it is likely even to doom Iowa’s results to far less relevance in today’s extremely short news cycle, because the results won’t be available until the nation’s attention has already moved on to the State of the Union, the Presidential impeachment vote, and the New Hampshire primary. Campaigns just have to keep on trucking without even knowing who won.
To which I ask: how is any of this a problem? Every other day of the year, commentators are wringing their hands about how just a few states, by virtue of calendar positioning, get absurdly disproportionate influence on the overall result. And today we are expected to think it a calamity that Iowa’s caucuses may mostly just decide Iowa’s own voter preferences and not everyone else’s, too? Is it really a tragedy if entire campaigns aren’t doomed by the very first voters before any of the rest of the nation arrives at the decision-making table? Wouldn’t it be better if every state’s voters decided only what their own position would be at the national convention, and nothing more?
Let Iowa give us its results when it is ready. And let them be accurate, and let Iowan delegates have no embarrassment about this, but proudly represent the people of their state who have made those decisions. And let the rest of us, whose votes come in the weeks and months ahead, make our own decisions, which may mirror Iowa’s and may not. And precisely because those decisions may or may not be the same or even similar, let us set aside the notion that this accidental pause is something gone wrong. It might be a great discovery. Maybe we should even delay results on purpose in years to come. Many people are committed to “slow food,” arguing that its intentionality and focus helps preserve local food traditions and enhance the economy of food. Maybe it’s time we should also consider “slow voting,” however counter it may be to the trajectory of our increasingly instantaneous culture, as a means of preserving all the local voices throughout the country, and thus as enhancement to democracy rather than misfortune.
I will interestedly await Iowa’s results. But I am in no particular hurry.