Election night is never easy. It’s the night you look forward to the most; the excitement, the anticipation, and hopefully the celebration. But election nights are also dreaded — the fear about turnout, the concerns of the grassroots, the inevitable crisis that will arise. Most of the time, you get lucky, and there is only is a minor fire drill: A donor who didn’t get into the room in which they belonged; A poll watcher that didn’t get their packet. At the time, it feels like the end of the world, but looking back, you are grateful that that’s all it was. A truly major crisis is rare on election night, but that doesn’t make them any easier to endure.
We will have to endure days, if not weeks of coverage on the Iowa Democratic Party’s failures Monday night. The media’s coverage so far has been blistering.
For some of this stuff, DPI was just unlucky in the timing and unforgiving nature of the media coverage. Case in point: CNN was broadcasting live as a volunteer got hung up on after waiting an hour to report their precinct results. This was obviously an accident, but could not have happened in a worse way. Some of the coverage made me physically cringe, and there was no way to deny that fault rested with DPI. While I was driving today, public radio shared an interview with the Democratic Chair of Dallas County, who announced to the whole world that he’d never even downloaded the app to his phone, instead delegating that task to his precinct chairs. That is political malpractice.
Some talking points must have gone out. The Democrats are shouting in unison on tv and social media that this isn’t the first time there’s been a problem, “the Republicans had caucus issues a couple of years ago” they complain. A strange talking point–I guess it’s supposed to absolve them of the dumpster fire that started on Monday night. The Republican Party of Iowa did have an issue in 2012. However, the problem was isolated with a small number of precincts, all the other precincts had reported back, and those votes were available to the media. Not quite the same level of failure we saw on Monday.
The caucuses are put on by the parties and paid for by the parties. Sometimes it takes a party person to truly appreciate what the other party is going through. While the media feasted, I was very proud to see the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party Jeff Kaufmann put out a statement last night around 10:30 pm, saying he stood with the Iowa Democratic party and ensuring that the results were accurate.
Shortly after 8:00 am Tuesday morning, Governor Kim Reynolds, Senator Joni Ernst, and Senator Chuck Grassley all issued a joint statement affirming their support of and confidence in the caucuses. Iowans were sticking together. It was bipartisanship, and it was terrific. However, something was missing. The hours ticked on, and the news coverage continued to blaze. As the Iowa Democratic Party was roasted around the world, the Iowa Democratic Congressional leadership was missing in action. When somebody told me this, I was sure that they were mistaken. I looked. Nothing. It wasn’t until almost 4:00 pm Tuesday that Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne, and Dave Loebsack were able to sneak away from their witness protection detail and issue a statement of support to the party that they belong too. Unreal.
Not exactly profiles in courage. The only thing that came to mind as I tried to determine why they waited so long was that they were perhaps on the fence as to whether they should call for the party chairman to resign. True or not, that should not have stopped them from issuing a statement supporting their party, the caucus-goers, field staff, and volunteers.
There is no amount of money I would trade to swap places with the staff in the IDP war room Monday night. Some have said that they deserve it. They didn’t plan sufficiently, or they didn’t test the app enough. I say no one deserves that. To have been in that room must have been agony. It’s even worse that they went through it without the backing of their party’s congressional delegation. Finkenauer, Loebsack, and Axne should apologize.