Thanks for reading our newsletter. In the wake of Monday’s first-in-the-nation debacle, Dr. Bryon Allen, Chief Research Officer, reminds us of why Iowa matters and how the character of each state’s primaries and caucuses should reflect each state’s sensibilities. It’s a compelling counter-narrative piece. In addition, you can read my piece on Medium where I critique the tech and the politics of having an app for “that” was ill-advised. For intelligence like this and much more, reply to this email and I’ll connect you with our outstanding team. I look forward to hearing from you!
– Michael D. Cohen, Ph.D., CSO, WPA Intelligence
In Defense of Iowa
By Bryon Allen, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer
This was going to be a piece about the implications of *insert name here* winning the Iowa Caucuses, but I have to submit it and we don’t know who won. By the time you’re reading this we might, who knows?
As of late morning Tuesday, we don’t know who won Iowa, but we know who people think lost—the Caucuses themselves. A combination of frustrated candidate boosters (led by teams Bernie and Buttigieg), political operatives who have long hated the caucus process, and political scientists and election reform busybodies are all piling on Iowa.
But the Iowa Caucuses are good. They represent a type of community-based democracy that is particularly midwestern and rural. You get together in a school gym, a parish hall, or at the VFW with your neighbors and you argue a bit about the candidates. Then you visibly and publicly support someone. That’s a kind of democracy that is peculiar and special to its setting.
I like when states have systems that fit their character. I like that California has extremely long mail voting and then takes weeks or even months to count its ballots. It’s a perfect combination of come-as-you-are-when-you-want individualism and institutional incompetence. Even Joan Didion hasn’t captured the zeitgeist of California quite so well as its election system does. I like that Pennsylvania has a primary that technically binds none of its delegates.
It’s a wonderful and flagrant example of country’s character as a collection of sovereign states rather than as a central federal system with administrative cantons that we have so many different and weird ways of administering primaries.
The problem with Iowa isn’t Iowa, it’s what we want Iowa to do. We want a slow, rural community process to rapidly produce a centralized count to feed to beast of 24-hour news. We want it to go first and be gatekeeper to a nomination while the Democrats apparently wanted to foist off some post-modern political science experiment of three different “official” counts on a system that kind of meanders its way toward getting even one.
What the Democrats tried to do in Iowa obviously failed… and always had a high chance of failing. Trying to patch over a human administration challenge with a quick-and-dirty tech solution was always a recipe for hilarity, but I hope that doesn’t cause us to give up on caucuses, just give them a chance to be themselves. Maybe take a lesson from the caucuses instead. Go talk to your neighbors, have a potluck, the results will be along eventually.