No matter who is eventually certified as the Democrat who came out on top in Monday’s Iowa caucus, there is one winner – Vladimir Putin.
State DNC leadership has blamed the new reporting requirements, while district leadership has blamed the phone app which was used to report the totals. Representatives for Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign have claimed he is the winner on the basis of pre-caucus polling. Representatives for Pete Buttigieg’s campaign have claimed he is the winner based on the limited and haphazard results which have been provided.
Buttigieg’s own campaign recognizes the problems associated with the caucus system. One official spoke to Reuters:
The delay dampens the immediate benefits of a strong night and also raises unnecessary questions about the legitimacy of the results,” a Buttigieg campaign source said. “Whoever wins now must do their best to spin the results as to not look rigged.”
Republicans were aided by the controversy, using the opportunity to sow discord among the Democrats and particularly targeting the fanatical Berners. Republican news outlets like the Washington Examiner pushed a story that Buttigieg’s campaign had contributed to the company which developed the software app. Donald Trump, Jr. attempted to fuel the fire:
The pro-Sanders contingent of social media has seized upon the excuse, and the same people who have for months been demanding that any Democrat must be supported against Trump are tweeting, Instagramming and Facebook posting about “Mayor Cheat”, insisting that he is somehow a CIA plant, and swearing that they will not only never vote for Buttigieg but will support Trump over him in a general.
The declared winner of the Iowa caucuses has been rendered virtually irrelevant. The delays and infighting have created results which will never be trusted, even if they are meticulously researched and confirmed.
There were still a few important takeaways, however.
Pete Buttigieg has shown he is a contender. While the boost he may have otherwise received is minimal, it is nonetheless a concrete boost, of exactly the sort he needed.
Joe Biden was greatly aided by the results. Biden’s greatest strength is his electability… he’s an easy win against Trump. He does not gather very strong personal support, in part because he has lost in the past, in part because he spent eight years visibly playing second fiddle and in part because he has a history of disturbing actions and dubious statements. There are indications he may have come in fourth in the Iowa caucuses… a loss which could have damaged him significantly and risked a Howard Dean moment. Instead, Iowa can be effectively waved away by his supporters. It moves him closer to the many primaries where he is expected to be a powerhouse.
Berners have lost their expected mantra of “first two”, where they were projected to win both Iowa and New Hampshire and use those wins to somehow demonstrate that he was a viable candidate for the remainder of the country.
And Putin wins. As has been explained at length everywhere from the Kasparov book Winter is Coming to intelligence reports before Congress to the Mueller Report, Putin has two main interests in American politics, and they only tangentially concern electing Trump. He wants Presidents whose policy will aid his expansionist goals and he wants to inspire worldwide distrust in the American system of elections.
Another take on Iowa is simply this: mistakes happen, and are expected. When a mistake happens on a state level, it provides other states a chance to correct it before they have to deal with it. It’s federalism in action, and a demonstration of the power of the American system.
Instead of promoting America, some campaigns are aiding Putin in his second goal right now, trying to create deep divisions among the Democrats in order to get a short-term gain despite the long-term risk to the country. But Putin doesn’t really care about Trump or Bernie, Putin cares about his control over Russia. Those campaigns are risking further damage to America’s image internally and worldwide by playing toward Putin’s ends.