Having lived in the United States permanently for the past seven years, there are many aspects of the country’s democratic experiment that, for me, remain quixotic and even idiotic, including the Iowa caucuses, the state where voters get their first opportunity to voice their choice for president, as they did on Monday with the general election fewer than ten months away.
Across the state’s 1681 precincts, voters put forward their preferred choice, not by casting a secret ballot but by participating in back-and-forth public debate with other voters, with the aim of advancing their candidate above the 15 per cent threshold required to stay in the contest. If it all sounds a little confusing, then know that the outcome of several precincts was determined by coin toss. “Heads – Biden wins. Tails – it’s Bernie.”
You get the drift. To an unfamiliar observer, the caucuses resemble more a cattle auction than a critical component of the world’s most powerful democracy. After preparing for this exact moment for the full three years of the Trump presidency, the Democratic Party had just one job: tally the votes and assign a delegate count to each of the field’s near-dozen candidates.
Long story short, party officials blew it, announcing “irregularities” in the counting because of a glitch in a newly deployed app, and thus leaving an opening for conspiracy theories regarding vote rigging to percolate, particularly among conservative commentators.