The Iowa caucus debacle plays right into Trump's 'swamp' narrative

The Iowa caucus debacle plays right into Trump's 'swamp' narrative
© Greg Nash

Congratulations, Democratic Party.

In a display of complete, abject incompetence, and likely enormous anti-Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic MORE bias, the historical mismanagement of the Iowa caucuses has gifted President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE fodder for the very narrative that catapulted him to a shocking 2016 victory: that the "swampy" system is corrupt, soaked in shady money, and should not be trusted.

To make matters worse? That narrative is rooted in reality.


After months of tireless preparation and millions upon millions of dollars poured into organizing and advertisements, the Democratic Party still found a way to shake voters' confidence in its already convoluted process further. They introduced an app, funded by dark money and with ties to both the Buttigieg and Biden campaigns, to help report the caucus results. None of the precinct chairs had received any training on the usage of this app before caucus day. The app itself was reportedly hurried into use despite design flaws, and was published on the very day it was tasked with tabulating the nation's voting decisions.

And why would the party do such a thing? Well, the same reason the establishments of both parties do anything and everything: money.

The Shadow app was created by former Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts economic agenda in battleground Ohio The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat MORE staffers — staffers whose philosophies are deeply emblematic of the old guard of the Democratic Party that remains awash in consultant cash. That old guard was so enamored with handing out cushy contracts to their D.C. friends that it nearly bankrupted the Democratic National Committee, leaving the DNC millions of dollars in debt heading into the 2016 election. And the Shadow team's previous venture before this app development? That also teetered on the brink of financial collapse.

Despite this, multiple states embraced the usage of the Shadow app because of national party encouragement, paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to this vendor instead of merely reporting the results by phone, the initial desire of Iowa Democrats. Because, while it may be solely implicit and unconscious, the ultimate driving factor for a majority of Democratic operatives, propelled by systemic incentives, is precisely what campaign finance activists have been screaming about for decades: money.

This is not to say that the Republican Party is any better. They are certainly much worse. They are almost entirely bought off by corporations, the wealthy and the well-connected. But because many Democratic leadership stalwarts have refused to loosen their grip on corporate donations and glossy but toxic vendor contracts, the shameless right is bound to capitalize on it and paint the left as hopelessly corrupt.


Pro-Trump organizations and pundits have been gleefully sharing images of Iowa caucus dysfunction. Republican Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE sneered at the mess, adding that "this is the party that wants to run your healthcare." The president smugly called the Democratic process an "unmitigated disaster" on Twitter and declared himself the winner.

The Republicans are winning the "swamp" narrative, however blatantly untrue in comparison to their systemic swampiness. They're winning, and they don't even have to try.

The Democratic Party has been correctly (albeit obsessively) pounding their fists about election integrity ever since the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump. But what about election integrity within their own party's process?

The 2020 Iowa caucuses have shown that integrity takes a backseat to maintain the same corporate consultant culture that handed Democrats a debilitating 1,000 seat loss during President Obama's tenure and subsequently, the presidency in 2016.

Instead of embracing grassroots organizing, which has lifted Bernie Sanders to the top of the polls despite enormous institutional obstacles, too many in the party establishment have tried to prop up the very systems that elevated Trump. They are either blissfully unaware of how dangerous those systems are, or are too steeped in their quotidian corruption to care.

How much more bungling can the Democratic elites stand before they look in the mirror and acknowledge the party overhaul that must take place? How much more agitation from its progressive base can the DNC ignore before the corporate majority in leadership finally releases their vise-grip on power? How much more public embarrassment can they take before they realize that the old ways are the fuel that Trump needs to limp his way to four more years?

I worry that the answer is much more. And that should terrify everyone.

Emma Vigeland is a correspondent and producer for TYT.