Iowa should serve as a lesson for other states

How to move on when democracy fails


(Doug Kerr/All Creative Commons/Flickr)

By Shona McMorrow, Collegian Columnist

I went into the Iowa caucus knowing that the caucus is not as important as people make it seem. Although Iowa is the first major contest in presidential primary season, it is in no way representative of the entire country, and certainly should not be seen that way during the primaries. A victory in Iowa is exciting, but it is not the end of the road for a candidate who does not do well, nor does it mean the winner is going straight to the presidency. I keep up with the primaries because I find them riveting. I love to watch the process play out as we get closer to the democratic nomination and closer to the vote in November. It’s exciting, and it should be exciting. Albeit frustrating, the United States’ political process is a fascinating one, it was the first of its kind, and it is why when I woke up to check the results in Iowa Tuesday morning, I was unbelievably disappointed.

A google search of “Iowa Caucus results” pulled up a chart of the candidates with no information next to them, a sad “zero percent reporting” displayed at the top of the chart. Shocked, I continued scrolling, finding news articles discussing an appas well as limited and inconsistent results. It was a mess and I put my phone down defeated and unsure of what was going to happen next, yet not all that surprised at the events that had taken place. The results slowly poured in, with 100 percent of the results not released until Thursday, days after the caucus took place. Even with the final results out, some feel that they cannot declare a winner, the Associated Press reporting on its inability to do so based on the irregularities and the close race between Buttigieg and Sanders, on top of evidence that not all of the results are actually in.

Where does this leave us? For some it leaves us with frustration and unanswered questions. It leads to conspiracy theories circling the internet, and it leaves us with a loss of faith in our political process. While I can’t say that any of the conspiracy theories are true, or that I believe any of them, a primary election filled with any kind of doubt is unnerving and unacceptable. However, I really cannot blame anyone for coming up with them. When your ability to participate in an uninterrupted and fair process is taken from you, what are you supposed to do?

The initial answer seems to be to move on. For the candidates, that is what they have to do. Iowa is just one state and with the New Hampshire primary only a week away, and super Tuesday coming up in a month, there is simply no time to dwell on it. A candidate for President however leads a much different life than I do. Am I and those in Iowa who participated in the caucus supposed to just move on and hope it goes better in 2024? Far too often, when something bad happens we are expected to move past it, and in certain situations that works. When it comes to Iowa, I am not going to be frustrated for the rest of my life or rant about it whenever it is brought up, but I am not going to forget it ever happened. Instead of hoping that those who create our processes will fix it, we need to demand that situations like Iowa never happen to begin with.

Instead of conspiracy theories and flocking to social media, we need to facilitate a larger discussion about what we do when our democracy fails us. It is too late for us to do anything about Iowa specifically, it already happened and we are already moving on, but we can demand better policy from those that create it or get involved in the process ourselves. We can vote for people who are going to make an effort to implement those policies, and when necessary we can exercise our right to protest. I do not think that what happened in Iowa necessitates a protest, but if and possibly when disruptions to our right to vote and fair elections continue, we must take a stand.

Problems with voting will not encourage people to trust the process, to trust that their vote counts and to get excited about exercising that right. If anything, those who already feel disconnected from the political process have no reason to believe that their vote matters when it is treated so carelessly. I hope that we move on to New Hampshire, and the rest of the states and territories, with Iowa as a learning opportunity, rather than just a simple mistake.

Shona McMorrow is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]