The Iowa caucuses were a devastating failure of the Iowa Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee. Were they trying to rig the results against Sanders? Cover up a devastating loss that would cut the legs out from under the Biden electability argument, and kill his campaign? Or maybe they wanted to anoint Buttigieg to take Biden’s place as the standard bearer for the class interests of the 1%? 

I don’t know. 

I do know we – every Democrat across the country – should assume the Party establishment is trying to rig the primary and take action accordingly

We have no basis on which to give them the benefit of the doubt. Not after what Donna Brazil revealed about the arrangement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign in 2016. Not after the heavily slanted convention committee nominations. Not after they argued in open court that they don’t even have to follow their own rules. Certainly not after establishment shills for the wealthist elites have been running around with their hair on fire talking about re-writing the convention rules now that Sanders is surging in the polls and they’ve finally started to wake up and realize that Bernie really can win the nomination. There are many other examples.

They’ve long ago exhausted every scrap of reason to believe them when they claim mistakes or incompetence. They probably are incompetent, and maybe they did make some mistakes, but there’s no reason at all for anyone to act as if that’s true – or that it was the sole reason for these abysmal failures. No honest person can give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.

Even if the Iowa issues started with incompetence and mistakes, the way it was handled is deeply suspicious. Releasing 62% or even 75% of the results without any explanation of how those results were selected for release should raise questions. If they had a paper trail that’s as solid as they’re claiming, they could have counted every precinct in a few hours, or maybe a day, with a hundred people or so in properly organized teams. Since they were already late, why not compile and release all the results at once? The partial release makes it look like the establishment is helping Buttigieg to claim the media narrative while obscuring the devastating defeat of Biden. If they release the rest of the numbers and Sanders ends up winning, they have effectively stolen the most important purpose of the Iowa caucuses from the campaigning perspective – the winning narrative going on to the rest of the primary (also, everything Krystal Ball has to say here).

As I post this, they’ve now released about 96% of the results – not without problems. In some counties, the county reported zero votes for Deval Patrick, but several thousand votes were taken from the Sanders column and added to Patrick’s total. The Black Hawk county supervisor couldn’t get the state party to correct them for so long, he decided he needed to post the correction to social media. There have been several other similar inconsistencies, mostly involving Sanders votes being switched to other candidates. Coincidence? Incompetence? Mistakes? Malfeasance?

The company that developed the failed app was set up just last September by former Hillary Clinton staffers. Odd that the Iowa Democratic Party would put their biggest day in four years in the hands of a company not even half a year old, and with only a few months to get a major piece of software ready, debugged, tested, fixed, and deployed. What have they been doing for the past 3 years to prepare for the 2020 caucuses? Why did they change their plans on such short notice? The sole investor in the company is another company headed by the wife of a senior adviser to the Buttigieg campaign.

Tara McGowan is denying that her high-profile liberal firm ACRONYM played a role in the Monday evening caucus debacle, claiming that her firm was merely an investor in the company Shadow Inc., which developed the app at the center of the [Iowa caucus] controversy. But internal company documents, a source close to the firms, and public records show a close and intertwined relationship between Acronym and Shadow…. In an interview on a related podcast last month, McGowan described Niemira as “the CEO of Shadow, which is the technology company that Acronym is the sole investor in now.”… A person with knowledge of the company’s culture, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, shared communications showing that top officials at the company regularly expressed hostility to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters. McGowan is married to Michael Halle, a senior strategist with the Buttigieg campaign. … Shadow was launched by former staffers to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, including Niemira, Krista Davis, Ahna Rao, and James Hickey, according to professional biographies listed on LinkedIn.

Is there a causal connection? I have no idea, but there’s no reason to act as if there’s any doubt. At this point it’s on them to built trust, not on progressives and other small-d democrats to give them the slightest benefit of the doubt.

What does this mean for Michigan?
Democrats who value a fair process – regardless of who they’re supporting – should start asking very pointed questions of the Michigan Democratic Party. Here’s some of the questions everyone should be asking.

The MDP will elect delegates to the national convention at 14 congressional district conventions held across the state on May 16th. There’s an MDP rule (2.14) that requires every unit of the party to publicly announce the “legal and practical” rules, procedures, and other details of each election at least 30 days in advance. The MDP has a history of refusing to enforce this rule. Will it be enforced this year?

In particular, each congressional district has the option of using a geographical distribution system. When this option is used, it changes the eligibility (residency) requirements for every delegate. Eligibility is one of the details specifically listed in rule 2.14 that must be announced at least 30 days in advance. The MDP has a history of specifically not enforcing this rule in regard to geographic distribution. Will the rules be enforced in 2020?

Delegates to the national convention must be elected by a system of proportional voting (explained here). The purpose of proportional voting is to ensure the majority cannot win every delegate seat available, coalitions in the minority can win representation in proportion to their numbers among the electorate. However, each congressional district has the option of using a geographic distribution system that can completely undermine the intent of proportional voting, as explained here. In effect, this is gerrymandering – something Michigan voted to outlaw in 2018, but lives on in the Michigan Democratic Party.

At the 2017 state convention, some districts used a geographic distribution system and did not inform their membership – only the district leadership knew the geographic distribution of state central committee delegate seats. As a result, progressives in some districts were denied seats they had fairly won (an example is detailed here, fourth paragraph), because not enough progressive candidates were residents of the right geographic regions. Imagine how much more effective gerrymandering would be if the party drawing the lines could keep the map secret. That’s how geographic distribution works in the Michigan Democratic Party.

In 2019, I was informed that Congressional District 8 was planning to use a geographic distribution system without giving proper notice to their membership. I informed Lavora Barnes, then effectively the acting state party leader, now officially the state party chair (Tom Perez recently appointed her to the national convention rules committee). She refused to enforce MDP rule 2.14.

Suppose in Congressional District A, Sanders (just for example) is allocated 5 national convention delegates based on the results of the March 10th primary. On May 16th, each of our 14 congressional districts will hold a convention to elect the people who will fill those delegate seats. Every person who wants to run must submit a pledged delegate form to the MDP a month in advance of the election (link below). So the MDP knows in advance exactly who is eligible to run for those seats. The Sanders campaign has the right to vet those applicants, and return a list of approved candidates to the MDP. The MDP will know who was approved and who was rejected. MDP leadership sends the list of approved candidates to the congressional district leadership. The leadership of each congressional district will know in advance who is approved. They have everyone’s address (required to join the MDP), so they know where each of the approved live. 

Using a geographic distribution system, the establishment can manipulate eligibility to ensure the people approved by the campaign who are least likely to stick with Sanders through the second ballot are the most likely to get elected. They can do that by splitting the 5 seats up into different geographic regions, so proportional voting becomes moot since in each region there’s only one seat to elect – each seat will be elected by a simple majority. The establishment has the membership to make sure they have a majority in the Sanders caucus of each congressional district. Only MDP members can vote, and not enough progressives have joined the MDP to prevent it. In some congressional districts, the establishment could design the geographic distribution to put most or all of the strong Sanders supporters in the same region, so only one of them can be elected, leaving the other regions to weaker supporters. Packing and cracking, just like gerrymandering.

This can happen without any plan or intent to it – just by people doing things “the way we’ve always done it”. There doesn’t even need to be a conspiracy. Just a sufficiently complicated system using unquestioned or poorly thought out procedures for implementing rules. The people who originally wrote the rules understood the need to make sure everyone knows how an election will be run in time to prepare appropriately. Some time between when the rules were written and now we’ve lost the institutional memory of best practices. Or maybe they were deliberately dropped. I don’t know which.

These geographic distribution systems are under the control of the congressional district leadership, not the state party leadership. Congressional district leadership is much closer to their members and will know who is strong for Sanders and who is weaker – probably even better than the Sanders campaign, having been on the ground with the prospective delegates longer. Most of the congressional district leadership across the state is heavily establishment, with a few exceptions. They will have the incentive and knowledge necessary to do this. The process will take place long after the March 10th primary, long after the media has turned their focus away from Michigan. That’s motive, method, and opportunity.

The MDP establishment has already admitted they do exactly this kind of candidate sorting regularly. The chair of the state party appeals committee said as much in an open meeting, as I reported here. The establishment sorts members into those who are known to the establishment coalition, and those who aren’t. Members who will vote with the establishment, and members who won’t, or might not. Members who are loyal to the party establishment, and members who are disloyal, or whose loyalty is suspect. The establishment is in power, and they use that power to ensure they remain in power. They illegitimately and systematically divide the Party into first and second class members, while calling for “unity.” They give their coalition extra votes by taking them from second class members and handing them to first class members.

Any candidate challenging the establishment must make sure their convention delegates will stick with them through however many ballots it takes. Sanders especially – the establishment is freaking out about him, because he has an excellent chance of getting the most delegates, or winning the nomination outright. The more convoluted the process, the easier it is for incompetence to arise or mistakes to happen. The more convoluted the process, the easier it is to screw with because everything happens deep in the weeds. There are reasons Party rules are byzantine. It’s not to promote rule by the people, but to prevent it.

Progressives need to join the Michigan Democratic Party in massive numbers, by April 15th (link below). They need to show up to their congressional district conventions in overwhelming numbers on May 16th. That’s the only way to ensure the most dedicated supporters are elected national delegates. Strong supporters need to run, so their candidate has a group of dedicated delegates who will stick with them through however many ballots – until their candidate wins or says stop (see details on how to run below).

This is about challenging established power. We need people willing to stand up to power. People who are ready to hold their ground and push back. People who are ready, willing, and able to fight, to challenge power and stay the course until we win.

Here’s how to join the MDP with a donation, and how to join online for free. You will receive an email that asks you to donate or join, don’t let it confuse you. You’ve joined, and you don’t have to donate, though they’d appreciate it. Make sure to join right away, don’t wait until April.

Here’s the form to run as a delegate to the national convention in Milwaukee. You have to print it out. It’s a mess, and the MDP should fix it. Until they do, under “demographic information” and ” candidate declaration (you may check more than one)” circle the right answer(s). Under “candidate declaration (you must check only one),” write in the name of the candidate you will support as a delegate to the national convention, or circle “undeclared”. Write “3rd” in the blank next to “Novembers”. Don’t forget to sign and date the form.

Sign up now, show up May 16th, win in Milwaukee.

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