Jack Kurtz/Zuma Press

The Iowa Democratic Party may or may not have announced the winner of its presidential caucus, given that the party has released only partial results. Regardless, questions will continue about the political organization’s handling of the event. And Democratic officials aren’t the only ones who should be embarrassed. The party’s reporting problems have somehow inspired much of the media to once again express its obsession with identity politics.

As for the technical failures in what may forever be known as the Shadow Caucus, Dustin Volz, Tarini Parti and Alexa Corse report in the Journal:

Confusion and frustration buffeted Democratic Party officials and activists in Iowa on Tuesday after a new mobile app and a backup phone-in plan for reporting results malfunctioned, delaying the outcome from the first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucuses.

After Monday night’s failure, some officials in the 1,700-plus caucus sites complained about difficulties in downloading and using the app. Others said that when they tried to phone results to party leaders, they were put on hold or disconnected…

The app was built by a small Washington, D.C.-based company called Shadow Inc., the tech arm connected to nonprofit progressive digital strategy firm Acronym, according to people familiar with the matter. State records show that the Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow a little more than $63,000 over two payments in November and December. Shadow describes itself as a company that builds “affordable and easy-to-use tools” for progressives, according to its website.

In hindsight, party officials might have simply sought the best technology vendor, regardless of the political persuasion of its existing customers. A better question is whether one needed to hire anyone at all to create such a system, given the variety of off-the-shelf software products. Allowing people to report vote tallies from Iowa’s precincts surely doesn’t rank among the world’s greatest technical challenges.

Josh Barro

of New York magazine observes on Twitter:

I remain confused why you would need a purpose-built app to report just a few thousand data points. You could have done it on any number of ordinary messaging platforms so long as you pre-credentialed the users.

There are so many reasonable questions to ask after this failure, but a number of media observers have chosen instead to raise unreasonable ones. Rather than simply blaming the leadership of Iowa’s Democratic Party or their technology of choice, the Associated Press editorializes:

Beyond 2020, the debacle invited fresh criticism about Iowa caucuses, a complicated set of political meetings staged in a state that is whiter and older than the Democratic Party.

“The Iowa caucus is the perfect example of systemic racism. 91% of the voters in Iowa are white,” adds MSNBC analyst Zerlina Maxwell. Sean Illing at Vox chimes in:

The argument against Iowa, before last night, was pretty straightforward: The Democratic Party is a collection of diverse groups — young people, liberal whites, conservative-leaning African Americans and Latinos, nonreligious Americans, city dwellers, and so on. By contrast, Iowa’s population is roughly 90 percent white, uncommonly old, and heavily rural.

In other words, it doesn’t really look like America and isn’t representative of the Democratic base.

Before blaming Iowans for who they are, perhaps media folk should appreciate the fact that Monday’s caucus-goers were more like America than the leading Democrats seeking their votes. Among the top five finishers according to the data released so far, 100% are white, not one dwells in one of America’s biggest cities and the median candidate by age is a 70-year-old multi-millionaire.

According to a 2016 report from the Census Bureau, Iowa’s voting-age population is only slightly older than the U.S. voting-age population as a whole. So the median Iowa voter is likely around 50 and probably has a net worth below $100,000.

Whatever problems exist at the state’s Democratic party, Hawkeye voters provided an excellent opportunity for leading Democrats to mix with a more diverse population that’s more like America.


Follow James Freeman on Twitter.

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To suggest items, please email best@wsj.com.

(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Stuart Creque.)


Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “Borrowed Time,” now available from HarperBusiness.

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