I still remember a meeting I attended many years ago, when I was in City Hall. A number of neighborhood groups–aggrieved about something I no longer recall–met with Mayor Hudnut and a small group of city officials and accused us of engaging in a devious conspiracy to undermine whatever it was they were exercised about. Bob Cross, then Deputy Director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, responded that incompetence usually explains far more than conspiracy. (Actually, as he remarked after the meeting, we would have been incapable of pulling off a conspiracy.)
It was a bit of wisdom I’ve not forgotten.
There are all sorts of ongoing problems with the Iowa Caucuses–working folks often can’t participate, Iowa is over 95% white and unrepresentative of the nation as a whole, and the parties and media pay far too much attention to the results. Perhaps the monumental cluster-f**k this year will prompt a re-evaluation. (I personally favor a national primary…or at this point, even a retreat to those despised “smoke filled rooms.” Trump would never have emerged from a smoke-filled room.)
In the wake of Iowa’s inability to issue immediate results, Talking Points Memo blamed complexity and an app that was definitely “not ready for prime time.”
Experts in cybersecurity and election administration told TPM on Tuesday that the app chosen by the Iowa Democratic Party failed to handle the complexity, providing an example of what not to do in administering an election.
But incompetence isn’t an explanation that feeds the fevered imaginations of conspiracy theorists.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders identified a donor who had given money to both Mayor Pete and to the company that developed the flawed app (as had four of the Democratic contenders) and concluded that Pete was part of a clandestine effort to rig the election. Anti-Bernie folks responded by identifying a guy with a “commie background” who has donated to Bernie, so Bernie’s a commie.
For the record, Bernie’s campaign has said the caucuses were not rigged.
Business Insider reported that GOP operatives were gleefully piling on.
Amid the chaos surrounding the delayed results of the Iowa caucuses, multiple Republicans have pushed conspiracy theories that imply the process was rigged against Sen. Bernie Sanders.
With so much confusion in Iowa, some in the GOP saw an opportunity to be exploited.
There is no evidence whatsoever the caucuses were rigged, but some Republicans are pushing this conspiratorial narrative in what appears to be a fairly transparent effort to divide Democratic voters. The primary season is already heated, with supporters of the various Democratic candidates often duking it out online.
A column in the Washington Post summed up the various elements of this mess that should genuinely trouble Democrats, and the lessons this exercise in breathtaking incompetence should teach.
Transmitting results digitally opens up a whole cyber-world of hacking risk — yet Iowa insisted on doing it anyway. Organizers did try to guard against disaster by requiring precincts to include snapshots of an on-paper count. But there’s a lot more they didn’t do, such as test their system statewide or tell any security experts the name of the for-profit company that constructed the app in a hurried two months. (That name, by the way, is “Shadow, Inc.” Now don’t you feel better?)…
Iowa party officials started by crying “user error” to explain the struggles many precinct captains had downloading and uploading. Okay, if “user error” means very few people could use the app without encountering an error. Some encountered limited bandwidth because so many individuals were accessing the program at the same time, which the party might have anticipated considering they were running 1,681 caucuses simultaneously. Some in rural areas ran into poor wireless service, which the party also should have anticipated considering, well, it is Iowa. The next day, officials began to blame a “coding issue.”
The Iowa imbroglio, in other words, so far reveals lots of incompetence and little insidiousness. More tech isn’t always better, and, in this case, it was worse because a product wasn’t fully tested and didn’t function as it was supposed to.
The first two sentences of the column pointed to the real issue: Americans’ widespread distrust– distrust that encourages belief in conspiracy theories.
Want to cause countrywide confusion and sow doubt in the integrity of our democracy? Apparently there’s an app for that.