As of this writing, on Tuesday afternoon, we still don’t know who won the Iowa Democratic caucus. Which is fine, because it doesn’t really matter anymore. Maybe it hasn’t for a long time. And maybe it should never matter again.
Iowa’s caucus tradition — basically a parlor game for farmers in the off season that prioritizes horse-trading over policy — has had, since 1972, a 55 percent success rate for determining the eventual Democrat presidential candidate, about the same as a coin toss, and an even lower rate, 43 percent, for naming the eventual Republican nominee.
Bill Clinton came in fourth in the Iowa caucus in 1996, with just 3 percent of the vote, behind winner Tom Harkin — Who? — with 76 percent of the vote, Paul Tsongas and “Undecided.” The last three Republican presidential hopefuls to emerge victorious in Iowa were Ted Cruz (2016), Rick Santorum (2012) and Mike Huckabee (2008).
It’s worth mentioning, too, that Iowa is a pretty white state in a very diverse nation: 87 percent, 15 points higher than the United States itself.
So what’s it good for, besides a little bit of early campaign-trail speculation and warm-ups for bigger primaries and states with more electoral votes?
This year, all the Iowa caucus produced was concrete examples of state party ineptitude — this was run by the Iowa Democrats, and not the state board of elections — and a dozen conspiracy theories invoking Russian dirty tricks, the DNC’s suppression of Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete’s app maker, a corrupted newspaper poll and voters rising from the dead.
A conspiracy is highly unlikely. Most reporters will tell you that ineptitude is more likely than the sort of pinpoint machinations necessary for a true conspiracy. And then there was that bit in the New York Times reporting: Many precinct chairs had trouble downloading the troublesome app, and even more said they never bothered to try.
Call it the “user error” caucus.
Meanwhile, everyone has moved on. The candidates have left for New Hampshire, site of the next primary on Feb. 11 and a state with about half the population of the Charlotte metro area — 1.4 million. The TV news needs to free up airtime for retroactive coverage on the Super Bowl halftime show before it goes full-court press on Valentine’s Day gift ideas.
And somewhere, Donald Trump is laughing. Because if there was a clear winner in Iowa, it was him.