iowa caucuses

With No Results in Iowa, Conspiracy Theories Take Hold

Confusion reigns in Iowa. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Iowa caucuses are over, the candidates have moved on to New Hampshire, and we still don’t know who won the first nominating contest of the 2020 Democratic Primary.

We are beginning to find out what went wrong, though. The reason for the delayed reporting, which has some eulogizing Iowa’s caucuses, involves an app that was meant to make everything easier. Some caucus workers, especially those who’ve been at it for decades, choose to phone in their results rather than rely on the app. And some who tried to use the app saw it fail.

The Iowa Democratic Party said late Monday that technology wasn’t the only problem. Some “inconsistencies in the reporting” were also responsible for the delay, which caused chaos in Iowa, confusion among those hoping to find out who won, and frustration among the talking heads tasked with filling hours of TV.

In that vacuum of information, conspiracy theories bloomed. The most common claim, which came from across the political spectrum and not just from agitated fans, was that the process was rigged.

On Twitter, supporters of Bernie Sanders, still skeptical of the Democratic Party in the wake of 2016, suggested that there was more to Monday’s issues than app glitches and counting errors. While most of this sentiment came from his fans, at least one campaign surrogate got in on the action. Representative Ilhan Omar, who campaigned for Sanders in Iowa over the weekend, boosted a tweet suggesting that the app’s developer and Pete Buttigieg were in cahoots.

Shaun King, another Sanders surrogate, also questioned the link between the app-maker and Buttigieg.

Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, aggressively questioned the validity of the results that will eventually emerge from the caucuses. In a letter to the Iowa Democratic Party, the Biden campaign’s general counsel implied that the former VP’s apparent poor showing was linked to the technology failures.

Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, questioned the “integrity of the process” in a tweet, and former senator Chris Dodd, a Biden surrogate, laid the groundwork to dismiss the results entirely.

But no one was as eager to call the caucuses “RIGGED!” as members of Donald Trump’s campaign, who never miss a chance to sow disillusionment and division among Democrats. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale; his National Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany; and his son Donald Trump Jr. all gleefully tweeted about Democrats rigging the process.

The chaos gave the Trump campaign at least one legitimate talking point, though. As Trump Jr. wrote in a heartbreaking tweet, “If the Democrats can’t run their own caucuses how can they run a country?”

With No Results in Iowa, Conspiracy Theories Take Hold