“As Iowa Democrats struggle to tally votes and claw their way out of the rubble of Monday’s caucus crackup, there continues to be angst and outrage about the damage the Hawkeye State has inflicted on the democratic process — and the Democratic process. Terms like “catastrophe,” “debacle,” “fiasco” and “disaster” are being tossed about like salad greens.
That’s one way to look at the situation. Another way is that Iowa has done the Democratic Party — the nation, even — a tremendous service. Yes, the reporting of votes was a perfect storm of incompetence. And the muddled outcome failed to give any of the candidates the electoral tailwind about which they’d been fantasizing. But, delayed and deflated though they were, the results provided more clarity than anyone is giving them credit for — in some regards more than if the voting had gone off as planned. Among the valuable takeaways:
1. There is not yet a fresh burst of voter participation. At last count, turnout in Iowa was on track to hit 2016 levels — in the neighborhood of 170,000 caucus goers — a far cry from the Obama-inspired groundswell of 2008, for which about 240,000 Iowans showed up. This should give particular pause to anyone betting on Bernie Sanders’ argument that he will win by creating a new movement, fueled by people who normally don’t vote. But it should also be a warning for anyone counting on anti-Trump fervor to mobilize the masses. Clearly, the masses still need some convincing. Iowa deserves credit for revealing that sooner rather than later.
2. Even moderate Democrats have real concerns about Joe Biden’s ability to go the distance. The former vice president has many fine qualities. His resume is gold-plated, particularly in the crucial area of foreign policy. He’s got his regular-Joe patter down, he adores retail politics and arguably nobody feels voters’ pain better than him. Mr. Biden should have the so-called moderate lane of this race locked down. But he doesn’t. And whatever the precise vote tally, his lagging behind not just the field’s hard-charging progressives, Mr. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but also Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is a sign that he needs to up his game.”