The debacle over delayed results in the Iowa Democratic caucus Monday night has created an opening for conspiracy theorists and Trumpworld bigwigs alike to foment discord.
And it’s not that the failure in Iowa itself didn’t tend towards accomplishing that, or that it’s somehow beyond the pale for political adversaries to seize on the failings of their opponents.
Rather, the tenor and focus of some of the critique amid the ongoing failure to deliver results in Iowa has gone more towards promoting mistrust of the democratic system itself, as opposed to damaging members of the opposite part.
The President’s sons led the charge on this, accusing the Democrats of “rigging this thing.”
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) February 4, 2020
Unlike Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. took it a step further and drew a comparison with the 2000 Florida recount. It’s a typically nonsensical comparison, but it has its own logic: neither election, regardless of outcome, can be legitimate; it’s only a contest of whose side is the craftier manipulator.
Tens of thousands of ballots all for Joe Biden being shipped to Iowa from Broward County Florida as we speak. “Don’t worry folks we got this covered” DNC operatives. #IowaCaucuses
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 4, 2020
Others in the infrastructure of right-wing messaging took a similar tack, but honed towards the problem of foreign interference in U.S. elections. That’s become a serious matter of discussion since 2016, when the Russian government undertook a meddling campaign for Trump’s benefit in 2016.
Experts say that the issue has broadened since then with various foreign actors beyond the Russian perceiving a vulnerability in the U.S. via interfering in its elections.
So Benny Johnson, the disgraced Buzzfeed reporter who is now chief creative officer at Turning Points USA, a right-wing nonprofit, tapped into this thread in a bid to suggest that the Democratic National Committee is incapable of running fair elections.
A Short History Of @DNC:
– Openly rigged elections/delegates against Bernie in ‘16
– Server hacked, *proving* that DNC rigged elections against Bernie
– Paid for foreign interference in 2016 with Russian hoax dossier
– Went bankrupt
– Rigging elections against Bernie in 2020
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 4, 2020
Johnson’s focus is on Bernie Sanders, whose supporters walked away from the 2016 primary feeling cheated by a DNC that supposedly tipped the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton. That perception was boosted in part by internal DNC emails obtained by Russian hackers and released by Wikileaks.
It’s also an incredibly useful narrative for those interested in discrediting the Democratic primary process. As Trump 2020 campaign manager said at a Monday press conference, “I can see Bernie trying to get messed with the same way the president got messed with back in our caucus.”
Parscale’s statement refers to the allegations of DNC disfavoring Bernie, but also suggests that Trump’s loss in the 2016 Iowa caucuses was illegitimate.
Charlie Kirk, the head of Turning Point USA, homed in on a conspiracy theory that Clinton 2020 campaign manager Robby Mook managed the app which is reportedly the root cause of the delay in reporting.
Reports are claiming the delay in the Iowa Caucus is being caused by glitches & irregularities in a new voting app being used for the first time this year
Who helped develop the app?
Robby Mook—Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager
What is going on in Iowa?
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) February 4, 2020
Kirk’s comments suggest that the results are part of a grander conspiracy, perhaps connected to the Clintons.
In reality, Mook’s involvement was tenuous at best. The false reports of his involvement stem from an apparent misreading of a Jan. 29 article in the Des Moines Register.
That article stated that both the Democratic and Republican parties and their tech vendors had reached out to a group that Mook runs called Defending Digital Democracy in order “to develop strategies and systems to protect results and deal with any misinformation that’s reported on caucus night.”
That’s a far cry from Kirk’s statement.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) chimed in, darkly hinting at another version of a DNC conspiracy.
What are the odds that:
➡️ most anticipated poll of the year (@DMRegister) is cancelled.
➡️ voting system completely crashes.
….and it has nothing to do with a Bernie blowout and a Biden crash?
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) February 4, 2020
But possibly the clearest distillation of the opportunistic tendency to allege that elections involving the Democratic Party are fundamentally illegitimate is that delivered by Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist.
“It’s abundantly clear that Democrats are the single greatest threat to election security and integrity in this country,” Davis tweeted. “Not Trump, not Russia, not Ukraine. Democrats.”
After the debacle in Iowa, WHERE NOT A SINGLE VOTE HAS BEEN REPORTED, it’s abundantly clear that Democrats are the single greatest threat to election security and integrity in this country. Not Trump, not Russia, not Ukraine. Democrats.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) February 4, 2020