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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Obviously this is a pretty big debacle regardless of what the ultimate explanation is. But I want to note one thing. The state Democratic party has put out a series of statements which say that they found inconsistencies among the three separate tallies of data they planned to report and that they were thus rescrutinizing or rechecking the data to make sure everything was right. They were clear that it wasn’t a problem with the results. It was a delay in the reporting. They also said that the app that precincts were supposed to use to report the data did not break down.

But there have been a number of interviews with precinct captains (one example below) who say that the app simply failed or that people couldn’t get it to work. They were then told to call in the results but they faced long holds or couldn’t get through at all.

Both explanations sound plausible. But they don’t seem consistent. Perhaps it’s a bit of each. So it’s not that one explanation is necessarily false. But they are at least in significant tension.

Here’s a precinct head or caucus-runner explaining what happened to CNN. Best explanation I’ve seen of what happened.

We keep hearing about doing “quality control” that is causing the delay in caucus reporting tonight. There are scattered reports of Iowa Democratic party officials talking about widespread technical difficulties with the app that was supposed to handle reporting. It seems like something went wrong with the reporting and party officials are either trying to reconstruct the results or perhaps re-canvass the results without the app. That part is speculation. What is not speculation is that something clearly went wrong. The only good I can see coming from this is perhaps this will be the last caucus in the American political system. It’s a terrible system when it works right. Make it more complicated, multilayered and totally different from how we run real elections and perhaps you get this.

Before we get started and start seeing results let’s remember that the “modern” caucus system is absurd, anti-democratic and shouldn’t exist. It’s basically voter suppression for well-meaning Democrats. There have been some reforms this cycle, in response to the primary controversies of 2016. But it’s still just retooling a system basically designed to exclude people.

As I’ve noted before I seldom read books about contemporary politics or current affairs. When I open a virtual or physical book it’s almost always history and generally in the distant past. But I’ve been devoting a lot of time recently to reading a number of recent books for a project I’m planning. One of those I just finished is Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill.

I wanted to recommend it to you because I found it exceptionally good.

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For years I’ve been talking about the phrase, the title of an article by Slate’s Will Saletan: The GOP is a failed state and Trump is its warlord. Like a good poem I’ve come back to it again and again and found new levels to its meaning. The key point Will was getting at was that the fractures in the GOP, its ungovernability, institutional breakdown and extremism had made it possible for an outsider to wrest control of the whole thing by ruling only a chunk of it.

This dynamic was presaged in the Republican House from 2011 where the Republican caucus was dominated by three or four dozen hard-right lawmakers who eventually lead Speaker John Boehner to resign in despair and relief. Paul Ryan succeeded Boehner because this ‘Freedom Caucus’-plus faction lacked anything near the numbers to win a House leadership race. But they didn’t have to and perhaps didn’t even want to. They could run the party from outside the leadership. Trump’s innovation was to ape this faction and take over the party from the populist right. He was characterologically in tune and quickly made himself ideologically in tune. There was some hard going at first and breakage underneath the tires. But everyone else eventually fell in line for the same reason the party’s far-right wing got its way in the House.

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We’ve known all along that it wasn’t Trump who is on trial in this Senate exercise but the Senate itself and particularly its Republican members. The last few hours have witnessed their convicting themselves more clearly than I could have anticipated. A short time ago news broke that Sen. Murkowski was a vote for no witnesses.

This matched with a flurry of new statements from Republican Senators explaining or justifying their votes. Last night, retiring Sen. Alexander said that all the charges against the President had been proven. But they were only “inappropriate” not wrong or impeachable. Sen. Sasse told reporters that Alexander spoke for him and other Senators. Then a few moments ago, Sen. Rubio seemed to concede that the charges were not only proven but that they were in fact impeachable but that it was still best not to convict. “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.”

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Let me share with you some thoughts about polls and how they relate to the impending Democratic presidential primary process.

Let me start with some core assumptions. First is that I think Bernie Sanders has a range of electoral vulnerabilities that makes President Trump’s reelection far more likely if Sanders is the nominee. I think this is the case because he supports a number of policies that just are not popular and are tailor made for attacks disqualifying him with the general electorate. There’s also a history of identification and left cultural politics that are also tailor-made for the kind of attack ads that can disqualify a candidate.

But there’s at least some problem with my reasoning. As I’ve told you again and again, people discount polls at their peril. They are imperfect and they measure a fluid reality. But they are one of the key metrics that allow us to step outside our assumptions, personal milieu, region, ideology and see what the whole country actually thinks.

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I want to flag this again. Yes, Alexander says no witnesses. But the real thing in his statement is that he says that all the House’s factual claims have been proven. He doesn’t contest any of them. He just says it doesn’t matter or is no more than inappropriate. Actually, if you concede all the accusations are true there really isn’t any reason for more witnesses. But Alexander’s core concession is the tell here.

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