Wow. Who needs the Russians when you have Shadow around?

Shadow — seriously, you can’t make this up — is the name of the tech company that designed the app that was to enable Iowa’s Democratic Party to gather the results from Monday night’s political caucus, the first throw-down in the presidential primary season.

Except the app didn’t work. It wouldn’t load, and when it did load, it reported only partial data, which is a bit of a problem for a party and a process that depends on clarity, accuracy and transparency.

It turns out the app had a coding problem. More than that, there was a leadership problem. The app, it turns out, had not been fully tested and many of the caucus workers had not been adequately schooled. Monday night was their first test drive. For those who figured out that the app did not work, they were left to take cell phone pictures of the results and to call them in. The result was a telephone system that quickly became jammed, like a watermelon being shoved down a straw.

So this is the tech world, where it’s assumed that because it’s an app, that it doesn’t need to be tested? A coding problem? Are you kidding? In a political contest for which the candidates have spent in excess of $50 million and a year of their time, there were no test runs? There were people who didn’t know how to use the app who were vital to the reporting process?

On Tuesday, mid-day, the party announced it would release “a majority, something north of 50 percent of the results.” Which it did, showing Pete Buttigieg a two percent lead over Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. But they were 40 percent shy of the complete results; the announcement provides Mr. Buttigieg with the bragging rights, and attention.

Sigh. Just when we needed to establish trust we get chaos and its attendant uncertainty. If there was a winner in Monday night’s caucus it was the president, which is something no one could have imagined, and something that will almost certainly serve as the plot line for a “true life” political drama film.

The caucus’s results are damaged goods. The candidates are already in New Hampshire where the first in the nation primary will be held next Tuesday. Whoever wins Iowa will have lost the boost he or she would have had with a “low tech” process of past caucuses, standing in front of their Iowa backers, declaring victory, pushing the narrative only a winner can push. From a media value perspective, the Iowa caucus is second in importance only to Super Tuesday when 15 states, including California and Texas, have their primaries.

That traditional bounce is gone. The landscape will be littered with questions. Joe Biden, who finished a distant fourth, is already challenging the authenticty of the results. He will muddle the results as hard and as often as he can; understanding, correctly, that his claim to the moderate middle is being challenged by Mr. Buttigieg. That may be the real news to come from Iowa’s caucus.

To add to Monday night’s malfunction was the relatively low turnout for the caucuses, far below the record numbers in 2008 when Barack Obama challenged Hillary Clinton. High turnout numbers were expected and were supposed to signal just how committed the party was to beat Mr. Trump, and how the progressives would be responsible for the upsurge. If the preliminary results prove true, 25 percent fewer people came to the caucuses this year compared to 2008. Even with the progressives. That’s a “shadow” with even deeper significance.

by Emerson Lynn

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