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Democrats Will Forever Call February 4th BleachBit Day

Trump won the Iowa caucuses--the Democratic caucuses as well as the Republicans. Trump will beat his impeachment rap. Nobody even cares at this point. Trump beat Pelosi. Trump thoroughly owned February 4th, not because of Trump being so great, but because the Democrats handed it to him over and over with self-owns, blunders, and brokenness. This is why Democrats will forever call it BleachBit Day.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 is a day to which Democrats would like to apply BleachBit. To say it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is an understatement.

The day began with no news about the results of the Iowa caucuses, other than it was an unabridged disaster. Hour by hour, drip by drip, the day got worse as word got out on the developer of the tragic app at the core of the Iowa Democratic Party’s ball of woe.

This script could not have been better written by Roger Stone. The company’s name is SHADOW, Inc., a so-called tech firm run by a former Hillary campaigner. SHADOW, Inc. is part of a non-profit, progressive, loose conglomerate of companies, known as ACRYONYM, which is also an investor in SHADOW. The whole thing is washed in dark money and intrigue. The New York Times actually did some yeoman’s work reporting on this.

The whole app and reporting suite was kept a big secret by the Iowa Democratic Party, “which asked that even its name be withheld from the public. According to a person familiar with the app, its creators had repeatedly questioned the need to keep it secret, especially from the Iowa precincts where it would be used.” The app was so secret they never even trained its intended users.

And apparently they never tested it at all. This is not the way to run an election, but nobody seems to have raised their voice in a chorus of “are you kidding me?” before this entirely predictable disaster struck. It was just pure hubris, greed and stupidity.

The whole problem of reporting could have been solved using existing, tested, off-the-shelf software-as-a-service (SaaS) products from Google (or any number of companies). I know this because, for a number of years, I’ve worked as a volunteer with Decision Desk HQ, an election reporting organization. Back in the days when DDHQ was more of a club for misfit political junkies (it’s a “real company” now), I helped Brandon Finnigan and his pirates report elections using nothing but Google Sheets and a gamer app called Discord for multi-channel communications (there was an app before Discord but I forget the name).

DDHQ covered the entire 2016 national election using nothing more complex than Google apps, and Finnigan got the results faster than the AP, and called the race for Trump at least 90 minutes before the networks, on livestream from BuzzFeed’s studio. During the 2016 NH primary, we used Google Forms and cheap tablets to do exit polling. Google’s platform is secure, stable, mostly scalable and perfect for one-time events like a caucus.

And if not Google, there’s plenty of other companies that offer this kind of shared SaaS model. But no, Iowa Democrats had to have a fancy app, that SHADOW, Inc. was paid at least $60,000 to write, that was never tested, and failed in the most public, humiliating and damaging way possible. That nobody could see this coming and do something about it is going to be taught in political science classes for decades as an example of bad groupthink.

In fact, the app and the total collapse of Iowa Democratic Party’s crisis management has probably killed the Iowa caucuses permanently. The worst of it wasn’t the failure of the app, but the fact that one of SHADOW, Inc.’s consiglieres is none other than Pete Buttigieg.

A person with knowledge of the company’s culture, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, shared communications showing that top officials at the company regularly expressed hostility to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters. McGowan is married to Michael Halle, a senior strategist with the Buttigieg campaign. There is no evidence any preference of candidates had any effect on the coding issue that is stalling the Iowa results.

It doesn’t matter if there’s evidence. It’s terrible optics for Buttigieg, who quickly staked out his victory claim before any results were reported. Buttigieg’s campaign isn’t just married into the SHADOW/ACRONYM mashup, it’s also a customer (like Hair Club for Men). There are so many connection points and featherbeds here, I’d say they’ll be looking for the plucked geese for a long time after February 4th BleachBit Day.

The Sanders campaign simply moved on to New Hampshire with a knowing smile, because they’re used to this level of hostility and sabotage. They also knew the real results, because they had operatives embedded at most of the caucus locations. Buttigieg did very well in the big, Mississippi-bank counties, but Sanders crushed it in the heartland of the state.

Worse for Democrats, the Biden campaign, having much to lose, and knowing they cratered in Iowa, leaked a story to CNN that they might pursue an injunction to keep the results from being reported. John King reported it and then had to walk it back. But it was another really bad look.

The Iowa Democratic Party finally said they’d report results at a 3:45pm (CT) press conference. They started the conference late (eye-roll). They didn’t report all the results, only about two-thirds of the counties, despite having 21 hours to verify their data. At the time I’m writing this, only 71 percent of precincts are reported, according to The New York Times.

Buttigieg and Sanders are tied at 10 delegates each, with Warren getting four, and the rest getting none. Biden finished fourth with 15.4 percent of the caucusgoers’ support (I can’t call it “votes” since there are multiple rounds of “alignment” and “viability”).

But nobody cares. And the day got worse.

Between 5pm and 9pm ET, everyone tried to catch their breath. There was just this slow drip and trending of #MayorCheat on Twitter. And then there was the State of the Union. I was right about the SOTU, and I was wrong, but even my wrongness turned out to be right.

  • It was a 90-minute advertisement for Trump. We knew this would happen.
  • I wrote: “The theme may well be a minority-friendly, blue-collar, opportunity-filled America. Jobs, tax reform, and the recently-signed USMCA are major achievements that the president will tout as his own.” Check.
  • I wrote: “He will speak on gangs, opioids, health care, and how all these things are tied to immigration. Health care is still the number one issue in poll after poll. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump does his best to tie healthcare, drug prices, opioids, Mexican cartels, and immigration to his wall. These things, in reality, are related, if complex.” Check.
  • I wrote: “As he marches through his achievements, focusing on women, minorities, blue-collar workers, and other traditional Democrat themes, watch how he baits the stone-faced Democrats to either cheer the man they despise or sit quietly while he takes credit for their agenda. It’s delicious.” It was delicious.
  • I wrote that Trump would at least in passing, reference his impeachment. He did not, but then again, he did.

I thought I was wrong on the last point, but ended up being right. By refusing to shake Nancy Pelosi’s hand at the start of the night, Trump got her seething through the entire speech. It was obvious she was seething, even when she was forced to rise and clap for the cheap-but-very-effective visual set-pieces.

Everyone forgets a SOTU speech within 24 hours of the event. But Trump did more than just give a speech. He gave Rush Limbaugh a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and had it placed on Limbaugh by FLOTUS. Rush wept. He (ceremonially) promoted a 100-year-old Tuskeegee airman pilot to Air Force Brigadier General, with the man’s great-grandson–a 13-year-old aspiring astronaut–standing beside him. He created an emotional moment with a deployed Army NCO reuniting with his family, including a super-cute 3-year-old. These scenes will not be forgotten.

And remember, Nancy Pelosi was seething through it all. At the end of the speech, she could have spit nails. So on camera, live television, she tore Trump’s speech in half, carefully, daintily, behind his head, while he smiled for the cameras. This image will be burned into he brains of those who saw it. A happy President and a sour, angry Speaker of the House. Him in front, and her behind.

Trump won. He broke Pelosi. In public.

The night was so broken even CNN could not get a single attendee to stop and talk on the way out. Cringe.

Trump won the Iowa caucuses–the Democratic caucuses as well as the Republicans. Trump will beat his impeachment rap. Nobody even cares at this point. Trump beat Pelosi. Trump thoroughly owned February 4th, not because of Trump being so great, but because the Democrats handed it to him over and over with self-owns, blunders, and brokenness. This is why Democrats will forever call it BleachBit Day.


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